River Safari – an unpolished gem
River Safari is a very unique themed park – one that supposedly blends aquarium life with the excellent collection of animals that the world-class Singapore Zoo already possesses. While the theming of the park is easy to navigate and highly informative, the high price ($25 for now; $35 from next year onwards!) as compared to the existing Singapore Zoo, Bird Park and Night Safari, as well as the hyped-up marketing, seem to set high expectations for the park. Unfortunately, it left me pretty disappointed – 1) I was unable to access the much-talked about Amazon River Quest as they had stopped people from queuing as the estimate of the queue was 3 hours long; 2) the park was pretty small – I managed to view all the exhibits within 1.5 hours! Imagine that – methinks that even if you had viewed all the information panel and had taken an extremely leisurely pace, you would have completed the park in 3 hours anyway.
Theming of the park
One commendable part of the park is its excellent theming – and by this, informative signs were appropriately placed next to the exhibits and clearly demarcated to reflect the locality of their origins! The pictures you see below are some of the featured zones – including Mekong River, Murray River, Ganges River, River Nile and Mississippi River. This is quite unlike SEA Aquarium, and really emphasizes a lot on the educational journey of the park.
Within each zone itself, you would find more water creatures than land creatures – and appropriately so, given that the park’s emphasis is on the nature surrounding rivers.
At various points, you would find a wide variety of sea creatures appropriately placed to its theme.
Giant Panda Forest
One of the most popular exhibits at the park is that of Giant Panda Forest, which features the ever popular pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia. You would find yourself in this air-conditioned dome, which is a real relief after having walked half the park in the outdoor and viewing the other exhibits! At this particular dome, however, visitors are reminded to keep a low volume so as not to cause too much disturbance or distress to the pandas.
It seems to be well laid out and done in a way that looks like a typical amusement park attraction – at the end of the visit, you would find yourself exiting via a shop and a restaurant (that features Kai Kai and Jia Jia paus). This was one of my favourite highlights of the visit!
Amazon Flooded Forest
Another excellent part of the park is that of Amazon Flooded Forest. Like the Yangtze River Exhibit, the Amazon Flooded Forest is entirely indoor and features creatures from the Amazon River area. Upon entering the exhibit, you would find yourself surrounded by otters swimming above you – a somewhat similar concept to that of Underwater World and SEA Aquarium! But for me, the best part of this exhibit was perhaps viewing the manatees. There is a large viewing panel (think SEA Aquarium again!) from which you can stand back and admire the manatees in action. Do catch them especially so at feeding time – where two scuba divers would bring them food and you get to observe the human-animal interaction.
Squirrel Monkey Forest
One can possibly say that River Safari is still pretty much work-in-progress. While it has much going for it, I would advise you to take a wait till next year, while the park has its operations sorted out. Even so, do not come expecting too much – you can easily complete the park in 2-3 hours! Try to visit this park with either the Singapore Zoo or the Night Safari, so as to make it a more complete visit.