It was 10 in the morning when I arrived at the entrance of the River Safari in Mandai. I let out a huge yawn and lamented the fact that I had only slept for three hours the previous night—definitely not the amount of sleep needed to handle the daunting task I had ahead of me.
I visited the park once in 2014, and have never returned since then. To me, attractions like the River Safari are a one-off—you can pretty much experience the entire park in one visit making the second visit redundant as you will see the same things again.
It is safe to say that all three parks at the Singapore Zoo offer something unique with River Safari being its most recent addition. As Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park, it is home to about 240 species in Singapore and more than 7500 land and aquatic animals
As soon as I stepped into the corridor entrance, I was immediately blasted by the cold jet of wind from the air conditioner and greeted by boards that were filled with information about the animals. Did you know that freshwater species are going extinct at four to six times faster than terrestrial or marine species?
The first segment of the park is Rivers Of The World, which features animals from rivers of the world such as the Mekong River and the Mississippi River.
Along the Yangtze River which homes some of the world’s most critically endangered wildlife, I spotted the rare Yangtze alligator, a critically endangered crocodilian endemic to China.
For the first time in five years, I saw a panda other than the one on the back of a pink uniform at the Giant Panda Forest. The Giant Panda Forest is home to Singapore’s two famous pandas, Jia Jia and Kai Kai. I learnt that Jia Jia is rather shy and does not always come out of her pen to meet visitors.
The Giant Panda Forest is also home to the Red Panda. Although I would have loved to see them run around in their exhibit, they were having an afternoon nap and looked so peaceful in their slumber.
As I walked out from the panda enclosure, there was a link bridge connecting the two halves of the River Safari. From this bridge, I could see the vast water body of the Upper Seletar Reservoir.
I’ve heard some fantastic things about the Amazon River Quest. Along the river safari tour, you will get to witness some of the animals from the Amazon rainforest such as the jaguar and Brazilian tapir.
However, I must add that the Amazon River Quest is the true definition of hit-or-miss. The Amazon River Quest requires a separate fee of S$5 to ride, but here’s the catch—there’s no promise that you will get to see all the animals. They may be sleeping or in their pen, away from human sight, and since the boat is always moving, you do not have the liberty of time to stop and wait for them to come out. My ride this time was very different as compared to five years ago—I did not get to see much of the animals.
I made my way to the Squirrel Monkey Forest, hoping that the monkeys there could make my day. Unfortunately, the Squirrel Monkey Forest and the Green Anaconda exhibits were closed for upgrading works.
The next exhibition, the Amazon Flooded Forest, is the world’s largest freshwater aquarium which showcases the animals that thrive during the annual flooding of the Amazon rainforest.
The first part of this exhibit is a tunnel, reminiscent of the one at S.E.A Aquarium. Other than schools of fish, keep your eyes peeled for the otters that dart around.
I couldn’t help but think of a gory consequence while I was at the aquarium admiring the piranhas. Having watched too many movies about them, I was extremely glad that there was a thick glass barrier separating the deadly fish and me.
I was then met by a vast viewing area in front of a huge tank showcasing the gentle giants of the flooded rainforest—the manatees. What was cool about this exhibit is that aside from the large viewing area, you are also able to catch a glimpse of these benign creatures from two other spots.
I would not say that this visit to River Safari showed me something different from the time I went in 2014. However, being able to see so many endangered wildlife species up close and personal again gave me a newfound appreciation of the global efforts in saving these animals and their habitat.
While it may not be as satisfying as taking a picture of your favourite animal, relevant information about the animals are readily available at each of their enclosures and exhibitions. This will serve as good enrichment for all ages and visits to the River Safari that much more fulfilling.
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