There are technically four zoos to visit in Singapore: the Jurong Bird Park, the Night Safari, the River Safari and Singapore Zoo. They are all in the same area so you can combine your visits but you probably need at least two days to see them all.
We decided to buy a combination ticket for Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari which cost $114 for two people (including the tram) using http://www.headout.com You don’t have to use the tickets on the same day and they are valid for six months from purchase. No need to print them out either, they come via your mobile phone and you just show them to people at the counter when you arrive.
You can get to the zoo by bus from the Ang Mo Kio interchange. You need the number 138 which is well signposted. We used our EZ cards to pay for our tickets. On the bus, you tap your card when you go on and tap it again when you get off and the money is taken off the balance at that point.
It started to rain just as we arrived and there were occasional showers and rumbles of thunder throughout the day but it didn’t spoil our visit.
One of the highlights of Singapore Zoo is that some of the animals are allowed to roam freely so the first animals we saw were tamarins on the trees close to the entrance. They didn’t seem fazed at all by having so many humans up close. There is also a free-ranging orangutan section (you walk underneath a net) and we were very taken by the ring-tailed lemurs that pranced around us, loving the attention.
Unfortunately, the polar bear and the sun bear enclosures were closed during our visit. We enjoyed watching the otters and the pygmy hippos though. Other highlights were the proboscis monkeys, the elephants and the giraffes. Sadly, the pandas were in a different zoo (the River Safari) so we didn’t see them.
Foodwise, the zoo is not good for coeliacs (they seldom are). There were very few food options that didn’t have some sort of batter, bread or pastry on them and the only gluten-free options (laksa, ice cream) were eye-wateringly expensive. I didn’t eat anything in the end as it was safer. If you have a food intolerance, I would definitely pack a picnic. One of the bonuses of the zoo is that you can refill your water bottle for free which saved us cash and the environment!
We left the zoo at around 5.45pm and then had to wait around for the night safari. There is a bit of a strange admission system. You get your tickets for 7.15pm, 8.15pm or 9.15pm so you can’t enter the park until your admission time (fair enough) but the 7.15pm option was sold out so we had to hang around while everyone queued. There were no seating areas away from the over-priced restaurants and nowhere close to go in between so most people were just standing around. Fortunately, there was free WiFi and it wasn’t raining. There were more choices to eat at the Night Safari (more restaurants than cafes) but everything was expensive.
Eventually it was our time to join the queue, only to find another one inside the park for the tram! We decided to risk it and do the walking tour first and the tram ride afterwards and the risk paid off. By the time we got back, there was no queue for the tram. You need to take the tram to see the bigger, wilder animals but the four walking trails, which lead seamlessly into each other, have plenty to keep you interested.
It’s quite a special experience to walk around a zoo at night (my photos were rubbish though). Dim lighting allows you to see the animals without them being disturbed. Many of them were asleep or resting but some were more active. We saw hyenas, a giraffe, a couple of lions, bears, kangaroos, etc. However, sometimes it felt like you were just walking around empty enclosures.
The tram ride was another thing altogether. You got to see the bigger animals which all seemed pretty active. It was great to see the elephants and the lions by moonlight. The tram had a commentary, which was really aimed at children, but still quite interesting. We didn’t get chance to see the Creatures of the Night show as we wanted to make sure we got back before the Metro closed. We got the bus back at about 10.30pm so it was nearly midnight by the time we got back to the hotel.