Day 207: Safari So Good

Comic art, the gym, and animals. These are three of my favourite things, and today saw me focusing all my energy on the latter. That’s right folks, today we returned to the greatest zoo in the world… Singapore Zoo. Further more, we ended up spending a full 11 hours there, as we stayed to see the wonder of the night safari as well. It’s the only zoo in the world to have this attraction so we took full advantage of it. It’s been a very long day, but I shall stay up into the night to write about everything that happened. I am extremely tired and it’s already 1am, so please forgive me if this isn’t the most legible piece of writing.

• Sarah and I were fast asleep this morning. Our room was pitch black thanks to the black out curtains, so we didn’t have the luxury of waking up naturally with the riding sun. Instead we were rudely awakened at 9:30am by the sound of someone knocking on the door. That someone was Ann Duxbury. We cursed her for what she did, but like I said the other day, for the older generation that time would be considered a lie in.

• Much to our distaste we got up and showered, then packed our bags ready to move to the hostel. That took an hour in total. When everyone was ready, Sarah and I shifted our holdalls to our new accommodation, but left the checking in process until later that day. The four of us then went for breakfast at a local shopping mall which had a small food court area. Of course for Ann and Simon the food was new, and was something of a commodity to eat noodles for the first meal of the day. For me it was more a case of
“oh no, not another bloody noodle dish!”
I forced down the duck and soy rich noodles, and was last to finish. We paid for the meals then went outside to hail a taxi.

• It was as predicted. The fare would cost no more than the shuttle bus to reach the zoo. We made small talk with the driver the whole way, and in turn we learned a few things. He told us that certain cars have red number plates in Singapore. These vehicle are only used between certain hours and on weekends only to help with the congestion. Simon then explained the workings of the congestion charge in London. We also learned that Singapore has no seasons. It’s either really hot or really rainy, and each year the temperature increases. During summer nowadays, the driver told us it reached temperatures of around 34 degrees. I then asked about the police. It’s very odd to drive around Singapore and not see many police cars on patrol. He told us it’s rare for there to be any trouble in Singapore, and on the odd occasion there actually is, they are called out. 11 times out of 10 they arrive immediately. Everything was so efficient in Singapore that I didn’t doubt his explanation. Around 30-40 minutes later we arrived at the front gates of the zoo.

• Rather than just pay the single ticket price, we bought both the zoo and the night safari as a package. This in turn reduced the overall cost by 4 dollars. I have already written in great detail about the zoo after my first visit. So this time I will write about some of the new animals I saw, as well as give you all some fun facts I learned today. During our last visit one of the enclosures was shut off because it was having work done to it. This time however, it was open. I finally got to see the Komodo dragons. They were very big specimens and mighty impressive to look at. Beside their enclosure were a list of facts. So here we go:
When the babies hatch from the eggs they have to run to the trees. The reason for this is because the adults will try to eat them. Unlike the hatchlings the adults are too heavy to climb trees. The babies will spend a year in the trees, surviving on insects, until they are roughly 1.2m in length. They are then big enough to not be seen as dinner.
Komodo dragons will eat almost anything as well. A fully grown adult can weigh 48 kilos and will eat on average 41 kilos a day. Sometimes eating whole pigs in one sitting.
Even if a Komodo dragons prey gets away after being bitten, they won’t get far. In the dragons saliva are lots of dangerous bacteria that will infect the prey and kill them that way.

• Also in that enclosure were other reptiles such as the giant tortoise, and rhino lizards. They get their name because of the horns on their heads. We watched a few of the shows again seeing as it was Sarah’s parents first time. Although, watching them a second time I didn’t feel as impressed. The shows almost felt rushed compared to the previous visit’s. Between the shows we visited any nearby animals before the next one started. After the rainforest show we went to visit Australia. Last time I wrote about the visit I forgot to mention the most educational fact of all. How kangaroos got their names.
Years ago when explorers were… uh… “exploring” Australia, they came upon the animal but didn’t know what it was. When they asked a local aborigine he replied with the word Kangaroo, which in their language meant “I don’t understand your question”. The travellers, not knowing this, presumed Kangaroo to be the creatures name, and it stuck ever since.
As well as their names we learned they can leap 9m in a single bound, and they thump the floor with their big feet to communicate with other roos.

