Many of us have pleasant childhood memories from visiting the Singapore Zoo, River Wonders, and Night Safari. No surprise there, as these parks are filled with wildlife that come from all over the world. South America, Africa, Australia – you name it, they have it.
Take this as your sign to relive your days as a young’un and plan a trip over with the fam this weekend. Should your memories of the parks be rusty, we’ve compiled all there is to know about the Mandai Wildlife Reserve in this guide. Read on to find out more:
The Singapore Zoo needs no introduction. It’s a go-to spot for family outings, cutesie couple dates, and even school excursions. With over 50 enclosures and hundreds of animals to check out, there’s plenty to cover here.
Feel free to ask the friendly tram conductors questions about the zoo.
Once you’ve entered the zoo, you’ll see the iconic tiger-inspired trams driving around. For the uninitiated, these tram rides are free for all to hop aboard, and there are 4 stations across 4 corners of the zoo. The last tram operates around 5.30pm-6.15pm, and each tram comes at 3-5 minute intervals – so you don’t have to run if you missed one.
Hop off at Tram Station 1 to glimpse the orangutans.
The tram covers the entire zoo and you can choose to alight at any of the stations if any enclosures caught your eye. The first stop starts at the entrance near the Primate Kingdom, and the second will bring you to the pavilion by the lake. The third puts you at the Wild Africa enclosures and the last stop is nearby the Fragile Forest and children’s petting zoo.
Set your alarm for 10.30am or 5pm as the Splash Safari show happens then. Watch a lively performance by the zoo’s California sea lion that charms audiences with an array of tricks and stunts.
Joseph Schooling in sea lion form?
Be warned – those sitting in the front row will witness firsthand the mighty splash of the sea lion. If you’d like to stay dry, avoid the blue benches.
Another show to catch would be the Rainforest Fights Back at 12pm and 2.30pm. An array of performances await you, with “actors” that include ring-tailed lemurs, greater hog badgers, and macaws.
An adorable otter will teach you the importance of recycling, and the ending will feature an aerial extravaganza of various birds taking flight. There aren’t any splash zones here, so you can chope the front row seats for the best view.
A show that’s closer to home is the Animal Friends presentation that happens every 1.30pm and 4pm. It features domesticated animals such as Golden Retrievers, Japanese Spitz, birds, mice, and cats. They carry out a string of show-stopping stunts guided by the zoo’s rangers. Of course, all animals are duly rewarded with yummy treats.
Most of the animals are rescued and adopted.
We know, your fingers are itchin’ to pet these furbabies. There’ll be a meet-and-greet session with the stars after the show, and you can gently pet them too.
These shows are free for all, and it’s recommended that you pre-book your tickets in case the zoo rangers ask for verification. The venues are all sheltered too, but note that the shows are subject to weather conditions. If you’re unsure of the show schedules, feel free to check with the staff.
If you want to get up close and personal with some wildlife, the Fragile Forest is a pit stop you’ll enjoy. Stroll through the butterfly enclosure first, before entering a biodome that’s chock full of free-roaming animals. Welcoming you into their home are the crowned pigeons, mousedeers, eclectus parrots, and Malayan flying foxes.
Take your time here to spot these animals as they can be a little shy around humans. While photography with these critters are allowed, remember not to feed or touch them.
The highlight for kids will definitely be Rainforest Kidzworld. The young – and young at heart – can run wild and wet at the Wet Play Area, where there are animal-themed water slides, mini fountains, and a giant water bucket that’ll dunk water every couple of minutes.
To dry off, take a ride on the Wild Animal Carousel that’s beside the gift shop. It costs $4/pax and lil ones can saddle up on life-like seats with options that include giraffes, rhinos, and eagles.
Meet Rudy, the curious bunny.
Round up your time at Rainforest Kidzworld with a trip to Buddy Barn, which houses smaller animals such as rabbits, ferrets, and parrots. There’s an interaction area in the middle where rabbits hop around freely. Under the zoo ranger’s supervision, children can enter and mingle with the buns.
Walk out of the Rainforest Kidzworld and you’ll see the Houbii Rope Course – this high element course is next to the Ah Meng memorial. Tarzan wannabes can try out the full course at $25/pax, and kids below 1.1m can go for the mini rope course ($20/pax) instead.
Image credit: @little_kosaji.sg
Start your weekend mornings with excitement at the Ah Meng Restaurant during the Breakfast in the Wild experience. Happening every weekend and public holiday from 9am-10.30am, this riveting affair will let you interact with animals while indulging in tasty grub.
