The Night Safari of Singapore is a night-opening zoo which provides an exotic novel way of viewing and experiencing animals and nature.
The Night Safari is the night-time zoo of Singapore, housing over a thousand animals drawn from various geographical regions of the world. Operating concurrently with the Singapore Zoo, but opening only in the evening and throughout the night, it provides a unique and rare experience of interaction with nature, and certainly a fun and exciting form of animal sight-seeing. It is one of few zoos throughout the world of its kind, and brings people and animals together at just the hours that most animals are to be found awake.
Tram ride tour around the Safari
Located just next to the Singapore Zoo in Mandai, on the banks of the Seletar Reservoir in Singapore, the Night Safari comprises a whole compound to itself. Animals come from all over the world, and all sorts of climates and environments. Perhaps the main attraction one will find upon entering the Night Safari is the tram ride, which drives visitors around the zoo.
It is a very unique and, for the light-hearted, at times terrifying experience. Typically the visit to a zoo consists of walking along a path, to observe animals safely bound by an enclosure, and held quite clearly captive. At the Night Safari, however, while this is certainly still the case, the visitor is brought into contact with the animals in a novel and direct way. It is truly a ‘safari’ of a kind, as one might expect on the plains of the Serengeti.
In the relative safety of the tram (albeit with the sides of the cars lacking doors), with guide on board , one tours the animals of the Himalayan mountains, the African savannahs, and the Asian tropics. The lion and elephant are to be seen, while there are also obscurer and more exotic specimens, such as the babirusa, a horned pig, and the famed tapir. More dangerous and fearsome animals, like the carnivorous hyenas and lions, are naturally kept at a distance, although more placid, but no less exotic animals, like the axis deer, come so close as almost to touch the tram. It is hard to imagine a more vivid experience with wildlife. Evidence of the animals’ safekeeping behind protective barriers is well camouflaged, although certainly there – just for those who might be wary of too close a contact with nature.
Nightly Animal Show
Another highlight of the Night Safari is the ‘Creatures of the Night’ show, which is a chance to showcase the animals of the zoo through jovial and gung how trainers. It is an occasion, truly, for visitors to engage with animals in a theatrical format.
One wonders whether the script is written differently for the shows, which run thrice nightly, at 7.30, 8.30, and 9.30, because the hosts and trainers do a great job of making it seem all rather natural and impromptu. The otters and serval come out unleashed, while the binturong clambers along the rope hanging across the amphitheater. A
particularly blood-curdling moment, and a fine instance of reality theater, happens (at least it did for this visit) when an alarm is heard, and the show host informs the audience that an incident has occurred. Whether it is all an act, or was a perfectly fortuitous mishap, one will never know. It ends with the trainers discovering a massive python under a bench in the audience. If it was a real accident, the hosts at least did a very fine job of making sure it really wasn’t.
Volunteers play a part, naturally, feeding civets, and handling live pythons, but a key message the show seeks to send across to the visitor through such contrived intimacy with nature is a significant one – protect it, through loving it.
Walk with Animals at Night
When one is done with the tram and night creatures show, a stroll through the trails of the zoo is highly recommended. It allows the visitor an unparalleled level of intimacy and exposure to the animals, and, best of all, in the dead of night, when not only are animals typically most active, but when tourist numbers aren’t quite as high.
The Night Safari is an experience like none other, because only those interested and willing to try something slightly unusual would visit the zoo in the twilight hours. Even then, only some would stay on after 10 or 11, just hours before the closing of the zoo for the day. That is the best time to embark on the night ambulatory tour of the Night Safari – truly a safari of one’s own.
The walking paths are flanked on both sides by animal enclosures, but, again, depending on the ‘danger factor’ of the animal it is relatively open. The Indian mousedeer, for instance, wanders right under the wooden mangrove walkway, while only meters separate one from the fishing cat – not just any feral stray feline itself. By far the most exciting encounter may be found with such carnivore kings as the lions or hyenas. In the writer’s particular experience the latter stared hard, and almost greedily, only some ten meters or so away at the most. When one is almost alone and wandering through the trails of the Night Safari, with only but a few other visitors, it is easy to find a certain communion, however unnerving, with animals and nature.
The Night Safari: Well Worth a Night Out in Singapore
Altogether it would probably take a good few hours just to wander around the grounds of this nocturnal zoo, and really get a feel for the whole thing. It may mean two trips – one taking the tram and watching the show, and another dedicated just to the trails, because there are just that many animals and things to see that the five hour opening period of the Safari probably wouldn’t; suffice for everything.
As much as one may be skeptical of the occasionally overly commercialized appendages, and the feeling that this unique intimacy with animals is but a clever marketing ploy, it is certainly a genuine and authentic one. For those who may never visit African savannahs or trek in mountainous wilderness, it is the next best thing. It is highly recommended for any nature-lover, conservationist, or any tourist just looking for a good night out in a city that never seems to sleep.
Visitors are highly encouraged not to use flash photography for the sake of the animals, and it is probably best to enter with a brave heart, and in silence. Entrance fees are at S$32 for adult, and S$21 for children. Discounts apply for foreigners.