River Safari, Singapore

As part of the Buddy Programme at SMU, we had an outing to the newly opened River Safari.

River Safari is the newest wildlife park opened by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and is inspired by the world’s most famous rivers such as the Mekong, Nile and Yangtze. While I am a big fan of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, the River Safari failed to impress as I felt that it was quite barren compared to the other parks. Of course, the highlight of River Safari is the Giant Panda Forest, home of Kai Kai and Jia Jia – the pair of giant pandas which is a gift from China to celebrate 20 years of Sino-Singapore relations. But mind you, it is just a 10 year loan.

IMG_6514Kathy, Anton, Dj and I (at my chubbiest)

The Amazon River Quest is a boat ride that brings you through “the Amazon”, showcasing many species of wildlife from the Amazon. That was pretty fun too, I guess. However, like how the trams are at the zoo and Night Safari, you may not get to see the animals if the timing is not right, since the boat will not stop. Fortunately, we got to see the jaguar, which was to me, the highlight of the whole ride.

IMG_6541 IMG_6544 Spider monkey

IMG_6553 Brazilian tapir

IMG_6558 Jaguar

IMG_6563Flamingoes – always an amusing bunch

IMG_6569 My buddy and I

IMG_6572The lovely couple

Of course, no trip to River Safari would be complete without having a meal or a little snack at Mama Panda House, the resident café serving up Chinese food such as bamboo (surprise, surprise) rice and their signature Panda Paus. I am a HUGE fan of paus, especially red bean pau, so I ordered one for myself. These paus do not cost the same as paus we get at neighbourhood food centres; they cost about $2.90 each but they are also bigger than they kopitiam compatriates. The paus also come in Chocolate Custard flavour. The paus look adorable, almost too cute to eat. Almost. To make it more bearable, eat the eyes and nose first, then you will have the heart to devour these yummy paus. They were soft and fluffy, and filled with a generous amount of red bean paste. Yup, worth the $2.90. Almost as yummy as the $2.50 tau sar pau at 40 Hands.

IMG_6576 Red bean Panda Pau from Mama Panda House

IMG_6584 Posing with the pandas outside Mama Panda House

IMG_6586 Gazing at the long bridge that connects the park, it felt like I was transported back to the past. This somehow looks very “kampong” like.


We wandered into the Giant Panda Forest. Other than the famous giant pandas, it is also home to the red panda, which reminded me of a reddish-brown racoon.

IMG_6594 Just hanging

We spotted one panda lazing and grazing. Not sure if it was Jia Jia or Kai Kai.

IMG_6599 IMG_6612

Suddenly, we heard some rustling, and saw the other panda scurrying from one side of the exhibit to the other. Just like paparazzi, we followed suit with our cameras, capturing photo after photo of the panda.

IMG_6623 They really are the celebrities of the River Safari.

Towards the end, we saw the alligators of the Yangtze as well as the giant catfish of the Mekong.IMG_6636 Close up of a Chinese alligator

IMG_6643Giant catfish

Thank you SMU for organising this trip for our buddies! Although I felt that it was pretty disappointing compared to the zoo, I am hoping that River Safari has gotten better since last year when we visited since I believe it is now fully operational.

River Safari, Singapore


We stand undeterred in the pouring rain. The sky had opened, turning the drizzle into a heavy downpour. We shield ourselves with our little striped umbrella, turning it every now and then as the wind blew the rain from different angles. From where we stand, we can hardly see the road in front of us, just small glimpses as people shift from one leg to another – like peering through a crack in the door. A lady hands us a poncho. Our clothes are already soaked through, my skirt heavy from the weight of water. The poncho flutters in the wind, covering the both of us only minimally. Our small and flimsy umbrella stands no chance against the rain, which subsides for a few seconds, only to come down heavier than before. We smile at one another. The girl on my left takes me under her umbrella. I am thankful to this stranger who at this moment, doesn’t feel like a stranger at all – a second act of kindness.

We are told to step back, the people jostle to keep their view. Umbrellas overlap forming tiny waterfalls that fall in a steady stream off the edges, sometimes trickling cold water down our backs and on our faces. It’s cold. We close our umbrella and find ourselves under another held by a man with his wife and young daughter. We apologise for our trespassing, but are dismissed immediately, “No, it’s ok.” Warm smiles greet us. We stand there together like a family. There are no strangers today. We are one; we are here for one reason. A shiver goes down my spine.

A boom from above; the F-16 jets fly past. People tilt their umbrellas to catch a glimpse but I see nothing except the multitude of colours of the umbrellas around me. Across the street, people wave their flags in salutation.

The first of the 21-gun salute is fired. It is barely audible over the sound of the heavy raindrops pelting down on us. We hear another. Everyone is silent as he approaches. I hear a rumble that grows louder. The first of the convey whizzes past us. Umbrellas shut like mimosas to the touch. “Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Kuan Yew”, chants the crowd. It is a glorious moment. I watch the cortege go past as I stand on my tiptoes. The Singapore flag, red and white, covers his coffin. It is barely a few seconds before it is out of sight. This is the closest I’ve ever been to him. The thought saddens me. The cheers wane and are replaced by weeping. It is hard to distinguish the tears from the rain on the peoples’ faces. As my tears are washed away, I am suddenly thankful for the rain. He wouldn’t want to see us cry.

 We observe the customary minute of silence. People lower their heads. The entire city is silent; this bustling metropolis at a standstill. I stare down into the puddle of water around our feet and I see the colours red and white reflected in it. The silence is broken by a melancholic voice. “Mari kita rakyat Singapura sama-sama menuju bahagia…” We join in the anthem, singing softly, sober. When was the last time I sang it?

With the end of the anthem, it is over. Hugs, smiles and thanks are exchanged. As tears continue to stream down my cheeks, I look around and it is beautiful. In his passing, he has united us once again – one people, one nation, one Singapore.