When most people think of Singapore, they will rightly think of a city. They will think of a financial center, and of incredible cultural attractions. Only those who really understand Singapore will realize that what makes it truly special is the celebration of nature that occurs there.
Singapore sits at one degree north of the equator. Lots of sunlight and rain (it rains most days) leads to an incredibly lush environment, and city planners have done an incredible job taking advantage of it. Wide streets are bordered by greenery. Parks are placed in any free spaces available. Flowers and trees easily outnumber the people in this urban oasis.
Flowers along the side of a street
Greenery is even incorporated into the buildings themselves. Above ground walkways are lined with trees and bushes. Even skyscrapers have parks built into the architecture!
This building has parks built into each side
Singapore is committed to environmental protectionism, with some of the strictest anti-pollution laws on the books. All new apartments constructed come with built-in recycling chutes to encourage the practice. Pneumatic waste disposal is also in practice for all developments of 500 or more units, eliminating garbage trucks and any chance of spillage. Laws are in place in regard to emissions standards, littering, and even minimum quality of life standards for pets, all with stiff punishments if violated.
The country’s commitment to the natural world is also on display through the spectacular Singapore Zoo, and its two additions: the River Safari, and Night Safari. On this trip, I had the opportunity to experience Night Safari for the first time.
(Note: Night Safari was gracious to host me for my experience. However, there was no additional compensation given, nor any commitment to write a positive review. As with all things on The Royal Tour, what you get is my honest opinion.)
Night Safari opened in 1994 as the world’s first nocturnal zoo. Visitors are treated to a couple of shows, a narrated tram experience, and then a variety of nocturnal animals to observe.
First on the docket was a fire dancer show. A bit touristy, it was still altogether enjoyable!
The fire dancers at Night Safari
I unfortunately can’t say the same about the Creatures of the Night show, my next stop. While children might like trained nocturnal animals doing tricks, this is not the sort of thing I was expecting, and was an hour-long low point of the evening. It did, however, pass the time as the night grew darker, so that’s something.
Coming off of that, my hopes were low for the tram tour, a 45 minute loop focusing on some of the larger animals in the park. I was wrong. The tram was expertly narrated, discussing details of the animals, conservation efforts, and the zoo itself. We even drove through some of the exhibits! I can only recall a couple of exhibits in which the animals were not visible and, while the night was too dark for too much photography, I managed to snap this beautiful bull elephant!
What a magnificent creature!
The animals at Night Safari are mostly native to Southeast Asia, though there are also African species in exhibit. We caught glimpses of a Malayan tiger, various deer and pigs, lions, hyenas, and more! Exiting the tram after the tour, I walked a couple of the trails in the zoo to see some of the other animals. Overall, to walk the entire park would take about 3 hours, and while I didn’t do all of it, I got about as close to a leopard as you possibly can be without being eaten.
Photo credit to Dan Warren for this beautiful feline
On the other side of the island, beneath the towering and iconic Marina Bay Sands, lies the Gardens by the Bay. Perhaps best known for its Supertree Grove of manmade arboreal wonder, there is much more to discover.
The Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay
The outdoor components of the Gardens are free of charge, and include some nice landscaping, plant life, and sculpture. But to really see the celebration of the natural world that is Singapore, purchase admission to the two indoor (and air-conditioned) gardens, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.
The Flower Dome is one of the most spectacular botanical gardens I’ve seen. Immaculate and diverse, it includes everything from African baobab trees to cacti, olive trees, and flowers of every shape and size. On this trip, the bottom of the Dome was home to a tulip festival, complete with model Dutch village!
My favorite tulips and a windmill!
Here are a few more photos from inside the Flower Dome, in case you weren’t fully inspired to go.
The next dome, the Cloud Forest, is an indoor rainforest, complete with a stunning seven-story waterfall!
The waterfall in the Cloud Forest
Pathways wander around and up this mountainside, allowing visitors to appreciate a climate that is disappearing due to increasing global temperatures, and signage explains why we as humans should care. It’s an enormous endeavor to construct a garden like this, and a monument to both the ingenuity and environmentalism of Singapore that it exists here.
While Singapore might be one of the most technologically advanced urban centers in the world, it is also a great place to experience nature in a city setting. A journey there without exposing yourself to any of these things is really a waste.
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