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Night Safari Then Vs Now – What The World’s First Nocturnal Zoo Looked Like In The Last 30 Years

Evolution of Night Safari

As an animal lover myself, the various parks of the Mandai Wildlife Reserve have always had a special place in my heart. In particular, it feels like it wasn’t too long ago when I was a wee little lad toting around my dad’s digital camera back in the early 2000s, scampering around the Night Safari trying my best to catch the animals in frame.

Alas, it has been a good 3 decades since it officially opened its doors to introduce visitors to its diverse cast of furry, feathered, and scaly inhabitants. Here’s a comparison between what you may have experienced at the Night Safari in its early years, and what you can expect heading into the nocturnal zoo today, which happens to be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Tram rides

Then – Iconic mode of transport around the park

Old Night Safari Trams
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Equally as iconic as the park’s pair of cerulean blue eyes in its logo, the Night Safari’s tram rides have always been a popular crowd-pleaser. The trams were there right from the get-go when the Night Safari opened in 1994, and allowed guests to get within mere metres of the animals as they drove by herds of wildlife on their tours.

In fact, the trams and the Night Safari as a whole were such a hit with the masses during the late 90s’ that the park had to beef up its initial fleet of 9 trams by adding 5 more. Visitors just couldn’t get enough of the roving trams, which were accompanied by live commentary by a guide who would tag along introducing various animals they would chance upon.

Now – Upgraded and now with a new paint job

The tram rides still remain an integral part of the Night Safari experience today; you can’t really say you’ve been to the park if you gave the trams a miss.

Night Safari Trams NowThe tram rides are complimentary, so feel free to hop on to give your legs a break.
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The trams are now powered by electricity, and play recorded commentary audio which is triggered by GPS trackers as they make their way on the various trails. They’re also wheelchair-friendly, so everyone can enjoy the convenience of the trams. Plus, they were given a new tiger-inspired paint job, so you know you’re going for a ride on the wild side.

New Elephant Exhibit At Night SafariImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Of course, you’ll still get to come face-to-face with the wildlife here. Ready your cameras as Malayan Tapirs saunter lazily right by your tram, or catch Chawang the Asian Bull Elephant gesturing to you with his trunk as you drive past the new Elephant Lookout exhibit.


Then – 3 trails in total to explore

Night Safari SignImage credit: ZooChat

Back in the day, if you decided to ditch the 4 wheels of the trams in favour of your own 2 feet, then you would have walked down one of Night Safari’s 3 trails. These were the Fishing Cat Trail, Leopard Trail, and Forest Giants Trail. Although some of the animals in the park could only be viewed while on the tram rides, there were others exclusive to the walking trails too.

Old Forest Giants TrailImage adapted from: Mandai Wildlife Group, ZooChat

In particular, the Forest Giants Trail led visitors through a grove of towering forest trees, and across a wobbly suspension bridge which hung over a ravine with a forest stream. Here, the star of the trail had to be the elusive Malayan Tiger, which was pretty hard to spot because of its stripey camouflage.

Now – New trails including one with SG’s first man-made cave

Fast forward to today, the Night Safari has revamped its walking routes for visitors, presenting them with a couple of new trails. These include the East Lodge Trail and Tasmanian Devil Trail. We’ve also got word that the park will be unveiling an upcoming new trail pretty soon, featuring Southeast Asian species like the Sunda Pangolin, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

At your own leisurely pace, you’ll be privy to the park’s inhabitants, all 900 of them from approximately 100 species, of which almost 41% are threatened.

Fishing Cat
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The previously mentioned Leopard and Fishing Cat Trail are still up and running, and cat lovers will absolutely fall in love with the feline friends here. You’ll be able to catch the adorable, walking-trail exclusive Fishing Cat in action, as well as the agile Clouded Leopards perched on tree branches.

Naracoorte CaveImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Those looking for an IG-worthy backdrop, head right for the Tasmanian Devil Trail as it houses Singapore’s first man-made cave named after the one in Southern Australia, the Naracoorte Cave. Keep an eye out for the artificial glow worms hanging overhead, illuminating the cave for all to see.

Tasmanian Devil
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Also, don’t forget to say hi to the viciously cute Tasmanian Devil, as well as the other marsupials from Down Under including the Woylie and Wallaby.