There’ll be photo opportunities with anteaters, macaws, coatimundis, and orangutans. You’ll even get to pet the iguanas – they’re chill reptiles so you don’t have to worry about them snatching your pancakes. Book a slot at least 3 days in advance. Tickets cost $45/adult and $35/child.
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Reserve
Those with aspiring vets or animal lovers at home can sign up for the Zookeeper for a Day activity, available every Saturday from 9am-1.45pm. Kids aged 6-12 years old will get to learn first-hand the BTS of caring for the animals, including the proper way to feed and clean them. You can book a session via the Singapore Zoo website.
Your tummy is probably growling from all that sightseeing. Dining options are aplenty here, and there are 8 restaurants to suit any craving. Go for a quick bite at KFC or get a sandwich at Ah Meng Bistro to chomp on the go.
There are restaurants located outside the entrance of the zoo so members of the public can access them as well.
Seating places at the zoo, including an alfresco area near the entrance.
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Formerly known as River Safari, this park is where you can learn all about the creatures of all the major rivers of the world. There are over 260 land and aquatic species spread across River Wonders, and you can follow the recommended route of exploring the trail in a clockwise direction as you’ll reach the eateries quicker.
The entire enclosure is sheltered with air-conditioning.
You might’ve seen this money shot on your friend’s Instagram – it’s actually located at the Amazon Flooded Forest. This massive tank is home to a tonne of marine animals, such as the arapaimas, red-tailed catfish, and discus fish.
Is that a … mermaid? Sorry to burst your bubble, it’s actually a manatee floating around the tank.
There’s also a smaller pool in the enclosure where you can peer in and catch sight of smaller aquatic animals such as the stingrays, gracefully gliding around at the bottom. You’ll have to resist the temptation to reach in and touch them, as interaction with the animals is not allowed.
Our writer “water-bending” with the otter.
Another highlight here is the tank that houses the giant river otters. You’ll be able to see them swimming through the water or frolicking around their enclosure outdoors.
Shows are a huge part of these parks, and you can catch the Once Upon A River show here. Show timings are 11.30am, 2.30pm, and 4.30pm daily, and the presentation will run for 25 minutes.
Enjoy engaging performances that feature pelicans, ball pythons, hornbills, iguanas, and everyone’s favourite – the capybaras. Park rangers will carry the animals around the entire audience seating area so everyone can observe the animals up close.
The animals will come out again after the show ends, and everyone can head to the stage area to say hi!
Brave volunteers called up on stage to perform with the cheeky hornbill.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Singapore is home to 3 giant pandas – Kai Kai, Jia Jia, and baby Le Le. These cuddly giants can be found at the Giant Panda Forest, an air-conditioned enclosure that’s been built to mimic their natural habitat.
Oh, to live the life of a panda.
You’ll catch them lounging around the rocks, or feasting on bamboo shoots. While Le Le is typically always out and about, its parents may not be in view all the time.
Head over to Amazonia Encounters to spend time with free-roaming animals. You’ll see land animals such as the yellow-footed tortoise and the Azara’s agouti – don’t mistake the latter for a baby capybara, even though they look very similar.
Think Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure at USS, but a calmer version and you’ll get the Amazon River Quest boat ride ($5/pax). For those worried about getting wet, avoid the front row and you’ll be a-okay.
You’ll come across an array of land and sea creatures, including the black howler monkey, bearded saki, emperor tamarin, and the capybaras. If you didn’t manage to glimpse all of ‘em, take the ride again – re-rides are free and unlimited.
A private guided tour through the Giant Panda Forest is also included.
Image credit: River Wonders
Fans of the pandas can opt for the Panda-Mania tour ($880/5 pax), which includes a 4-course meal in a private room with views of the giant pandas. Your creativity will come into play during the DIY activities such as the clay session, where you’ll be crafting mini pandas out of air-dry clay.
Refuel at the Mama Panda Kitchen near the Giant Panda Forest. The place is open from 10.30am-6.30pm everyday, and you can indulge in Chinese cuisine such as wok rice, fried noodles, and even paus shaped like pandas.
Those who need a caffeine fix can drop by Starbucks – it’s located outside River Wonders so the public can enter too. Its giant glass windows allow you to gaze out to nature as you sip your cup of joe.
Pro tip: There are no trams at River Wonders so be prepared to do lots of walking here. Those with limited mobility can consider renting electric scooters ($20/pax).
