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?