Wimoweh? The Lions (Get No) Sleep Tonight – The Singapore Night Safari

by Continental Club on May 1, 2009

It may seem a curious, if not foolhardy, suggestion to propose venturing into equatorial jungle in the dead of night, wearing nothing but tourist togs and with nary a bullwhip or elephant gun in sight. Yet, night after night, hundreds of untrained, ill-equipped holiday makers do just that and, what’s more, they pay handsomely for the privilege. Then, having apparently risked life and limb, they go on to vote the experience one of the top attractions in Singapore.

There’s nowt so queer as folk.

The Night Safari next to Singapore Zoo might, on the face of it, sound like a somewhat unlikely attraction but, no, dusk after dusk as the city becomes swathed in darkness, hundreds (if not thousands) take cars, cabs and coaches out of town and into the lightless rain forest.

There, they queue and then board open-sided road trains to tour the nocturnal habitats of some of the World’s most reclusive wildlife. There’s a live commentary though thankfully no backing music; the only Tight Fit being into the train itself. The vehicles proceed at little more than walking pace through the gloom, pausing periodically for what is, in all fairness, a rather unique viewing experience.

To all intents and purposes, it seems that the lions’ meadow is quite open to the visitors in their unprotected state. However, the cloak of night disguises deep ditches and concealed fencing that together conspire to keep watcher and watched quite separate.

Expect to see, along with the lions (though not in the same enclosures, obviously) rhino, hyena, deer, giraffe, anteater and gaur. Don’t expect to be able to take photographs however, as the lighting is almost non-existent and flashes would clearly startle the animals.

The heat, humidity and darkness are an oppressive combination though, and our discomfort was compounded somewhat by the breakdown of a road train ahead, which took some time to resolve. The discomfort did serve to remind us of what it must have been like for those WWII servicemen who were forced to work and fight through the jungles of the Malay peninsula in much worse conditions. Suddenly, a short delay in at least a seat seemed very much less concerning.

Access to the tour is gained via a large entertainment, shopping and dining complex, which is revisited again upon completion of the sight-seeing circuit. It’s mostly open air and there are circus acts and fire-eaters, a rather incongruous (if not plain inexplicable) suspended vintage aircraft and tateramas aplenty.

No need was felt to detain ourselves in this hot and somewhat sweaty cash-extraction facility, so we made for the exit and found a cab straight away. Again, the St Regis proved usefully situated for this particular excursion; being on the zoo side of the city saved a good 20 minutes of travelling time on the way, if a little less on the return, quieter, journey.

Overall, despite it being expensive and a bit of a tial, I’m pleased that we’d seen it.

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