All photos: Adrian Lee/Coconuts
Singapore Zoo’s latest glamping offering is launching tomorrow and the Coconuts team got first dibs on the wild getaway.
Glamping in the Wild is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where guests get the chance to stay in an outdoor dome tent in the same grounds and vicinity as the 15,000 animals that are kept in Singapore’s animal parks Singapore Zoo, River Wonders and Night Safari.
The experience, which has a packed itinerary from 1:30pm to 10am the next day, kickstarts tomorrow and features new programs like going behind the scenes to see the zoo’s kitchen and healthcare facilities.
We were blessed with the chance to interact with the animals (including native wildlife that pops by for food) and spent the night glamping last weekend. Here are all the wild that went down.
Wet and wild
The program starts at 1:30pm but unfortunately, it poured when we arrived on Saturday afternoon so the wet weather program had to be activated. This means that the elephant feeding had to be canceled as the giant mammals don’t like getting caught in the rain.
If you didn’t have a bad start like we did, the first activity on the program is to feed the zoo’s five Asian elephants and chat with their carers to get to know each of their quirky personalities.
Anywho, the wet-weather itinerary started off with a sheltered stroll through River Wonders. We were introduced to plenty of exotic fish like their giant Mekong catfish, archerfish, lungfish, salamander and sturgeons (where caviar comes from).
Shan, an Indian Gharial crocodile that is a critically endangered species, also blessed us with his presence by appearing from the murky waters.
Then, we moved on to catch a glimpse of River Wonders’ main stars — the pandas. Baby Le Le was laying down spread open while munching on his bamboo, clearly unbothered by guests’ stares and cooing.
Sadly, we were reminded that the baby will be leaving this year for China when he turns 2 in August. A grand send-off party is currently in the planning works, according to zoo keepers.
Here are a couple animal fun facts we learned from our facilitator Siti.
While the tanks around River Wonders seem like it’s built to last forever, the exhibits are actually not permanent. The team changes up the enclosures and houses a variety of animals from time to time.
The bamboo plants in the panda exhibit are all fake. Instead, their food is portioned but is supplemented with plenty of bamboo to snack on.
Did u know fishes with a V-shaped tail swim faster? So if you’re trying to catch a fish in a tank, go for the one that has a more fanned-out tail, they swim slower.
Mudskippers can recognize color incredibly well apart from their amazing ability to camouflage. They don’t swim but skip (duh) and hop around instead.
Back of the House
After swerving through lanes of aquatic animals, we ditched the wet weather program and jumped straight back into the original agenda by venturing behind the scenes.
What does it take to run an animal kingdom? The same as humans apparently — plenty of nutritional food and TLC.
The zoo’s main facilities are just behind the gates camouflaged within the forestry of the maze-like park.
Once passed, we were brought to the Wildlife Nutrition Centre, a facility that houses the animals’ dry and wet food. Some interesting products we never thought they would have are baby formula for the younger animals, cordial syrups that act as sweeteners and oats for the geriatric animals.
There are also salt blocks for animals like giraffes to lick and get their minerals.
Next to it is the Zoology Central Kitchen where they prep food for the 15,000 animals from all the parks including Night Safari and River Wonders. At least seven fridges were filled with meats and fruits and even more were stored in their negative 16 degrees celsius room (that felt like it almost instantly transported us to Canada).
The walls in the kitchen area were plastered with photos of how one should prepare the vegetables and fruits for each species, whether it’s cut into medium or small-sized strips or chunks. The giant pots were used for steaming vegetables for the older animals to chew. Aw.
Then we moved on to the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre where the animals get their check-ups, vaccinations, dental treatments, etc. Inside is a surgery and an x-ray room that did not look too different from the ones meant for humans except the x-rays were much cooler to look at.
Another fun fact! The largest animal the center has treated is a tiger. Rawr.
A highlight of the program is seeing the adorable Californian Sea Lion Pedro work his magic at the Splash Safari show. He even taught audience members how to recycle and care better for the ocean and planet for creatures like himself.
At 6pm, we were seated for a filling dinner that was served indoors with a much-needed cool breeze from the air conditioning.
We then walked it off on a stroll past the animals of Wild Africa. By that time, the zoo was closed to the public and the lights were all off, making it a peaceful chilly walk.
We saw the zebras, with one that has a heart-shaped pattern on its front, meerkats waiting patiently for their crickets, African-painted dogs chasing one another and White rhinoceros sleeping in the mud. And while we didn’t see the African Lions that were kept at the back, we could hear their soft purrs and meows.
If you’re lucky, you can also spot native wildlife like Spotted Wood Owls or Sunda Colugos that hang around the park.
It’s finally time to wind down. Just further up is the camping site that has four tents propped pretty close to one another. Each sleeps up to four people in two double beds and has two camping chairs, a portable air conditioner (that might be loud if you crank it up), a standing fan, and a shelf.
All of the tents are facing a scenic view of the Upper Seletar Reservoir where you can wake up to a beautiful sunrise depending on the weather.
The toilets, with cubicles that come with a shower head, are located about a 2-minute walk away from the tents. Right next door at the pavilion is where facilitators will spend the night at (and make sure no animal behavior from guests goes down).
During our stay, there weren’t any mosquitoes (thank god) but having bug friends fly into the tent is inevitable due to small gaps around the tents and the bugs’ innate infatuation with the bright lights in and outside of the tent.
Also, if you hear a meow-like calling that sounds like it’s coming from an angst cat, it could be the wild peacock that hangs around in a nearby tree so look out for it!
An option to add a picnic basket filled with goodies like wine and snacks to enjoy in the tent is also available. It brought a nice touch to enjoy it right outside the tent with the tranquil view of the reservoir.
The glamping trip ends with the zoo’s signature breakfast buffet which serves local and international halal food. Halfway through, keepers will hold a meet-and-greet session with random animals that are free for the morning. Photo-taking sessions are also included.
We had the pleasure to meet the Orangutans, a Carpet Python, Luke the Pelican and Draco the Bearded Dragon. All were well-behaved and adorable.
After that’s done, guests will have access to roam around the zoo to catch up on the animals they haven’t seen. For us, we zoomed straight down to meet the lovely elephants since we didn’t get to see them the previous day.
For such an experience that starts at S$1,699 per tent, we expected that there would be more activities that were not available to the general public like meeting the animals (raccoons and capybaras) that are not shown to the public.
We also can’t help but compare the price tag to luxurious resort stays. Of course, that doesn’t include the time we had with the animals who are the main highlights alongside the incredibly insightful tours and knowledgeable facilitators. After all, any close encounters with wildlife in Singapore are rare and come with a hefty price tag. Just don’t expect an orangutan to be doing a turndown service.
But of all that we stayed at, this one was definitely the WILDEST.
Singapore Zoo’s Glamping in the Wild is just one of the glamping experiences Mandai Wildlife Group offers. The Glamping with the Manatees at River Wonders is also available from tomorrow.
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