Honestly, how lucky are we Singapore mamas? Not only do we have one of the most amazing zoos in the world right on our doorstep, but then they decide to build another world-class attraction right next door to it? The zoo is our Sunday default option – we pack up the kiddos and get out super-early (Sassy Mama tip: pack the bag the night before!) so we’re there at opening time. The zoo will never lessen its appeal to kids, but mama was feeling like trying something new, so even though we’d heard the new River Safari wasn’t fully up-and-running, we queued up for our discounted tickets ($25 for adults reduced from $35 normal price) and we were in!
The River Safari is basically a wildlife experience themed around rivers, with visitors traveling along a route that takes you past exhibits representing the world’s biggest rivers, like the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Yangtze and the Mekong. Most of the first part of the river safari feels like a rather fancy aquarium (not quite as impressive as S.E.A. on Sentosa), and there are lots of empty cases and “coming soon” notices, so we started to get worried there wouldn’t be a whole lot to see…. When you get to the Yangtze River part though, the excitement builds… Soon we would be seeing Kai Kai and Jia, the giant pandas! We’d heard rumours that at some point you’ll have to book an appointment slot to get into the Giant Panda Forest, but on the rainy Sunday we visited, there were no crowds and we walked straight in.
The Panda enclosure is deliciously cool, and you can get really very close to them. You can also see what they eat on a daily basis by peering into the kitchen, there’s a huge statue for kids to pose with, and lots of informational plaques and videos that are super-educational – even for mama! We ended up dashing through somewhat (“I need a poo” coming from a potty-training toddler is a panic-inducing statement), but then came out to the amazing view of the lake, and crossed the wonderful bridge over it to get to the Amazon area. Once you get to the Amazon area, you can see just how fun River Safari will be once it’s totally complete, as you will be able to board a boat to take you around some areas that we weren’t able to view yet. We wandered around some unfinished bits before being turned back in the right direction, checking out the Spider Monkey Forest and then on the Grand Finale – the Amazon Flooded Forest, where the manatees are!
Seeing the manatees in their huge tank, filled with enormous fish, is truly a jaw-droppingly fabulous moment (they have some rather “momentous” classical music playing to add to the experience). I’m not sure if my kids appreciated just how incredible it was to be able to get so close to these other-worldly creatures, but for me it was an absolute highlight, and worth the entrance fee alone.
The bottom line is that River Safari isn’t finished yet (they’re not giving much away about when the boat ride will be ready just that it will be later this year), and so it’s mostly about the pandas and the manatees, but that in itself makes it worth a visit, especially before the hordes descend! We’re probably going to have to become “Friends of River Safari” as well as “Friends of the zoo”!
Open 9am – 6pm (last ticket sales 5pm) daily. Ticket price for adults $25. Kids aged 3-12 years $16. Under 3 years old are free. Membership packages available.
River Safari, 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826 (a short walk away from the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari)
Tel: (65) 6269 3411