So we thought it would be a good idea to head to the zoo last weekend to see our favourite animals and hand-feed some giraffes. No tourists to jostle with, and many people are still staying home, right? Best time to visit, no? Well, apparently, thousands of families, stuck in Singapore with nowhere to travel to and desperate for activities that don't include screen time for the kids, had the exact same plan.
#1: Buy a timed ticket online.
When we arrived at 10am, there was a long queue stretching way outside the entrance all the way to the taxi stand. Fortunately, the line moved quickly. It was probably all the folks who had the 10am timed tickets arriving at around the same time. FYI, you're now required to book your tickets online for these timings (8.30am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm), and you have to arrive no later than 45 minutes from your selected time. If you're late and the park’s capacity has been reached, you will end up waiting.
#2: Practise safe distancing.
The park is now operating at 25 per cent capacity, but at certain areas where people cluster, such as at the entrance and at the restaurants, it can feel too crowded for comfort. But once we ventured out to the various animal enclosures and along the roads, it does feel much less packed with people than on a normal pre-Covid-19 weekend. Groups moving together have to be no larger than five, and there are boxes marked out on the ground for safe distancing, but when the kids (and we're not just talking about the little ones) get excited about spotting an animal, they might forget all about safe distancing and huddle together to ooh and ahh at, say, the pygmy hippos.
#3: Wear your masks.
A big challenge, we felt, was the mask-wearing. It's hot and steamy enough at the zoo even during normal times, and after an hour out in the sun, our mask felt like it was soaking wet with sweat. Not exactly the most comfortable feeling, but necessary. Take a fresh breath of air when you pull down your mask to hydrate, which you should, every so often.
#4: Be prepared for waiting times for shows. And if you want to feed the giraffes and rhinos, book ahead.
Because the capacity for shows has been reduced (50 pax per show), expect to have to queue as early as 45 minutes before show time. Token feedings for giraffes and rhinos have resumed (they are $5 each), and you should make an online booking for those as well, so you don't disappoint the kiddos.
#5: Look out for activities that are currently still closed.
As part of safety measures, these are the attractions that are at the moment not yet reopened: Token feeding for elephants and goats, Keepers' Chit Chat, the Play Area at KidzWorld, which means no pony rides, falabella grooming and rabbit petting. Tours that are still closed are Jungle Breakfast in the Wild, RepTopia Tour and Elephant Presentation. F&B and retail outlets which are closed are Chawang Bistro, Ah Meng Bistro, KFC Kidzworld and Shaw Amphitheatre Gift Shop. But fear not, KFC at the entrance is open, along with Inuka Cafe (where you can get kaya toast and kopi), and Ah Meng Restaurant and Ah Meng Kitchen (which was packed with diners when we were there). The attractions, tours and outlets which are closed look set to reopen by Sept 1. Night Safari will resume operations from July 30, from Thursdays to Sundays.
#6: Adjust your expectations, book and plan ahead, and you will have a great time.
Knowing what to expect is, we feel, an integral part of having a successful zoo visit. For example, if you're not prepared to queue to get into shows, perhaps 'cos you've got impatient kids in tow, then don't watch the shows. Walking around the animal enclosures is amazing enough. Book online for the animal feedings, get set for mask sweatiness, safe distancing and possible wet weather, and you'll be fine. Go on a weekday if you can, as it tends to be less crowded. Have a fun visit!
To book and for more info, go to https://www.wrs.com.sg.
Main visual courtesy of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.