Singapore River Safari

I like aquariums and zoos. Yes, I do.

This time, Singapore’s River Safari! (Actual date of visit: 26 July 2013)

It’s right beside the Singapore Zoo, so there’s no real trouble in terms of locating it. It’s not fully open yet so currently tickets are cheaper at the moment.

And unlike my visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium, this time I brought my camera with me…

I thought this was really clever – mimicking the silhouettes of fish and rays in a river through the sun roofs.

They’ve divided the place according to the different major rivers, and the first is the Mississippi River. Look, huge alligator snapping turtles! (Biggest freshwater turtle in the world.)

Alligator gar. Clearly, the people who lived around the Mississippi River had a thing about alligators…

Many alligator gar. If you look at the top half of this pic, you’ll see that they’ve constructed the surroundings to look like people live by the river. I thought that was a nice little touch.

The Mississippi Paddlefish. (Reflections are always the bane of aquarium photography. Sigh.)

The giant freshwater pufferfish in the Congo River section. It’s pretty big. It looked about the size of my hand.

Random flowers!

The Indian Gharial in the Ganges River section. There were two. They are BIG. None of my pictures do justice to them due to the reflections and the difficulty of fitting a whole gharial into the frame.  But trust me. They’re big. One was swimming around to and fro and its foot was about the size of my hand. Maybe that sounds small but you scale up a whole crocodile according to that. I don’t know the force of a gharial’s bite, but just from the size of them, it looks like they could take off an arm.

This one was snoozing at the bottom.

Their enclosure seemed a little small to me, considering their size…

There were crab-eating macaques at the Mekong River section. Did you know monkeys can swim? I didn’t until that day.

Here you see a Mekong giant catfish swimming past another visitor. Pret-ty large.

Giant freshwater stingray! Well, these weren’t huge specimens but they were a decent size.

Yangtze alligator. Pfft. Tiny compared to the gharial. There was an African dwarf crocodile in the Congo River section but that too was… tiny.

Chinese Giant Salamander. Ooooh.

Red panda being lazy.

“Ugh, paparazzi,” said the golden pheasant as it opened one eye to regard the humans goggling at it.

Visitors looking at…

… A PANDA. I saw a real panda! :D His name is Kai Kai, by the way.

Kai Kai finishing his lunch.

Kai Kai wandered around a bit after finishing his food, rubbed his backside against a tree, then ambled up to eat more bamboo.

There was another panda by the name of Jia Jia. She was in the neighbouring enclosure but she’s shy and so all I saw was her snout poking out in the doorway of her den.

I think I was very lucky that there weren’t many people at the River Safari that day. It meant easy viewing of the animals. No jostling for place and such at the panda forest. (If I’m not mistaken, on busy days you have to book a viewing slot.) I also got to chat with one of the zoo staff – she was very friendly and happily answered questions about the pandas.

After about twenty minutes staring at the pandas, I went out…

… and found myself staring at a window that looked in the zoo’s new Arctic section – specifically, the polar bear’s pool. A polar bear!

Didn’t see much of it because the bear was swimming around and eventually clambered onto dry land, out of sight. It had also started raining.

Then I walked all the way to the other side, where the Amazonia section is. But that’s the section that is closed right now. Never mind. I walked some more and found what looked like an empty enclosure. There was a signboard that indicated it was a jaguarundi enclosure. I’d never heard of jaguarundi but the name seemed to hint at a feline of some sort. One other person was there before me but she soon walked away. I decided that I would do my best to find this elusive jaguarundi and spent quite a few minutes peering through the glass and trying to see if I could spot it through the trees.

I found it~~~ *sense of accomplishment*

And it wasn’t until after I took this photo that I realised there was a second jaguarundi behind it. haha

The last part of the River Safari is the Amazon Flooded Forest. First thing in there is this pretty tunnel, over which is the giant river otter tank.

The two otters moved so fast. They were evidently playing in the water – zipping up and down.  But they soon went on shore and I saw them no more. :(

Red-bellied piranha. *Jaws theme music plays in my head*

I think of this as the “old man fish”. It’s actually called a royal pleco.

And thennnn!

MANATEES. And arapaima. But these arapaima weren’t very big. The manatees were much, much cooler.

(Note: Manatees are not the same as dugongs. Same family, but not the same thing. Most obvious difference is that dugongs have fluked tails – i.e. more like dolphin tails – whereas manatees have rounded tails like a big paddle. )

When I walked into this section, I felt exactly like I did when I walked into the S.E.A. Aquarium’s Open Ocean display. Complete excitement and wonder and amazement. And I guess it’s a good thing I was alone (both for this and the Open Ocean) because I felt like I couldn’t – or didn’t want to? – say anything. I think I literally gave a little gasp, and I couldn’t not smile. Open Ocean had the same effect on me, as did Tokyo Disneyland. haha

I was there about 45 minutes (and could have been there longer except that I forced myself to leave because I had a dinner appointment with Jan and Jo). Long, yes, but see, the thing about spending all that time watching is that you get to see so many interesting things…

… like this manatee mommy giving baby a ride.

This was so very very very adorable. This one manatee swam up and then came down with baby on its back. Everyone there gave a collective “awww” reaction.

Have a video:

The music is so relaxing, isn’t it?

Here’s a picture with people just to give you a sense of the height of the tank.

Then at one point, five divers descended and it seemed like they were practicing something or other. Several manatees decided to be busybodies. (And from this you can see that the manatees are pretty large.)

“This guy’s knee seems interesting.”

There are a couple more viewing panels as you exit the place. I like this picture because it shows you the scene above water, and a little bit below the surface – you can see a manatee swimming away, and an arapaima swimming towards the camera. Just think of all the things we don’t see when we’re above water… The wonderful creatures that dwell underwater… We can hardly see them from above. So much beauty and interesting things we miss!

So yay for aquariums and zoos that give us a peek into the world we normally don’t see.

(How long did I stay at the River Safari? According to the timestamps on my photographs, I was there from 12.40pm to 4.17pm.)

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