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By Peter Needham


Image credit: Derrick See

Singapore SkylineSingapore may well have been designed to suit visiting families. Safe, friendly and compact, hi-tech yet exotic, the country is easy to get around and crammed with attractions. Holidays there are easy to find – many travel packages wrap Singapore with visits to Malaysia or Indonesia’s Bintan Island – but Singapore works well on its own. Explore Holidays showcases the best of Penang, Langkawi and Singapore – including two new options to Singapore’s fabulous Sentosa Island. Qantas Holidays offers a Singapore and Sentosa Getaway holiday that allows you to choose your own options and extend your stay. Creative Holidays runs trips to Singapore in connection with SuperStar Gemini cruises, or on its own.

Singapore’s clean and efficient MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) subway ties in well with its SBS bus network. Some 2400 public transport buses run 192 routes. Shopping – for adults and for kids – is justly renowned. Be warned, Singapore offers no fewer than four Toys R Us stores! Wherever you head, you’ll have no trouble with food. Dining is diverse and delicious – everything from cheeseburgers to traditional Malay fare like nasi padang (rice served with vegetables and fish, chicken or eggs).

Jurong BirdPark is a wildlife knockout. If travelling with a toddler, you might consider seeing the park on the panorail – an air-conditioned monorail loop that cuts out a lot of walking. Some 600 African birds fly freely around the Waterfall Aviary. Jurong even has its own version of Phillip Island’s penguin parade – the penguins waddle around a simulated Antarctic environment. To reach the bird park by public transport, take the MRT to Boon Lay Station (EW27), then switch to SBS bus 194 or 251.

Singapore Zoo is designed on the “open” principle, covering 28 hectares. Kids love the baby animals including some threatened ape species born in the zoo, proboscis monkeys, douc langurs (found in the rainforests of Vietnam and Laos), white rhinos and orang utans.

Another big hit with kids is the Night Safari, next to Singapore Zoo. Once again, you can choose between walking or the easy option – a tram ride. Either way, you’re venturing among 2500 animals (135 different species) spread around eight zones designed to resemble separate geographic regions. Giraffes, fishing cats, tapirs, lions, tigers, rhinos, even bongos (a type of forest antelope), all live here. When you hear the strange and melancholy rising whoop of the striped hyena, you are not listening to a recording. To get there, catch the MRT to Choa Chu Kang Station (NS4), then board SMRT Bus 927 to the zoo. Or take the MRT to Ang Mo Kio Station (NS16), then board SBS bus 138.
Chicken and Rice
Singapore Science Centre is a whiz-bang wonder. Children just love its interactive nature. Over 850 exhibits include 35 sculptures and displays in a garden setting. Don’t miss the Omni-Theatre with its virtual voyage simulation experience. Reach the Science Centre by catching the MRT to Jurong East Station (EW24/NS1) then SBS bus 335.

Sentosa, in Malay, means 'peace and tranquility'. This is Singapore’s pleasure island, easily accessible via a causeway from the main island. Waking up in a Sentosa hotel and looking out your window at the sunrise is an enchantment as you gaze at palm trees, little man-made islands, an aquamarine sea and ships of all nations anchored off the coast of Singapore. Underwater World on Sentosa includes an 83-metre long tunnel you can stroll through while schools of fish, eagle rays and sharks glide all round you. Fort Siloso, a fort built by the British in the 1880s and now a restored military museum, offers underground tunnels, artillery nests and bunkers for public viewing. Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom is another Sentosa winner. Sigh at exquisite butterflies like Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing – considered by many butterfly fanciers to be the world’s most beautiful species. Then confront rhino beetles, giant spiders and other creepy-crawlies in a 70-metre-long cave, guided by fireflies. Screech! You can touch giant scorpions, beetles and stick insects. Not for  everyone, but a lot of fun for some!

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