River Safari is a new park located between the 40 year old Singapore Zoo, and the 20 year old Night Safari, and features a whole range of animals found in the different freshwater habitats around the world. It is considerably smaller than the other two parks, at only 12 hectares (Singapore Zoo: 28 hectares, Night Safari: 40 hectares), and can be experienced within 2 to 3 hours, depending on the rate of your visit. The entire park is designed in a loop, with a designated start and end point (see map below):
River Safari, although being a much smaller park than the other zoological parks in Singapore, is definitely worth a visit. The entire experience is very well though up, and the (theme park quality) themeing is superb for a zoological park. The architecture and landscaping is designed to immerse you in the environment, and make you believe as though you have traveled to the habitat. There are also numerous creative and innovative animal displays (Flooded Amazon Forest comes to mind – more on that later) that help set River Safari apart from the other zoos around the world. Furthermore, it is located along the insanely beautiful Upper Seletar Reservoir, and hence you will get spectacular panoramic views of the Central Nature Reserve of Singapore.
You can get to River Safari by taxi or bus (138 from Ang Mo Kio MRT station, 927 from Chua Chu Kang MRT station). There are also tourist shuttle buses from the city area, provided by private bus companies.
You will disembark at the Singapore Zoo entrance plaza, and that is where you can purchase your tickets to the park. The entrance plaza is an excellent example of eco-minimalistic architecture, employing a heavy usage of wood and stone to blend into the natural surroundings. It is also naturally ventilated, providing a cool respite from the Singaporean heat.
Due to the popularity of the park (and also partly due to the inefficiencies of the ticketing staff – only two counters open on a weekend morning), you can expect a slight queue when you purchase your tickets.
After getting your tickets, you will follow the signs leading towards the entrance of River Safari. If you are lucky, you might even encounter the Panda walk-around characters along the entrance walkway!
After going through the turnstiles, your experience starts – behind that pair of doors!
You will walk through a short indoor walkway with projected films on both sides, showing you some of the stock footage and key statistics on freshwater habitats around the world.
This walkway leads you to the Rivers of the World section of the park, where animals from different habitats around the world are displayed. The first habitat is the Mississippi River. On display there are a pair of cute beavers, as well as some generic fish and duck found around the Mississippi River.
In this area, there are many varieties of exotic fishes that you normally see only on Discovery Channel, including the Alligator Snapping Turtle (is it an alligator or a turtle?) and the Aligator Gar (is it an alligator, or a gar? what is a gar anyway?).
The Alligator Snapping Turtle turned out to be a turtle…
Following that, you will walk into the River Nile habitat, which is a very short exhibit for the longest river system in the world. On display there are some Tigerfishes and Giant Puffer Fishes.
Next up, the Ganges River. The highlight of this zone is the Indian Gharial Crocodile, a truly magnificent creature.
You will walk by the Murray River zone, and the key exhibit there is the Crab Eating Macaque, which is kept in a spacious enclosure with lots of twigs and branches for the Macaques to swing on. It is really interesting to stand around in this area and watch the Macaques play, fight, and sleep.
Finally, you will reach the last two zones of the Rivers of the World, the Mekong and the Yangtze River. The Mekong River exhibit contains a huge aquarium tank filled with gargantuan marine creatures, and is truly breathtaking. The Giant Freshwater Stingray and the Giant Catfish on display are about 1.5 times larger than a full grown adult man.
The Yangtze River zone is home to the Yangtze Alligators and other interesting animals.The Yangtze River zone is also home to the Chinese Giant Panda forest, which is a glass enclosed, climate controlled highly themed building specially built to house the two China Giant Pandas on loan from China.
The Panda exhibit marks the mid point of the experience. After exiting from the Panda hall, you will cross over a bridge that straddles the lake in the middle of the park.
This will bring you to the Amazon River Quest, which is the star attraction of the park. However, it is a $5 upcharge attraction. It is essentially a boat ride that brings you through various animal exhibits.
Afterwards, you will enter the main hall, which is an aquarium like setting with spectacular animals in it.
Finally, you walk up a ramp and see the surface of the aquarium. All in all, River Safari is a spectacular half-day experience that will greatly complement the Singapore Zoo experience. It is definitely worth a visit, though you should avoid peak periods like school holidays as the small park gets congested very easily.