• I was really looking forward to seeing the white tigers again, but when we reached their enclosure they weren’t there. Instead there was a sign which said they were only on show Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9-5pm. We had just missed them by 10 minutes. During the times in between those dates they were using the enclosure to introduce their newest animal, the Bengal tiger. This process allowed the animal to acclimatise to its surroundings. I guess in a way we were fortunate to see the magnificent creature. There was only one Bengal tiger, and it was sat on a rock looking fairly happy with its new home. We took some photos and moved on. Our ticket granted us use of the zoo’s tram, which was there to transport visitors around the many enclosures. I can’t stress just how large the grounds are, by the end of the day we’d walked so much that we were grateful for the tram’s existence.

• We watched all the shows Sarah and I had last time, bar one. The splash show. It was showing at 5pm. We had a few minutes to spare, so we looked at a few more animals, like the mandrills and chimpanzees, before making it just in time for the beginning. The splash show was very entertaining, it involved a very playful sea lion, and people in the first three rows were warned they might get wet. I don’t think they were expecting to get as wet as they did though, even I was surprised. The large Californian sea lion came sliding out from backstage, with his trainer not far behind. He immediately jumped into the water and began swimming in circles. Using his large flippers on his side he slapped countless gushes of water at the crowd. To the point I was amazed there was any water left in the tank. The trainer got the sea lion to do various tricks, as well as show off his impressive water skills. On land he performed such tricks as walking along on his flippers with his tail in the air. In water he swam like a dolphin, jumping in and out as he went along. It was a very entertaining show, especially when two audience members had to throw a frisbee for the sea lion to catch. The male participant was given the hard task of throwing it from the stairs, which was a long way away from the stage. Whenever he missed, the sea lion clapped his flippers encouraging the whole audience to join in. After the show we looked at a few more animals before deciding to finish off with a visit to the indoor rainforest.

• As we made our way there it began raining. It wasn’t too bad at first, but when we reached the frog section (just before the rainforest) all hell broke loose. It was 6pm by this point and the zoo was empty. I think it must have been closing, as most of the animals, and customers, were nowhere to be seen. I quickly ran across to the doors of the man made enclosure, only to find they were locked. In the end we waited under shelter for the rain to die off before heading to the exit. The rain subsided into a light drizzle, but both Ann and Simon were left dazed by the sheer volume and intensity of water that fell from the sky. I don’t think they’d seen a tropical downpour until then. When we got to the exit Sarah and I needed some more money. In the space of one day we’d managed to get through the £120 we withdrew. To see us through I decided to take out double the amount, which was fine, until the machine messed up. I selected 460 Singaporean dollars, but the ATM decided to keep 10 dollars for itself. I only put this in here because it left a bad taste in my mouth, at the end of the day it was only £5, but it was still annoying that it happened. After that incident we bought some food at the nearby restaurants, and decided it was best to do the night safari that night, rather than leave it for another time.

• During our meals the rain came down a lot heavier, but by the time we’d finished, it had stopped completely. The night safari was a separate attraction to the zoo, and was located on the other side of the car park. Hundreds of people showed up to do it, but thanks to the efficiency of Singapore we weren’t left waiting long. As soon as we showed up we were treated to a night show. This gave everyone the chance to see the amazing nocturnal animals. It was held at an amphitheatre, where we got to see a whole host of different animals. These included the red panda, the spotted hyena, otters, a reticulated python, and one of my favourite animals of all… the grey wolf. The show didn’t last long, but it was just as entertaining as the others we’d seen. The best bit was when the staff pretended they’d lost an animal, and told the audience to check under their feet. When they came near us, they pointed to the girls feet in front and shouted out loud as if to say they’d found it. This caused Ann to scream out like a little girl. In that very moment I learned where Sarah gets it from. Of course the snake wasn’t under anyone’s feet, it was hidden in a large box out of harms way. The host of the show then beckoned down a male audience member to get him to hold the large python. The whole staff had to carry the snake because it was so big. Then without warning they all ran away, pretending their was something wrong backstage. The light operator turned off the spotlight, and the poor guy was stood in the dark on his own, with a 7 foot reticulated python wrapped around his body. Unfortunately not many photos came out very well because nobody was allowed to use a flash. These animals were all nocturnal and any flash photography could damage their eyes, in some cases it could blind them. After only 20 minutes the show was over and everyone made their way to the trams.

