The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum of Singapore
Standing as the largest turtle museum in the world, The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum of Singapore has an extensive collection of live reptiles, including species that are extinct in the wild. And hey, it’s only so often we get to visit someplace on our little red dot that has earned a Guinness World Record.
From watching adorable tortoises roam around to feeding and petting them, the museum makes for a wholesome excursion for families with young kiddos, or for animal lovers. We also sat down with museum owner Connie, who gave us more insight into the history and the origins of her beloved animals.
Here’s what to expect when heading down to this hidden gem:
Pet & feed tortoises from around the world
It’s unlike a typical zoo experience, so you’ll be greeted by the little critters roaming around freely right as you step foot into the museum. Just like toddlers at a preschool, these tortoises have a schedule to follow – based on species, they take turns to bask in the sun. Cute!
The museum has 30 different species in total, and the turtles and tortoises are also grouped according to how well they interact with each other.
We got to meet Xiao Hei the Aldabra Giant Tortoise and Sulcata the African Spurred Tortoise – once close friends that are currently in a cold war.
You can purchase food pellets ($2) for terrapins and veggies ($2) to feed tortoises.
Besides getting to know more about his social circle, we also learned that Sulcata’s species is the largest of its kind in the African mainland. Feeding primarily on a diet of succulent plants rich in water, these tortoises can go a long time without the need for a drink, like mini camels.
Although it may not look like it, Sulcata enjoyed his neck rub and vegetable feast.
Connie with Xiao Hei the Aldabra – the second largest tortoise species in the world.
Though I was initially afraid of getting my fingers nibbled off, I was comforted when Tony, one of the museum’s staff, demonstrated the feeding process to us. He simply petted Xiao Hei’s head and even gave him a little chin scratch – all while the guai tortoise simply sat there, enjoying the attention. Kids visiting the museum would enjoy this interactive experience for sure.
Hailing from Madagascar, Radiated Tortoises are one of the rarer exhibits here. You can even feed a few of these hungry critters at the same time – sharing is caring, am I right?
Fun fact: The animals in the museum are not captured from the wild. Most of them have been collected by Connie, while some were once house pets either given away by or rescued from previous owners.
Indian Star Tortoises are known to be one of the smallest species of tortoises and can even fit in the palm of your hand.
Visit aquatic turtles
Think of turtles as Joseph Schooling – they’re pros in the water. Tortoises on the other hand are much like toddlers who have no idea how to stay afloat. This zone is where you’ll find much livelier – and faster – families of aquatic turtles, with rare exotic species like the Mata Mata.
Mata Mata turtles are known for their unique physical characteristics like a flat, triangular head and tubular snout.
Known to be the only turtle species that can “smile”, we were amused to catch the Mata Mata staring at its reflection in the glass tank – for quite some time, may I add.
And if you’re wondering if these turtles have any correlation to the police because of their name, don’t be fooled. Known scientifically as Chelus Fimbriatus, its name is said to derive from the Spanish term “mata mata”, which means “kill kill”.
Pig-nose Flying Turtle.
Another unique turtle species we saw was the Pig-nose Flying Turtle. Okay, so these guys don’t actually fly, but you’ll see them flapping their fins – which look like wings underwater – when you get close.
They’re simply “waving” at you in hopes of receiving food. It was really fun playing with them through the glass too, as they would come closer when we put our fingers to the tanks or went in for a better look.
Outdoor terrapin pond
Image credit: @nicoleclairechoo
Terrapins are a pretty common pet in Singapore – the tiny ones, at least. However, they can get pretty big – adult Red-eared Sliders can reach sizes up to 12in long.
You’ll see most of the terrapins basking under the sun on the wooden beams surrounding the water’s edge, but expect a bunch of them to plop into the water and swim to you when you throw in a fistful of food pellets.
You can take a link bridge to get to the terrapin pond.
Image credit: @turtlemuseumsg
Not only does the museum have a wide range of living animals, but it also has brightly-coloured tortoise statues peppered around the estate for you to get some selfies with.
Snap a shot with these big guys if you spot them – it’d be hard not to.
Turtle artefacts from all over the world
The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum has turtle-themed artefacts from all over the world, all collected by Connie’s father Danny. Expect to find over 2,300 turtle-themed artefacts on display, acquired from his adventures around the globe.
Turtle-themed souvenirs in the glass cabinet at the entrance of the museum.
If you’d like to bring home a little souvenir to remember your visit, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a selection of turtle-themed gifts to browse before leaving.
World map marked with the locations where the museum’s artefacts are from.
If you’ve brought your little ones along to the museum, they can enjoy some nostalgic scratch art at the activity tables here for just $2.
Visit The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum
Image credit: @turtlemuseumsg
When we spoke to Connie at the end of our visit, she shared that the museum is meant to be more than just a fun attraction for people to drop by, but a unique enclave amidst Singapore’s concrete jungle.
And the museum’s collection of turtles and tortoises is indeed something special. As it serves as a place where people can share the joy of interacting with Connie’s pets, it was sad to hear her recount incidents of tortoise owners coming to her museum just to ditch their pets.
Today, Connie tries her best to prevent irresponsible owners from doing just that – people are required to pay a fee to leave their pets at the museum, and the bigger the creature, the larger the sum.
Having spent the last few years fighting to save the museum, Connie was glad to share that things are looking more hopeful today. The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum will be moving on to a new site at the end of 2022.
When asked about her motivation to keep the museum alive, Connie simply said, “I want to let kids enjoy my pets, play with them, touch and feel them – it’s all an experience. It’s not just about a passion for the museum, (but) my love and responsibility for the animals.”
Before the museum moves to its next location, visit their current location – there are plenty of other things to do in ORTO out such as paintball and prawning when here with the fam.
And if you’d like to learn more about how you can do more to care for the turtles and tortoises, you can sign up to volunteer via the museum’s website.
Book a visit to the Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum Singapore.
Address: 81 Lorong Chencharu, #01-16, ORTO, Singapore 769198
Opening hours: 10am-6pm, Daily
Admission Fees: $10 for adults | $6 for senior citizens and children under 6
Photography by Alvin Wong.
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