Wednesday, December 11, 2013

River Safari Singapore

Nice artwork... anyone for collecting ticket stubs?

The River Safari had been opened to the public for some time now, but we had yet to venture there as a family. The thought of seeing the Giant Panda pair of Kai Kai  and Jia Jia got us all excited. The girls had never seen a real life panda before.

Daddy managed to get leave from work on a weekday so we could avoid the weekend crowd. We got there in the late morning and were fortunate that the weather was fair, cloudy without rain. The Amazon River Quest, an adventure boat ride through the Amazon themed exhibit, was not opened unfortunately. Do check the closure dates in advance to avoid disappointment (click HERE for dates).We got our tickets and headed toward the entrance...

Mummy making Jia Jia jealous...

... until we were stopped in our tracks as we thought someone was hiding behind the pillars. "Mummy, panda, panda!" "Where?" Lo and behold, two giant panda mascots, Kai Kai and Jia Jia sprung out from behind the pillars! We took some photographs with the enthusiastic pair. They were friendly, perhaps because we were one of the first few visitors there that day.

Finding out more about the pair of pandas from informative posters near the ticketing booth.

We picked up some traditional toasts for breakfast before heading into the park.

Now we're on our way to see the real pandas! The park's exhibits are arranged according to habitats of some of the World's largest rivers. We followed the paths as indicated on the map, and the first exhibit to greet us was the Mississippi River. The highlight here were the beavers! We managed to spot a couple showing us just how strong they are, dragging large branches across their tank. There were many of educational displays alongside the tank, and we stopped for a while to enjoy the very interesting video documentary on the beavers.

Watching these excellent swimmers propel themselves through the water using their muscular tail...

This adorable creature is a kind of giant swimming rat? Stuff we learn...

The Congo and Nile displays showcased many of the smaller, colourful species. Some of these are close relatives of hobbyists here. Standing out among the smaller fish was the large freshwater puffer fish, which seemed to stare right back at you with its large eyes. At the Nile, we were so amused by the large, puffy lips of the Giraffe Catfish pressed against the glass of the tank that the girls were imitating it long after. Some sections were creatively done up to mimic the life of village folk who live on its banks. It was an opportunity to explain to our kids the delicate balance between man and nature, and how this competition can result in major consequences for both parties.

'Houses'by the river. We observe a diver cleaning the backyard pool...

Large Alligator Gar of the Mississippi River.

Checking out the Alligator Gar.

Blurry picture of the Mississippi Paddlefish... named for its long, duck-bill-like paddle nose!

Caiman: a small crocodilian related to the alligator, found in rivers in Central and South America.

The 'oh-so-cute' Freshwater Pufferfish of the Congo River.

A close-up of its beautiful face and intricate markings.

The longest river on earth? Wow!

A Tigerfish swims past us. A close up of this species will reveal rows of razor sharp teeth!

The Giraffe Catfish has spots like a giraffe, but we like it best for its pouting lips!

One of the highlights at the Ganges section must have been the chance to get in the face of some very large reptiles: Indian Gharials. These are often mistaken for other crocodilians but can be distinguished by their very long and thin head and jaws.

Face to face with a fearsome river giant...

Admiring their long, scaly, powerful tails...

One of the main attractions in this part of the park must be the large viewing tank holding some of the Mekong River's majestic giants: the Giant Catfish and the Freshwater Stingray! We sat on the benches watching the kids pace up and down the tank to keep up with these large creatures. There was also a display holding some Crab-Eating Macaques. These inquisitive creatures weren't crabbing that day, but it was fun just watching them watch us back. They probably thought we were pretty interesting too.

The girls feeling small under the shadow of the Giant Catfish!

Informative documentaries were much appreciated. The use of videos to engage visitors was evident throughout the park.

A Freshwater Stingray swims past. These can grow very huge.

The girls are swarmed by large catfish!

They seemed pretty interested in us...

The Yangtze River section signaled that we were getting close to our star attractions. Right outside the entrance to the panda enclosure, there was a large screen featuring a documentary on the logistics involved in bringing Kai Kai and Jia Jia to Singapore. The video was rather interesting, and we had an inside look the medical checkups, the acclimatization, and even their first-class flight from China to Singapore.

Welcome to China!

Some of the giants of the Yangtze.

The Chinese Alligator looks like a baby because of its size and large, bright eyes!

Learning more about Kai Kai, Jia Jia, their lifestyle, their homeland, and their journey to Singapore.

As we entered the Giant Panda Forest, it was nice to get out of the humidity and into the air-conditioned enclosure. The enclosures were being cleaned and the pandas had been moved indoors, and we had to wait for them to come back out. In the mean time, we checked out the much smaller but just as adorable Red Pandas.

Beautiful red coat!

A sneak peek into the panda kitchen!

Life-size panda with life-size baby... more like pint-sized baby. Lesson: eat bamboo to grow big!

So that's how much you need to eat if you were a panda! But if I had an appetite that big, you can be sure I wouldn't waste it on bamboo... cupcakes anyone?

Jia Jia finally came out, sat down right in front of us, and gave us our money's worth of panda photos and videos!

This is what it feels like to be a movie star.

I make bamboo look so tasty!

This is how to enjoy your meal... sit back and relax while you're at it!

After spending a good amount of time watching the panda, we decided to leave.  It was fast approaching lunch time, and there were some dining options around the Panda Forest area: the Mama Panda Kitchen is a panda themed eatery, and the River Safari Tea House serves traditional Chinese cuisine. However, we were craving for some KFC at the exit, and it helped that we had brought along some kaya toasts bought from the Ah Meng Kopi at the ticketing counter to last us till we finished our tour.

Everything on the menu at Mama Panda Kitchen is panda-themed... panda cappuccino? Bamboo rice set?

Maybe we'll find something sweet at this snack kiosk.

The River Safari Tea House

The view from the bridge makes me happy.

Even the snacks from the kiosk are panda-themed! These were pretty good by the way...

Due to the closure of the Amazon River Quest, our walk through the Wild Amazonia was largely uneventful.  A stroll through the Squirrel Monkey Forest and Amazon Flooded Forest corrected the monotony. At the Flooded Forest, we caught up with one of our favourite creatures, the gentle manatee! In addition, the fearsome reputation of the piranhas preceded them, and we had a chance to show the kids that they were not all as scary as they are made up to be. Their bite lies in the fact they move around in large schools, and many mouths make light work of larger prey. After all, when you’ve got to share your plate with hundreds of brothers and sisters, you’d better eat fast!

The Amazonian resident is the Jaguarundi. This small wildcat is a good climber and swimmer. Today however, it displays its sleeping skills.

Vending machines if you need to fuel up for the long walk.

Checking out the Arowanas in the pond.

Squirrel Monkeys here we come!

Squirrel Monkeys are small species about the size of a squirrel. We managed to get quite close to these inquisitive creatures.

The Anacondas in the tank were tiny compared to this life-size model of a full grown adult.

Daddy, mummy, and me...

As we enter the Flooded Forest exhibit, some information on the uniqueness of this habitat.

A school of piranhas!

Dwarfed by the viewing gallery of the Flooded Forest. Resembles a scene from the Lost City of Atlantis!

Posing with a manatee overhead! 

Booth selling photographs near the exit.

Finally, we get to sit down, and it’s 2 piece meals and chicken burgers for all of us! We were all tired and left as quickly. In the taxi home, the eye-lids got heavier and heavier… shut-eye time…

We need to look cool while we eat... hence the sunglasses!

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