An Amazonian Experience at the River Safari


Those who are new to the Singapore Zoo may not know this – there are in fact three main components to zoo: the main zoo itself, the Night Safari and the River Safari. Safaris in the densely populated and urban Singapore? Admittedly, the concept is a bit strange, but the River Safari experience for me turned out to be a surprisingly good one.

My visit started off on a positive note. The staff were friendly and the atmosphere was very relaxed, given that it was a weekday with little visitors. The covered walkways made the heat more bearable. I particularly enjoyed the educational aspect of the layout and it was kept fairly accessible too — overload visitors with information and they will just switch off. I also liked the  green theme throughout, reminding visitors the importance of protecting the environment and habitats for animals to survive in the wild.


Ready to start my journey into the River Safari.

Perhaps that is why I spent a lot of time in the air-conditioned Giant Panda Forest. I went gaga over the adorable pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia. Kai Kai is the more outgoing of the two pandas, whilst Jia Jia is very shy and often retreats into her sleeping quarters whenever there are many visitors. Undoubtedly, the pandas are the highlight of the River Safari given their universal appeal. There are also few pandas in zoos outside of China. On weekends and public holidays, one may have to queue to enter the panda enclosure. The two pandas have drawn many visitors to the zoon since their arrival in September 2012.

Panda Jia Jia. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Panda Jia Jia is the shy one among the two pandas at River Safari. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Perhaps somewhat overshadowed by the giant pandas are the red pandas (also known as lesser pandas). The red pandas may not be as endangered as the giant pandas, but they are equally adorable. Do keep a lookout for them too.

There are two cruises as part of the River Safari experience. The first is the River Safari Cruise, a 15-minute cruise in the Seletar Reservoir on a boat which seats 50 passengers and runs at 15-minute intervals from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm daily. Whilst the ride itself was a pleasant enough way to see Seletar Reservoir, the boat itself was so far from the shores that it wasn’t easy to spot animals on the shore. The cruise is a great way to get back to nature, especially for tourists who have seen too many malls on Orchard Road.

Initially, we struggled to hear the guide above the hum of the boat’s engine and when we told her we could hardly hear her speak, she replied that she didn’t want to be too loud so the visitors can also hear the natural sounds of the environment. She did turn it up a little though, which I appreciated. The guide also passed on various items throughout the cruise, such as giraffe hair and kapok cotton for us to examine – that did help keep us engaged in the commentary.


On the River Safari Cruise.

The second cruise, the Amazon River Quest, was far more interesting in comparison. It had a more Disneyland feel to it, given the smaller boats and faster pace. Whilst I could see how this will appeal more to kids, it appealed to the big kid in me as well! On this boat trip, we were treated to a whistle stop tour of the Amazon’s most intriguing creatures such as the Brazilian tapir, the jaguar, pink flamingos and the giant anteater up close. It was definitely the highlight of my visit to the River Safari and I only wish it could have gone on for a lot longer because it was incredible fun.

Amazon River Quest. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Amazon River Quest. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Once again, it had the right mix of entertainment and education content to keep me engaged whilst I felt the River Safari Cruise was a bit too slow in contrast. It costs an additional S$5 to do each cruise, but I think it is definitely worth doing worth – especially the Amazon River Quest. Expect long queues for both cruises, especially in the later part of the day. If you intend to do both cruises, do not leave it too late in the day as you don’t want to miss the last boat ride at 5.30 pm (the River Safari closes at 6 pm).


A selfie on the Amazon River Quest

Another highlight of the visit was the Amazon Flooded Forest. After having spent a few hours in the tropical heat, it was an oasis of calm and tranquility. As I sat in front of the giant tank, watching the vast array of fish, rays and manatees swimming amongst the tree trunks in the flooded forest floor, I was completely enthralled. I could have sat there for a long time, amazed at the sight that lay before me (in air-conditioned comfort, if I may add). It was such a lovely way to end my visit to the River Safari.

All in all, the River Safari offered a fun day out. It wasn’t just an attraction for the tourists – it was something that local Singaporeans could enjoy equally. There are sufficient different activities to give you an interesting experience. Short of taking a trip to Africa to go on a real safari, the River Safari offers you a vision of the wonders of the safari experience and hopefully, it will inspire you to go on a real safari one day.

River Safari
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826


About Author

London-based Alex works in media and PR and is a prolific blogger and Youtuber. His blog "Limpeh Is Foreign Talent" has had over 11 million hits to date. Alex enjoys gymnastics, learning foreign languages and making Youtube videos.

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