Friday, February 24, 2012

Well past bedtime for Bongo: Singapore Night Safari

This evening I left work with a skip in my step at six o’clock, and rushed back to the hotel to get changed and then head up to the Night Safari.

Singapore is blessed with a very fine zoo, but it is also full of people working every minute of the day, so it makes sense that they’d make provision for a nocturnal viewing of various animals. The zoo is a little bit difficult to get to, as there’s no MRT close by, so you have to travel for about an hour by MRT and then bus from central Singapore, but it’s not a particularly onerous journey.

By the time we got there it was dark, and I was hungry, so we had a burger at Bongo’s. I assumed that they really like the sort of drums that trustafarian hippies play in between being workshy and going to protests, but that was not the case. There’s actually several Bongos in the zoo; rather than the all pervasive percussive irritant, a Bongo is the largest species of antelope in the world. So you can’t say this isn’t educational.

We saw lots of beautiful creatures, and I took lots of blurry and underexposed pictures of them. There were some rather cute giant red-and-white flying squirrels, although they don’t really fly, they just jump, and they look a bit like well-groomed chipmunks. We also saw a slow loris or two (famous for their poisonous elbows) and hyenas. Singapore has both spotted and striped hyenas, suitable for whatever sartorial choice you make. As long as you’ve chosen to be mauled by a hyena, that is.

It’s still incredibly hot, even though it’s dark; after a couple of hours I was soaking wet with perspiration, so when the opportunity came to sit down in the tram and be driven around the safari, I jumped at it. Well, I would have jumped if I hadn’t been so knackered by then (7am run and a day at work tends to wear you out even before you start looking at rare animals), but saying I shambled onto the tram would fail to convey my enthusiasm.

It wouldn’t be worth just taking the tram around the safari, you’d only get an abbreviated greatest hits of the first part of the zoo, and part of the magic is being able to walk around in the dark and happen across the different animals. But walking around the area is a little constrained, and the tram takes you into a very fun area with free-range tapirs wandering around.

It’s a great shame that with all of Singapore’s riches, they can’t afford to buy their tapir a decent pair of trousers, but the less we say about that the better.

There’s also a remarkably large collection of cattle in the safari. These start small with water buffalo, and end up with enormous, tiger-fighting beasts with enormous horns and massive, muscular backs. The sort of animals that a Spanish fop in a silly jacket gets gored by every once in a while; going round the zoo starts to make me a more militant vegetarian, questioning how people can justify eating these majestic things.

Or I like looking at mousedeer and bat-eared foxes. I’m not quite sure which.

Ironically, the Bongos were silent. After we’d seen them, and an enormous slow loris cuddly toy, and a woman being vocal about how disgusting rats were (they’re small cats – you can tell from the fur and the similarity in spelling) it was time to get home; fortunately there’s a short queue to take a taxi back to the middle of town, and that was only twenty dollars.


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