We really planned this trip for Vito. He’s so into animals that he practically learned the letters of the alphabet with the animal kingdom as reference.
Here’s how things normally are for us. During “reading” time or when we’re playing with his alphabet puzzles, games or cards:
Me: “A” is for —
Vito: “Alligator!” (He was two when he first said this.)
Me: “R” is for —
Vito: “Raccoon!” (One would think “rabbit” might be the first thing on his mind. He has about four rabbit stuffed toys, right?!)
Me: “E” is for —
Vito: (Pauses reflectively) “You like Asian ‘elephant’ or African ‘elephant,’ mom?”
Baby, I’m fine with either. I would have been fine with “E is for egg,” honestly.
We showed him the Singapore Zoo website prior to our trip, to get him excited about seeing real alligators, raccoons and elephants, among other animals. (There are no raccoons in the zoo, FYI.) Actually, Ton and I were as excited to go back, since it really is one of the best zoos this side of the world. You can actually book your tickets online. Lucky Singapore PRs and citizens can apply for zoo memberships, which come with unlimited access to the other venues of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and other perks such throughout the year.
We scheduled the zoo for Sunday, which proved to be nice, sunny, but not-to-hot-outside kind of day. We took a taxi from Bugis, which was around SG$15, for a 20-minute drive to Mandai, where the wildlife reserves are. We arrived at the zoo at 10:00 AM, and were able to get tickets very quickly. (Any later than that, and the lines get longer.)
Hello, Singapore Zoo! Hello, macaws and parrots! Vito knew right away which was the macaw.
Yes, that’s a stroller. Our three year-old is a tall boy — taller that most three year olds — so he kind of dwarfs this umbrella stroller that we borrowed from his cousin. It was a good idea to bring it, since the zoo trails are pretty long, and we didn’t want to pay the extra SG$8 for the train ride. After all, the zoo was pretty much our domain when we were kids here, and the layout has remained pretty much the same!
We were just in time to catch some morning feedings.
Then we were off to the Panda exhibit — The Giant Panda Forest — which is an extra SG$5 for adults, and $3 for children. (The panda enclosure is actually part of the River Safari’s “Yangtze River” exhibit; the River Safari is Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park.) The stars of this special enclosure are Kai Kai and Jia Jia, Singapore’s own great pandas.
Me and Vito waiting at the entrance of the enclosure. Only groups of 50 are permitted at any one time, and we were all instructed to be very quiet, so as not to disturb the pandas. (The enclosure is actually air-conditioned to a temperature that is optimal for the pandas.)
We saw the male panda, Kai Kai. He looked a bit somber without his partner, Jia Jia, who had to go in for animal conditioning at the time.
It was pretty amazing to be so close to the panda! Vito was thrilled.
You can only stay for 15 minutes inside the panda enclosure, after which you are ushered to the gifts and souvenirs area to shop for panda souvenirs, or to grab some refreshments.
No, we did not buy any merchandise.
Next up were cats. Big, beautiful cats.
The White Tigers were magnificently cocky that day. There were apparently three in residence, but only two showed up. They paced up and down their rocky, jungly enclosure, eyeing the curious viewers on the other side of the waterfalls and steep drop that kept them safely at a distance. Apparently, we had all arrived just before feeding time. Maybe they wanted a snack?
When they jumped in the water, everyone was ecstatic. My only regret is not having a better camera to get all of the action!
Of course, Vito wanted to see his favorite posse: The animals of Africa. So off we trooped (after a quick lunch) to the plains of Africa. It would be Vito’s first time to see many of his favorites up close.
Amazing creatures! They came close enough for us to feed by hand.
Apparently, someone wanted them to come closer!
When going to the zoo with a kid, it is always helpful to talk with him about what he sees and observes. For instance, we didn’t just talk about the animals we saw: We also engaged Vito in other questions that would stimulate him to think, posit a scenario, or make a new discovery.
For instance, when we were watching the cheetahs get fed, we noticed that these cats made queer somewhat “meowing” sounds when beckoning to the zookeeper for food.
Me: That’s a funny sound! What’s the cheetah saying?
Vito: I think he’s like a cat! Meow!
Whenever I see cheetahs, I’m reminded of Thunder Cats. I don’t know why, I just am!
These zebras also amused my kid. Vito insisted that the zebras “bray,” just like in his book Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle, so we tried to listen in to see if the animals would make any noise whatsoever. No braying, though, as they were rather busy eating lunch at the time!
Meanwhile, in the lion exhibit, the king was waiting contentedly on his stony throne.
I seriously think that he’s grinning. Don’t you?
Is it a jaguar or is it a leopard? (Hint: Look at the spots.)
It was around 2:30 when we finished the zoo trail — and just in time! This time of year, it rains heavily in the afternoon, and so we made it back to the main souvenir shop near the zoo entrance just before the downpour. At this point, Vito was not interested in seeing much else after he had had his fill of “African animals.” He just wanted one souvenir to remember his trip by:
He named it “Raffy.” Raffy the Giraffe. Ain’t my kid smart?