My Favorite Animal at Singapore’s Night Safari May Surprise You


I didn't get a picture of the animals, but I did get this one of the fire show I watched after the tram ride.

I didn’t get a picture of the animals, but I did get this one of the fire show I watched after the tram ride.


Let’s be real: a zoo is a zoo is a zoo. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Cincinnati, San Diego, or Singapore. Unless you’re in Africa, a hippopotamus is out of place. That being said, it wasn’t the animals that set the Singapore Night Safari apart from other zoos; it was the experience of it.

I almost hate to go to the zoo now that my children are older. We refer to the zoo as ‘Stroller Village’ and when you’re not pushing one, they’re nothing but aggravating. Plus, we usually go to the zoo during hot, summer days with everyone else when the animals are wisely napping wherever they can find a bit of shade. So when there is an animal awake and moving around, the crowds get even more massive and you have to fight and push your children up front so that they can get a glimpse. Frankly, I find zoo-going to be a miserable experience.

Not so at Singapore’s Night Safari.

Oh, at first I was daunted, waiting in the hundred-deep queue to get on the tram. I started to wonder why I’d even gone and then remembered that every tour guide touted this as Singapore’s top tourist attraction. Plus, the Singaporeans I met at work all recommended it, too. So I felt like I couldn’t miss it and booked a ticket with a tour group (since I didn’t have my own transportation).

The atmosphere reminded me of Tribal Council on Survivor: lots of tiki torches and exotic-campy signs. It was already kinda fun, and the tram line was at least moving. There were a few walking path options, as well, and I thought I might take one of those afterward to escape the crowd.

But to my delight, what I discovered was that taking the tram meant there were no crowds! Once you got on, you remained seated as the tram slowly rolled past dimly-lit animal exhibits as the tour guide provided a little information about what we were seeing. It was beautiful! And relaxing — a word I rarely use when I go to the zoo.

The animals had just awoken, so we saw all of them in action. There was absolutely no flash allowed, so my pictures didn’t turn out, but you’ve probably been to a zoo. You know what the animals look like.

What impressed me the most was the experience of riding the tram through the darkened surroundings. We were all quiet, moving through the night as though we were on safari. As we watched the fishing cats hunt for fish in the stream, and watched the bearded pigs wander around, what struck me was the sound of crickets. It was the same nighttime music that I hear in my own backyard, on the other side of the world.

I’ve never heard crickets at a zoo before. It made me homesick. I liked seeing the animals, and agreed that the Night Safari was definitely a draw, but I think my co-workers would have been surprised to learn that what I liked most about it was the melody of the crickets. Somehow magical, as common as they are. Something that I’ve never heard at any other zoo. I loved it.

Do you have a favorite zoo experience?


17 responses to “My Favorite Animal at Singapore’s Night Safari May Surprise You

  1. Yeah, but there’s only one zoo at the corner of Erkenbrecher and Vine!
    (Is there even another Erkenbrecher Avenue anywhere in the world?)
    My favorite zoo experiences go back to the days when the Cincinnati Opera performed at its pavilion on the zoo grounds, so your ticket admitted you to the animals and the music. In those days, the company was practically the Metropolitan Opera’s summer home, plus a few performers like Beverly Sills as regulars, accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony.
    The zoo also allowed its peacocks to roam freely, and often in the middle of a performance, they would let out a blood-curdling cry. This was a kind of initiation for new members of the company, a real test of their professional concentration. I can see why peacocks are not the world’s most common pet, despite my great-grandparents in their farming days.
    My other memory is of the monkey island near the entrance to the pavilion. The simians made many intermissions especially delightful.

    • Sounds like you have some great memories of the Cincinnati Zoo. I’ve always loved it. The roaming peacocks fascinated me as a child. Then, during college, I worked at the zoo. I loved taking my children, but I guess I’ve just gotten old. It’s not as magical anymore.

      • We’re also all-too-aware of the precarious status of many species in the world today. Much of the magic is happening behind the scenes in many zoos, where efforts are being made to continue the genetic lines any way possible.
        I remember hearing of a plan by a consortium of zoos to take a large area of strip-mined land (100 square miles?) near Zanesville and convert it to a savanna where elephants, among others, could roam, mate, and reproduce. Don’t know if it ever came to fruition, but the idea of big African wildlife in the middle of Ohio remains other-worldly.

      • This is very intriguing to me. I don’t know if you remember hearing about exotic animals that were turned loose out near Zanesville? The cousin of a woman I worked with (this is getting convoluted) raises exotic animals in Zanesville that he then sells? lends? to circuses. When I heard about the animals escaping (or being let go. I can’t remember) I kept wondering if it was her cousin’s animals. And now that you’re saying there was once a plan for an animal reserve there, I’m wondering just how many exotic animals there are out that way??

      • I have no idea. I learned of the effort about twenty years ago from someone who was working with the group and then vanished from my correspondents.
        I believe the Cincinnati, Detroit, and Cleveland zoos were among the ten or twelve institutions involved.
        The story you’re thinking of is likely the one of the private collector whose critters got loose and created havoc — an entirely different matter, with all of the questions about the rights and responsibilities of those who import and keep wildlife.
        The plan I’m mentioning was an outgrowth of zoos that realized their animals needed space to roam and interact — far more space than they could find or afford in their urban settings. As I said, it’s a fascinating concept. And far more magical, too.

  2. We really loved the Berlin zoo. It was our first non-American zoo experience, so it was just different. We were closer to the animals and the variety was more interesting. And, who doesn’t love a seal show with a peppy German chick?

  3. I too hate going to the zoo. I feel so sorry for the animals caged and in artificial surroundings. The one exception was the San Diego zoo. The animals are free to roam and look more wild.

  4. The last zoo I went to was in Australia and surprisingly, there weren’t many kids at all! It helped that it was literally out in the wild, and strollers would have been a bad idea, but I enjoyed it! A night safari sounds like a good idea, as you’re right, the animals are just waking up! More entertainment for everyone!

    • I just found it interesting that though I associated the sound of crickets with being back home, I’d never actually hear crickets at the Cincinnati Zoo because I can’t go there at night.

  5. I agree, simple sounds like crickets, of frogs croaking after a rain, of insects buzzing as they circle a light source on a quiet, beautiful night. These and more reminds us of the joys of our past. Past that warms our heart when homesickness knocks. Merry Christmas my friend. I wish you and your family all the love, happiness, peace, great health and many awesome adventures today and everyday.

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