• The night safari was broken up into two sections. You could explore by foot or by tram. The tram went all around the perimeter of the grounds at a slow speed allowing you to see the various animals without having to walk. Each tram consisted of three carriages and had a tour guide at the front telling you about all the animals. During our first ride we couldn’t hear the guide very well because, sat directly behind us, were four loud Indians that spoke over the top if the guide. There were stops throughout the tour which allowed passengers to get off and follow differently named trails to see the many nocturnal animals at their own pace. We got off at the first stop and followed the “leopard trail”. This particular trial gave us the opportunity to see many big cats. It was much better at night because the animals were more active. When you see them in the day you’ll usually find them lying around or sleeping. It was during this trail that Sarah found her new favourite cat, it was called the “clouded leopard”. They looked like your usual domesticated household cat, only a lot bigger with a longer tail. There were three in one enclosure and they were constantly play fighting. We felt sorry for one as it only had three legs, but it gave as good as it got. It certainly didn’t hinder its climbing ability either. We read in the placard nearby that the clouded leopards are really good climbers, and they certainly proved that as we stood watching them go. The trails were great for seeing all the different animals, and I finally got to see the Slow Lorris in an environment it enjoyed. Rather than the noisy streets of Phuket. They were so cute, there were two of them climbing very slowly on the branches, and I’m pretty sure they gave each other a cuddle at one point. But like Simon said, when you move at that speed it would be pretty difficult to stay mad at each other. I then envisioned one of them trying to storm away from the other in a huff. Oh the joy they bring, they looked so innocent.

• During our walks we ventured through a bat cave. That was kind of creepy as they darted between the visitors. One nearly flew into my face on several occasions, causing me to recoil in an embarrassing fashion. In another section we saw tiny tarsiers bounding from tree to tree, and we saw a giant flying squirrel – although it was poised to jump, it never actually did. I felt a little let down with the leopard and the tigers though, as they were just led down when we found their enclosures. Although they had just eaten and were probably feeling lethargic. It didn’t matter as we found other animals to keep us entertained, as well as animals we didn’t even realised existed, such as the civet and the golden cat, both of which were more lively. Granted the golden cat was only grooming itself, but it was still more than the leopard did. He simply rolled onto his back to reveal his soft furry belly to all the onlookers. But he can be forgiven as he was so close to the glass you could practically touch him. After we completed the first trail we ended up back at the drop off point. Rather than get on the tram straightaway we decided to walk the “East Lodge Trail”.