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Night Safari is where the animal kingdom comes alive after dark. Human night owls will feel right at home amidst the nocturnal creatures that include the white African lion, Javan slow loris, and well, owls.
Catch sight of the owls and turkey vultures flying across the amphitheatre.
The Creatures of the Night show is highly-rated by tourists and locals alike, so it’s a must-visit when you’re here. The performance happens at 7.30pm and 9pm at the revamped Night Safari Amphitheatre, and features animals including the fennec fox, raccoon dog, and bearded pigs.
Pro tip: Arrive at the venue at least 10 minutes before the show starts as the doors close punctually. Once closed, no entry into the amphitheatre is allowed.
Replacing the flame-throwing presentation is the LED lights show TwiLIGHT Performance. Talented troupers will dance in perfect synchrony to the catchy tunes, and you can catch this at the Entrance Courtyard every 8.15pm and 9.45pm daily. Since it’s near the entrance of Night Safari, non-ticket holders might be able to catch a glimpse of the show from the gantry too.
Since the place only opens at night, young kids might be too tired to cover the whole park on foot. After all, the Night Safari is the largest park out of the 3. Board the free tram and rest your legs – the ride will cover the entire park so you won’t miss out on any gems.
Some of the animals you’ll come across – the tram will slow down so you can snap photos.
The entire journey will take 40minutes, and there are no stops in between. You’ll pass by all 4 of the park’s trails – the Leopard Trail, Fishing Cat Trail, East Lodge Trail, and Wallaby Trail – and also the free-roaming animal sections.
Detailed maps are displayed around the park.
There are a couple of animals you can only view via the walking trail, like the owls and Tasmanian Devils.
Of course, those who want to take the walking trail can do so too. Just take note that some areas get pretty dark, so remember to watch your step and be aware of your surroundings. There are park rangers posted around different fork roads so you can ask them for directions if needed.
Pro tip: download the Night Safari map on your phone because it gets very dark at night, making it difficult to see the hardcopy map.
No fingers were chomped off during the feeding.
It’s not everyday you come face-to-face with an Indian rhino. Solidify this friendship at the East Lodge Trail, where feeding sessions ($10/pax) are available from 7.30pm – you can even give the rhino a friendly pet on the head. Since the tram doesn’t make any stops, you’ll need to walk over here and it’ll take ~15 minutes from the park entrance.
You can find the F&B stalls near the tram station, where dishes include local delights like satay, char kuay teow, chicken tandoori, and chicken rice. For a sweet treat, go for a bowl of chendol or an ice cream cone.
Pro tip: Night Safari opens at 6.30pm, and queues to enter get very long at this time. If you wish to siam these queues, come after 6.50pm after the initial crowd has died down.
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Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group
We can’t forget about the upcoming Bird Paradise too. Previously known as Jurong Bird Park, this park is set to reopen in the second quarter of 2023. Visitors can expect over 400 species of bird and 8 walk-through enclosures at the revamped place.
These feathered friends will travel from all over the world to join us in Singapore, with origins that include Africa’s rainforests, South America’s wetlands, and Australia’s dry eucalypt forests. You no longer have to camp at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve hoping for a glimpse of these rare birds.
Image credit: Joycelyn Yeow
Parking is available for those who are driving over. If you intend to take a taxi from Mandai Wildlife Reserve, keep in mind that there’s a $3 surcharge from 4pm-11.59pm everyday.
Alight at the S’pore Zoo bus stop.
Image credit: Joycelyn Yeow
Bus-wise, you can take bus 138 from AMK bus interchange or bus 927 from Choa Chu Kang MRT – both journeys take ~45 minutes. Alternatively, you can also take the Mandai Khatib Shuttle bus from Exit A at Khatib MRT Station. The ride will take 15 minutes with buses coming at 10 minutes internals. It only costs $1/pax, and children under 3 years old don’t have to pay.
The Mandai Heartlands Express is also available during school holiday weekends and public holidays. Pick-up and drop-off points include Heartbeat@Bedok, Sengkang MRT at Exit C, and Our Tampines Hub at South Plaza. Fares go at $3/adult and $1/children ages 3-12.
Feeling the nostalgia from reading this article? Same. Ditch your usual weekend plans and head down to one of these parks – or better yet, all 3. You’ll be guaranteed a zooper fun time with the animals.
More local things to check out:
Photography by Afiqah Amir.
Cover image adapted from: Mandai Wildlife Group
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