Places I Love #4: The Singapore Zoo

Should you ever find yourself in Singapore with kids of any age, the Singapore Zoo should be the very first thing on your itinerary (once you’re recovered from jet lag).  Created as an “open-concept” zoo, they try to create a more organic experience for both animal and visitor.  Free ranging orang utans walk on ropes high above your head and hang out on platforms (kept up there by quiet and small disincentives that make descending the trees impossible).  Tigers have both land and water to hang out in (I certainly didn’t know that tigers liked to swim until I saw them doing it).  One species of monkey and peacocks just walk around.  There are almost no bars, and the keepers try to keep direct human interaction (such as with vets) to a minimum.  They are also a leader in conversation and breeding efforts.

First things first…you need a cab to get there.  Yes there are buses, but unless you have older children with high tolerances for such things, I’d encourage you to just pay for the cab.  If you have a stroller, do not under any circumstances try the two (or more likely 3+ buses) on your own.  I did, and I had to pretend that I didn’t speak English to avoid trying to take my sleeping child out of her stroller on a practically deserted bus when there was a huge open space where I could park her and let her sleep in peace.

Almost every inch of the zoo is stroller accessible.  There is a among the treetops walk by the orang utans that has stairs, but other than that, it’s all strollers everywhere.  You can bring your own or rent a stroller, or with bigger/multiple kids, a wagon.  If you’re bringing kids, you will be in the water park, so something you can store your bag of swimsuits and such is a good idea regardless (hence why we always bring the stroller).  Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are also necessary.  If you forget them, there is a Cheers convenience store just outside the gate and several shops throughout the zoo where you can buy them.

There are several shows.  The elephant show has a splash zone, so don’t sit in the first few rows unless you like getting wet.  Which, considering how hot it is, you probably will like.  However, the show can be a bit long for the little ones…by the end E was dying to leave.  However, the splash show is shorter and Elanor at 20 months was captivated.  They also do vanity feeds of various animals (Tigers, jaguars, rhinos, and the pygmy hippo among others) at specified times where a keeper will also come out and talk to you about the animal.

I think some of the best moments at the zoo are the unscripted ones, though.

baby orang utan just hanging out

A young elephant working on a painting for the gift shop

Or having your toddler point above your head to see a lemur there looking back at you

I’m a big fan of getting there and meandering towards the kidzworld area, which is in the back of the zoo.  Sometimes we wander through the Australian Outback and say hi to the “hoppies” (kangaroos).  Other times we visit the zebras to see how the baby born on April 28 (we visited April 30 and I spent a good 10 minutes talking to their keeper who was there to talk to visitors like us about the new baby–it was a quiet day so we were able to chat longer than I would normally have the chance to do so).  We usually make a point of seeing the tigers and letting E push the tiger sound buttons in the back of the exhibit.

With kids, though, all roads lead inevitably to Kidzworld.  The only food options there are KFC and Ben and Jerry’s.  Forget healthy and just go with it.  My one big complaint is that KFC only gives you soda or Milo (a chocolate drink) as options.  You can bring UHT (ultra high termperature pasturized) milk…which I am slowly becoming less freaked by (it still feels unnatural for milk to sit on a shelf and not spoil) or buy regular milk at the Cheers (if they have it) if you’re planning on going straight to lunch.

You can also eat at Ah Meng’s by the orang utans before hand.  While they don’t have milk either, they do have a wide juice selection and also have bottled water.  You can get hot dogs or chicken nuggets, along with other western and asian options.  The food was kind of just okay, but if you’re not a KFC fan (I am) it’s a good alternative.  Prices are higher, though.  Ah Mengs is also where they have “Breakfast with the Animals” something older kids would go nuts for if you’re morning people–our kid is a toddler and we’re most definitely not morning people, so we have yet to even consider it beyond noting its existence.

There is a carousel and pony rides in Kidzworld, but the real attraction is the water park.  Expect to end up going in and getting wet yourself.  Changing rooms are behind the structure and kind of to the left of the back of the area…look for something like a giant octopus coming out of the ground (the get wet showers).  With E, it’s easier to change her in the seating around the waterpark than try the changing rooms as they’re quite small.  However, if I didn’t just wear board shorts (something I’ve become a huge convert of, here) I’ll go back and change while B watches E.

This is Ella’s favorite place in all of Singapore.  There are benches around the water area, so you can sit or why not just give in and enjoy playing with your kids in the water.  It will feel lovely after the Singapore heat.

While I always have a swim diaper on me, I forgot the swim suit.  Oh well.

As a heads up, every 10-15 minutes, the following picture happens.  Get your young kids out of the bucket zone when you hear the bell ringing and with the rhythm speeding up.  You’ll know where you don’t want your LO–it’s where all the big kids drop everything and run to.

Although E is no longer a napper, we always have a shot at a nap after an hour or two at Kidzworld.  Don’t forget to reapply mozzie repellent after their dunk in the water.  The mosquitos aren’t as bad at the zoo as they are at Jurong Bird Park (guess who didn’t bring mozzie spray), but you will come away with at least 2 or 3 if you don’t.

This is when we do more leisurely walks.  I’ve also taken the tram for some narrated fun at this point.  If it’s a slow day, you may be able to pop your stroller up with you in the row behind the driver without taking the toddler out.  Otherwise, expect to remove toddler from the stroller and put it in one of the areas in the back for them.  It’s perfectly safe (this is Singapore-no one is going to steal your stroller, no matter how fabulous).

The guidebooks say the zoo is a 3 hour adventure.  I argue it’s an all day adventure, although we have done just a few hours when we’ve gotten there on the late side.  Unless you live here, block out a full day for the zoo.  It’s well worth the time.

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2 Responses to Places I Love #4: The Singapore Zoo

  1. Rachel M. says:

    That sounds so much nicer than the zoo’s here but I know people are pouring money into Singapore so I’m not surprised! Hope to get there some day!

    • Crystal says:

      I was definitely blown away by the zoo and it’s one of our most frequently visited places–the membership for our family and for B has either paid for itself or will soon. I have to say the only zoo that really impressed me in the same way was San Diego…but their guide maps tell you how steep the trails are–it was pretty hard core hiking to get around. Ravi and I are zoo junkies…if there’s a zoo we usually go (with the exception of having lived in NYC and never making the Bronx Zoo–but I did go to the itsy bitsy Central Park Zoo)…and the Singapore Zoo is definitely my favorite, hands down.

      If you do get here while we live here, you have a (slightly noisy between the toddler and the construction) place to stay 🙂

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