• On this trail you could see such animals as the spotted hyenas, Malayan tigers, sloth bears, bongos (large African antelope) and red river hogs. Again, the photos didn’t come out very well because it was too dark, and we weren’t allowed to use a flash. Instead we had to appreciate them with our eyes and forgo the whole rubbing it in people’s faces at a later stage on Facebook. You’ll just have to take my word for it that what we saw was awesome. When we saw all the animals we returned to the tram to be driven around the rest of the perimeter. This time around we had optimum seating. We were on the first carriage right in front of the tour guide. She spoke perfect English and used very relaxed and quiet tones to communicate. It nearly sent me off to sleep actually. One fact she told us was both funny and educational. She said…
“If giraffes were interested in playing football, they’d actually make good players. The reason for this is because they have very strong front legs that can pack one hell of a kick when needed”.
There were so many animals to see as we went along. Tapir, tigers, babirusa (a pig with canines that pierce through its upper jaws), grey wolves, lions, antelope, mouse deer, and rhinoceros to name but a few. As we passed the rhinos we were told another interesting fact.
“Although rhinos have tough armour like skin, they are still prone to insect bites and sunburn. That’s why they constantly take mud baths to help protect themselves from both factors”.
We actually caught one of the rhinos coming out of a mud pool, which it had just used to help cool itself down. There were so many animals at the night safari, and it was good that they were all divided into different categories based on where they were found in the world. Such categories were:
Himalayan Foothills: Where we saw such animals as markhors (the world largest wild goat with even bigger corkscrewing horns).
Indian Subcontinent: Was home to the manchurian crane, which can grow up to 6ft in height.
Equatorial Africa: Where the world’s most dangerous animal resides… the Nile hippopotamus.
These are just some of the many categories we had the pleasure of seeing. The others are Indo-Malayan Region, Asian Riverine Forest, Nepalese River Valley, and last but not least Burmese Hillside. I could go into detail describing what more you could see at each one, but I feel as though I’ve rambled enough already.

• After the animals, the tram took us back to the beginning. When we got off I sincerely thanked the tour guide for her knowledge and wisdom. To which she seemed surprised that someone would do such a thing. Then we explored one last trail before calling it a day “the Wallaby Trail”. Here we saw such animals as the bush-tailed possum, sugar gliders (like the tarsier they loved to jump from tree to tree, and these little guys had a taste for tree sap and flower pollen), wallabies, and the flying squirrel. When we’d finished walking around everything, and we were adamant we’d seen everything there was to be seen, we finally called it a day. I think we may have set a world record for the longest visit to a zoo in a single day. Eleven hours had passed since we’d entered the zoos gates earlier that morning. Believe me when I say this, my legs were aching and my back was hurting. We headed over to the taxi rank and got the driver to take us back to Chinatown.

• Surprisingly the taxi fare came to a dollar less than earlier on. It was strange because we were now in peak hours. He dropped us off outside our hotel, then the four of us went to McDonald’s for an evening meal. When we left I darted back to Ann and Simon’s room to grab a couple things, then Sarah and I checked into our hostel. When we got inside I think the young androgynous looking receptionist was in over his/her head. We were told to take a seat and wait while he/she checked in some other people who’d arrived before us. We took a moment to sit on the sofas and wait as instructed, but in reality all we wanted was our beds. Eventually the receptionist came back down, by this point I had already grabbed our bags from storage, and he/she showed us to our room. That was when a problem presented itself. Sarah and I were supposed to have beds 7 and 8, but when we got to the room there was someone already sleeping in one of them. The receptionist didn’t then know what to do. He/she woke the person up to tell them of their error, then came back to us. The person didn’t move, but thankfully there were two spare beds. One of which was number 8 above the bed thief, and another close to the door. I took that one while Sarah had top bunk above the thief. The receptionist had to fulfil their duties, and showed us where the bathroom and showers were. We then went through the evening rituals before getting comfy in our beds.

• It had been a long day, and for me it was about to get longer. I have a problem you see. I don’t like to do things half hearted. If I’ve committed to something I’ll see it through to the end. This is where the blog comes in. I knew I wouldn’t be able to let it lie and simply go to bed, so for the next 2 and a half hours I stayed up typing away. Now that I am coming to an end the time is almost 3:30am. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact we told Ann and Simon we’d meet them at 10:30am. Damn the older generation and their early starts. To make matters worse, I don’t think sleep would arrive too quickly. It sounded like someone had brought an animal back from the zoo, and to be specific, one of the wild boars. Over on another bunk bed I could hear the sounds of someone snoring. Well here I go, no doubt I am about to have dreams about all the animals I’d seen today. I’m not even going to try and work out how little an amount of sleep I’m going to get. Dear alarm clock, please be gentle with me in 6 and a quarter hours time….. DAMMIT!!!!

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