Night Safari 30th Anniversary PinsImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

In line with night zoo’s 30th anniversary, visitors can also take part in the Night Safari Shhh-ecret Trail from now till 8th September 2024, 7pm to 11pm. It’s a digital trail that you can follow along on your next visit, and once you complete its challenges, you get to bring home one of 4 commemorative pins.

Performances & animal shows

Then – 600-seater amphitheatre & fiery Thumbuakar performances

Once you were all knackered from conquering all the walking trails, you would rest your soles by sitting in for one of the performances or shows that were happening in the park. So, visitors would head to the 600-seater amphitheatre to catch the Creatures of the Night show.

Old Creatures Of The Night Show At Night Safari
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

They would be greeted by trained animal handlers who co-starred in the show alongside companions like the Binturong, Serval, and Spotted Hyena. Members of the audience could also get a chance to take part in the show, as the animal handlers would pick a select few onlookers to come up and get up close with the animals.

Old Thumbuakar Fire Show At Night SafariImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

At the park’s entrance, a Thumbuakar performance would be held right before the Night Safari opened for business for the night. Flame-wielding performers would take centre stage and captivate audiences with fire breathing sequences and dance routines that were not for the faint of heart.

Now – New amphitheatre & hybrid fire performance for Night Safari’s 30th anniversary

New Amphitheatre At Night SafariImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

30 years on, the Creatures of the Night show is still undoubtedly a fan favourite. Today, it is hosted in a refurbished and upgraded amphitheatre which seats up to 1,000 people, complete with enhanced stage features like ambient lighting. They are now taking place at 7.30pm, 8.30pm, and 9.30pm daily, and you can book your seats on the Night Safari website.

New Creatures Of The Night Show At Night Safari
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The animals continue to be the stars of the show as the Fennec Foxes and owls strut their stuff, but look out for new additions to the roster such as the Raccoon Dog and Bearded Pig. The show also retains its interactivity, so don’t feel shy when the animal handlers turn to the crowd for assistance running the show.

TwiLIGHT Performance
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

On the other hand, the Thumbuakar performances were replaced by the new TwiLIGHT performance in recent years. Also taking place at the Night Safari’s entrance, this one featured performers stealing the spotlight by twirling mesmerising LED lights.

However, the park is bringing back its beloved pyro-infused performances with a hybrid fire performance as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations.

Thumbuakar Fire Show For Night Safari 30th Anniversary
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Once again, the skilled performers are picking up their blazing torches to wow visitors with their daring tricks and stunts, just as they did in the past. Catch them in action at the Night Safari’s Entrance Courtyard, happening daily at 8.15pm and 9.15pm.

Relive Night Safari’s heritage at the park’s 30th anniversary celebrations

Night Safari NS30 Sign
Image credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Observing the Night Safari’s wide array of wildlife for the first time is a core memory for Singaporeans, and I’m sure many can agree. Moreover, now’s the best time to recapture that sense of awe and admiration for these nocturnal critters, as the Night Safari is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary and has quite a few activities lined up for the occasion.

From 9th August to 8th September 2024, there’ll also be an exclusive animal feeding taking place at the Indian Rhino, Sloth Bear and Clouded Leopard exhibits at 9.15pm, 9.30pm, and 9.45pm respectively. These are the best times to catch a glimpse of the animals in action, as they excitedly await their mealtime.

Meet The Senior Keepers TalksImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

We also can’t forget to give a shout out to the hardworking zoo keepers that ensure the park’s animals feel right at home in the Night Safari. They’ll be sharing their experience working in the night zoo and will be answering any burning questions during the Meet the Senior Keepers talks held daily at 9pm at the East Lodge, from now till 23rd June 2024.

Animal Enrichment Device Crafting WorkshopsImage credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

For those who’d like to get a little crafty, you can tap into your artsy side at the Animal Enrichment Device Crafting workshops happening on 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st July 2024. Also held at the East Lodge, you’ll get to put together devices for the park’s animals to play with, and you just might get to see them messing around with your toys in their exhibits.

To further entice you into planning a trip to the Night Safari soon, the park will be slashing prices on their admission tickets. Local residents can come as a pair for $30/pax, from now till 23rd June 2024, so there’s no better time to head down if you’ve not been to the park in a hot minute.

Learn more about Night Safari’s 30th Anniversary celebrations

This post was brought to you by Mandai Wildlife Group.
Cover image adapted from: Mandai Wildlife Group


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