A few weeks ago we went on a family holiday to Singapore. Many of our family members thought we were nuts taking a toddler and a baby on a 14-hour flight (and I have to admit I was a little fearful myself) but it literally couldn’t have gone better. The kid’s were like a total dream. The epitomy of perfect children. Seriously. Cali slept nearly the whole time both ways and Hux was either asleep or silently glued to his iPad (so grateful to Steve Jobs right now). We flew with British Airways & the staff were super helpful and lovely at all times and I really can’t fault their service.
So, why Singapore? Well, some of you may know that my husband Nick is a food & travel writer so food has always been a driving force in our decision making about where to travel to and this was no exception. Nick was desperate to go and eat in a Hawker Centre and try chicken & rice and lime juice and all the rest of it. And then we’ve got Huxley. Huxley is OBSESSED with animals. Like really, next level obsessed. He knows all sorts of crazy animals that I’d never heard of before (hello binturong, pangolin, echidna, sengi…), he can tell you what they eat, what part of the world they come from and knows loads of crazy facts and is always glued to David Attenborough or Andy’s Wild Adventures. So, yeah, the amazing world-renowned zoo was also a major factor in going to Singapore, and we were not disappointed.
Luckily for us, Hux has never been a particularly fussy eater. He’s happy to eat most things and will try everything we put in front of him. The first place we ate had photos of whole cooked chickens on the wall and he kept pointing & saying he wanted that so he was pretty disappointed when it came all chopped up and didn’t have a head with a beak. Also, total shocker to us, he’s a complete pro with chopsticks! They’d done Chinese New Year at nursery the week before and had been practising picking up cotton wool with chopsticks so when we sat down to eat, he just picked his up and tucked right in!
The first ‘animal’ place we visited was the aquarium on Sentosa Island. This was actually the only time we went to Sentosa Island, despite it being a super popular tourist destination. Hux was still a bit little for Universal Studios and the water park there unfortunately. The aquarium was awesome though. It used to be the biggest in the world until China stole it’s crown and it’s definitely suitably impressive. I could have sat in front of the huge water tank watching the manta rays all day.
So the zoo in Singapore is actually split into four different zoos and it can be quite confusing! There’s Singapore Zoo, the River Safari & the Night Safari which are all next door to each other on the same site and then there’s the Jurong Bird Park which is in a completely different area of Singapore. You can buy a 4-in-1 pass to all of them for a cheaper rate which is what we did.
The next ‘animal’ thing we did was the River Safari and the Night Safari. When you book your Night Safari tickets, you have to choose a time to visit. As we had kids, we chose the earliest time, which is 7pm or 7.30pm (I can’t remember now!). So, we arrived at the River Safari about 2pm as that only takes a few hours to get around, then we sat in the restaurant area and had some food while we waited for the Night Safari to open. This is a great way to do it as it saves on the cab fare from the city. (I wouldn’t recommend doing the Zoo & Night Safari in one day though as the Zoo is way too big and you’d be too exhausted to enjoy the Night Safari properly I think).
The River Safari takes you on a journey around all the different rivers in the world. The displays are mainly fish and crocodiles but it’s also home to the Giant Panda enclosure & the red panda. I’ve seen Giant Pandas four times now (Beijing Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo & Singapore Zoo) and this enclosure was by far the best. You felt almost close enough to touch the panda! We did see that there could be queues to see the panda but we went mid-week in February and we almost had the whole place to ourselves so no queues for us! There’s also a great monkey bit where you walk around and the monkeys are just roaming free next to you which was quite cool. The only bit we missed out on was the boat ride as Hux was about 1cm too short! This takes you round to see other animals like the jaguar.
The Night Safari was pretty cool. We started off by watching the show where the animals are brought down to the stage through the crowd so you get a nice, good look at them and then we went on the tram ride around the zoo. Hux did start nodding off a little bit on the tram ride but we managed to get him excited enough to keep him awake and then he got a second wind and was chirpy as could be! The tram ride is pretty cool as there aren’t really any fences or glass so it feels like you’re on a real safari almost and being in the dark gives it a real edge! Obviously the downside is that if the animals don’t happen to be out in full view as you drive through then you’ve missed your chance. However, you can go back and walk around some of the route on foot to see any animals you may have missed. A word of warning though, it really is quite dark! Huxley walked into a fence at one point! So if you’re scared of the dark I wouldn’t recommend it! It was a bit unnerving to be walking underneath huge hyenas who were looking out over the path!
The next ‘animal’ place we visited was the Jurong Bird Park. To be honest, we nearly gave this one a miss as we thought it would be a bit dull but then we saw that you could feed some of the birds and we knew we had to go! Huxley LOVED feeding the ostrich and the penguins. I think it was $2 per feed but that’s a total bargain compared to the feeding experiences you have to pay for at zoos in the UK. He enjoyed feeding the flamingoes but he was just chucking bread at them from a distance and he’d fed lorikeets at Longleat Zoo before so he wasn’t too fussed with those but having a fully grown ostrich snatch a banana out of his hand was quite something! There’s also a water park for the kids at the Bird Park which was a welcome respite from the blistering heat.
To give ourselves a bit of a break from animals we decided to visit Gardens by the Bay. We didn’t actually go inside the conservatories as there’s loads of free things to do there and we thought the kids might get a bit bored so we wandered over to the Far East Organization Children’s Garden which is a big splash park with a play park hidden in the trees. After that, we hung around to watch the light show in the supertree grove. I think Nick was expecting it to be a bit lame but actually we were both really impressed. There were lots of people laid on the floor staring up at the trees from below which looked really chilled (but obviously impossible with two little ones!).
One of our last days in Singapore was spent at Singapore Zoo. We really did save the best for last! We got there at opening time as we’d heard the queues to feed the animals can be quite long so we headed straight for the elephants at 9am and it was so worth it! There were only three families there waiting to feed the elephants so we got to spend ages with them and were allowed to buy two baskets of fruit so both Nick & I could have a go with Hux. It really was amazing. After that, we spent most of the day zig-zagging around, running about in the intense heat like crazy people from one end of the zoo to the other trying to make sure we saw all the shows and made all the feeding times! It was pretty full on but worth every second! Huxley felt like a proper zookeeper after feeding elephants, the rhino and the giraffes. It was great to be able to get so close to so many of the animals too. Hux sat right next to a lemur and you could walk right up to a fruit bat feasting on watermelon. The orangutans and other monkeys have trails that go right above your head as you’re walking along the path. It’s so brilliant, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You feel like you’re actually in the jungle with them at times. There’s also a water park at the zoo, and a KFC right next to it which again, was a very welcome break from the heat and a good excuse for us to sit down for a few minutes!
I would recommend a family holiday to Singapore to anybody in a heartbeat. The food is great and really cheap if you eat in the Hawker Centres, the people are incredibly friendly, it’s super easy and not too pricey to get around in cabs or on public transport and there’s so much to do there! I actually wish we’d had an extra couple of days there as I felt like 9 days wasn’t really enough – even though our cab driver from the airport laughed at us & said that was too long when we said how long we were staying! I wouldn’t hesistate to go back either – and no doubt we will as the zoo is extending and opening tons of new stuff in 2020. And when Hux is older we’ll be able to explore Sentosa Island a bit more and visit a few more attractions over there too.