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A first-hand look at the River Safari

PSSST. You. Yes, you. Have you heard about Wildlife Reserves’ Singapore’s latest up-and-coming venture, the River Safari?

Oh tosh, I’m sure you have. After all, it is where the giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia are permanently enclosed for the next 10 years, among many other fun things. (Ouch, that made them sound a bit like prisoners, didn’t it.)

The River Safari is located right next to the zoo, sand-wiched in between the Night Safari and the Singapore Zoo. That makes for many happy tour companies who are now saved the inconvenience of having to ferry their clients to different tourist spots – you’ve now got a 3 in 1 location prime tourist magnet. Wildlife Reserves Singapore should take a bow. My heart goes out to the Jurong Bird Park (located in the far-flung region of Jurong West).

But I digress. Why would you want to visit the River Safari and what’s there in store for you? With my VIP access, I can give you the low-down and the up-town of the River Safari – you decide for yourself come 3rd April 2013, if it’s worth your time (and money) or not. (Disclaimer: This is not an advertorial.)

River Safari comprises of 3 big segments: the Rivers of the World, where you view the aquatic and river-dwelling creatures across the globe, the Giant Pandas, on loan from the great motherland that is China and finally, the Wild Amazon, where the amazing and mysterious animals of South America awaits.

Rivers of the World

You come round to this exhibit from the entrance by following the given path. Rivers of the World is exactly as it says it is – these are exhibits on the various rivers of the world. There’s the Mississippi River (of which I cannot spell, nor pronounce), the Congo River, the River Nile, the Ganges River, the Mekong River and lastly, the Yangtze, the longest river in Asia. Each of these rivers have their own showcases and impressive themed decorations to make you feel as if you were truly in the River Nile or the Ganges. As with any family-friendly establishment, boards of interesting and educational information line the walkways of each River, in case you walk away knowing nothing about about it except that it harbors fish (and sometimes, crocodiles).

Did you know that the River Nile is the longest river on earth?

Wasn’t kidding about the crocodiles – except that they aren’t crocs but Indian gharials.

Best picture I could get of this – it was just swimming so fast! Looks like a swordfish right? It’s called the Mississippi Paddlefish.

You get to see a lot more at Rivers of the World then I’d show you here, so as not to spoil you too much. The themed exhibits were certainly impressive, the fishes awe and the educational boards teach you a lot more about what goes on in those rivers around the world then you could have found on your own. Though the fact that corpses and human waste float down the Ganges River was a little too much for me to handle, considering that the locals bathe and drink from it at the same time…. They should invest in a hyper-cleansing water-filtration system. (My opinion.)

The breath-takingly beautiful Yang-tze exhibit. That’s how much effort was put into this place.

All in all, Rivers of the World was certainly a well-made thought-out exhibit, with each river as its own star. The diversity of the aquatic creatures on display and the effort to authenticity lends great novelty and credibility to this segment of the River Safari and is sure to entertain generations of school-going children (and adults) for years to come.

The Giant Pandas

Access to the giant panda enclosure has been open to the public for quite some time now, as long as you pay an additional $5 on top of your zoo ticket, panda

viewing is all yours. For 15 minutes only. Hence, exhibits nearest to the panda areas were quite packed with tourists and the zoo-going Singaporeans, given that Rivers of the World lines up seamlessly to the panda enclosures.

Well, should you access to the panda enclosure through the actual River Safari entrance like we did, don’t forget to collect your panda-viewing slots from the counter right next to the entrance. Each visitor is allowed a 15 minute viewing for one time entrance to the panda enclosure, only. Without those pre-allocated slots, you wouldn’t be able view the pandas, whether or not you paid double, triple or quadruple. (In other words, get those pre-allocated tickets.)

Kai Kai and Jia Jia welcomes you!

Panda-viewing tickets. Without these, no pandas for you.

‘Twas was a hot and humid day (what’s new) and after a quick queue, we were welcomed to the cool habitats of the Giant Pandas. Besides the two giant pandas, you’d also see the cute red panda, which is much smaller than the two giants.

Swift it goes! The adorable red panda.

Um, should I eat the left stalk first, or the right one? (Jia Jia.)

If you expected to see this:

Chengdu Panda babies.

Expect to be sorely disappointed. At least for now.

Part of the River Safari’s long-term aim is to have a successful breeding programme for Kai Kai and Jia Jia, so you might see actual panda babies in the near future! Personally, I’d looking forward to it! Who knows.. We might get to keep some of the bred pandas permanently, though that’s not for me to say.

If you’re a panda-fanatic, go the River Safari. Even if you’re not a panda-fanatic, you’d become one. I almost bought a panda umbrella meant for kids, simply because it had cute black ears sticking out. And yes, at the end of the exhibit, there’s a gift store full of panda paraphernalia, as expected. Stock up on your panda-themed needs and spread the word, friends! The panda pals are here to stay.

Wild Amazon

The real VIP part of my visit was to the other side of park, crossing the bridge over Mandai Reservoir. Regular visitors (mostly from the zoo) were prohibited from crossing the bridge, unless they had a River Safari ticket to cross which we did!

Welcome to Wild Amazonia.

Wild Amazonia consists of the River Safari show, the Amazon River Quest which brings you up close and personal with animals such as jaguars, Brazilian tapirs, and the scarlet ibis, and also consists of the Amazon Flooded Forest. Unfortunately, on the date of our visit, the Amazon River Quest had not yet passed safety checks and hence, it wasn’t open for us to preview. We did get to watch the River Safari show though, which I will not discuss here because I personally think that the shows should be a surprise for all first-time visitors. All I can say is, make sure you take photos with the baby pelicans. :D

We did however, venture to the Amazon Flooded Forest, which has the concept of a flooded forest in Amazon, which is amazing, amazing, amazing… Is that enough accolades for you? I can’t express enough in words how mind-blowing it was, at least for us, and I think the River Safari designers and conceptual artists really over-did themselves for this. The highlight of the flooded forest was beautiful, ethereal and mysterious which was the effect they were most certainly gunning for. And they got it. Besides the Giant Pandas, I personally think this would be the other crowd-puller.

This magazine shall publish no photos of the grand display of the Flooded Forest! Intrigued? You’re going to have to get a ticket for yourself come opening day! :)

Free-swimming otters.

BABY MANATEES.

Have you ever seen manatees walk on the ocean floor? Or how otters interact with one another, jumping in and out of the water? Look up and you might catch a glimpse of the freshwater stingrays. Fancy a daredevil encounter with the infamous red-bellied piranha? With the Amazon Flooded Forest, you can get a view of all these, up close and personal. I guarantee the first moment you walk into that water tunnel, its all gasps and awes and much more. The Flooded Forest is definitely a deserving finale to the River Safari Singapore.

The only gripe I would have with the park is the lack of food options, given that the only food house located nearest to the panda enclosures serves Chinese cuisine and the restaurant outside serves local Chinese cuisine. Um. A little bit of variety wouldn’t hurt (Brazilian buffets, anyone?) but to solve this problem for the foodies, the nearby zoo has more than enough consumption choices to make up for the shortfall. (Ps. Expect it to be all way above market prices. This is a tourist spot we’re talking about.)

It’s hard to say if your experience at the River Safari would mirror mine, given that each individual’s perspectives are subjective to their own. As far as this preview goes, I’d say that the River Safari has been an amazing journey through the diversity and richness of rivers, sprinkled with the novelty of the giant pandas and the mysteriousness of the Amazon – all which makes for one world class experience.

By: Cherie Anne Lian

Would you venture a visit to the River Safari when it opens on the 3rd of April? Tell us in the comment box below!


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