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Singapore Stopover

As Amelia Hungerford discovers, it’s not hard to fill 24 hours in Singapore. The challenge is actually cramming in all the attractions, shopping and eating this island nation has to offer, much of it made for kids.

As Singapore dons its party best to celebrate its 50th anniversary, there’s never been a more magical time to visit. SG50 specials abound, residents’ balconies are festooned with flags and there’s a celebratory feeling in the air.

I have less than 24 hours to see the sights, but it isn’t difficult to choose Singapore Zoo as my first stop. With over 3000 animals from 316 species roaming through its naturalistic habitats, it’s a magnet for animal-lovers of all ages. As soon as you walk in, a troop of cotton-top tamarins sets the scene for the antics to come as they scurry freely through a clump of trees in the Rainforest Courtyard.

Just like us
The free-ranging residents of Orangutan Island are one of the zoo’s biggest attractions, the first of its kind in the world, with a boardwalk allowing families to get up-close with these cheeky ‘men of the forest’. It’s easy to be amazed by how similar we are to orangutans, especially as you watch young ones playing on their maze of ropes and nets.

Passing the depths of Wild Africa, another must-see is the Fragile Forest, a unique immersive rainforest experience filled with butterflies, ring-tailed lemurs, flying foxes, brightly coloured birds and spindly legged spotted mousedeer, timidly nibbling at their lunch bowls. Many of the birds seem comfortable with humans and will quite happily let you wait as they cross the path that winds through the enclosure.

Rainforest Kidzworld is a must for little ones. The Animal Friends Show will have everyone amazed at the range of critter tricks, the water playground area is perfect for refreshing and the Wild Animal Carousel is ideal for grabbing a family snap. Kids can also go for a pony ride and get up close with some of their favourite friendly animals.

For more entertainment, don’t miss the Elephants of Asia At Work and Play Show, held twice a day to showcase the wondrous talents of these gentle giants. There are also Rainforest Fights Back and Splash Safari shows, held in the central amphitheatre. If you should be hit by an afternoon shower (as I was), don’t run for the exit. The rain is not only refreshing but the best time to see some of the animals. The white tigers became more playful, and the two Malayan tapirs began chasing one another around the enclosure, revealing their close relationship to the horse in a surprisingly agile canter.

An enormous troop of Hamadryas baboons was also undisturbed by the rain, their family interactions continuing as usual within a rocky habitat designed to feel like the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. As with so many primates, kids will love spotting the different personalities in the animals: a plump fuzzy-haired patriarch commanding the younger baboons and babies clinging to their mothers.When little legs get too tired, hop on the zebra-print tram (S$5 for an adult ticket and S$3 for a child) with four stops around the 26-hectare zoo. You can buy your tram pass with your ticket online or upon entry, too.

Singapore Zoo is just a minute’s walk from the River Safari and three minutes from the Night Safari, all attractions you can bundle along with your zoo access with a Park Hopper ticket. The world’s first wildlife night park offers a very different encounter from the usual day-time zoo, giving you an up-close encounter with lions, tigers and other predators when they’re at their most active.

Image credit: Singapore Tourism

Blooming good time
For me, however, I only have a few more hours to enjoy the sights and it’s time to experience more of Singapore’s reputation as the ‘City in a Garden’. Gardens by the Bay is the newest and most elaborate of the city’s green spaces, part of the reclaimed Marina Bay precinct.

Entry is free to the main gardens, and my first stop is the Supertree Grove. These incredible vertical gardens, some up to 50 metres tall and set against the silhouette of Marina Bay Sands, have become new symbols of Singapore, lighting up the sky with their canopies. In clear weather, walk along the 22-metre-high OCBC Skyway for a close encounter with these alien superstructures covered with creepers and flowers.

Image credit: Singapore Tourism

The Grove is surrounded by a range of Heritage Gardens, but kids will probably be more entranced by the Far East Organization Children’s Garden. Despite its name, this is more of a water playground than a garden, with enormous orchids spurting jets, a toddler play zone, an adventure trail and treehouses.

They’ll also want to experience the Cloud Forest, with a 35-metre-tall mountain and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, and the nearby Flower Dome, a glass-encased ecosystem with a Mediterranean climate.

Hot Tip
Make sure you get to Changi Airport with plenty of time to spare before your flight; this award-winning three-terminal complex is a wonderland with gardens, cinemas and kid-friendly attractions.

Image credit: Singapore Tourism

Image credit: Singapore Tourism

After all that adventure, there’s just enough time for a swim in the 20-metre lap pool at Orchard Hotel Singapore. Centrally located on the island’s most famous shopping street, it’s just a 20-minute taxi ride from Orchard Hotel to the zoo (about S$16) and 15 minutes or so to Gardens by the Bay. The rooms in the Claymore Wing are spacious with direct access to the breakfast buffet of the Orchard Café. Ask Alfred, the children’s concierge service, helps little ones feel right at home with a welcome ice-cream treat, pint-sized amenities and a teddy friend they can take home.

A stopover in Singapore always leaves you wanting more, and while these two highlights hardly scratch the surface, I now have plenty of memories to keep me going until next time.

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