Monday, March 01, 2004

Singapore--Day 31

Today began with a trip down Orchard Road, which is the heart of Singapore’s shopping district. The hippos at the Singapore Zoo are not actually in the Zoo, but are to be found at the Night Safari which is next to, and completely separate from, the Singapore Zoo. it’s the first night safari zoo in the world! Pretty exciting! However, this was to pose the inevitable problem of trying to photograph hippos at night, and without the use of a flash (prohibited by the park).

After getting ready and eating breakfast and making copies of the hippo photos, I set off to find a cable release for my camera so that I can use my tripod and take more effective pictures of the hippos. No luck. I couldn’t find a store that sold them, which is funny because there were about a billion electronic stores around.

So the rest of the afternoon was spent browsing though the shops. I headed back to the hotel with enough time to get my things and head to the zoo before it opened at 7:30. I decided to take the Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore’s subway) but found myself among many commuters and a very crowded train. I got off at the second stop and decided to hail a taxi from there, which I assumed would be faster than the subway since it would be more of a direct shot.

Unfortunately we hit some bad patches of traffic, but all in all it wasn’t too bad, however I am not sure whether or not the subway was slower! J Anyways, I made it to the Zoo and headed inside, in search of the hippos.

I got my ticket and opted not to go on the tram ride around the park, and hit the first walking path that I found. Unfortunately I had to walk quite a ways to get to where the hippos were on my map and it was raining, but luckily not too much. The Zoo was absolutely fascinating and it was awesome to see the animals in the dark.

Before I knew it, I had passed where the hippos were. How could I miss them? Turns out that they are located on the TRAM ONLY side of the pathways. Oh no! So I double backed to where I could get off of the pedestrian walkway only to see a huge sign DO NOT WALK ON THE TRAMWAY. One of the zookeepers saw me backtracking and was worried that I hadn’t seen the Tiger yet. I didn’t feel like explaining to him that I didn’t really need to see the Tiger right now, but instead just told him that I was planning on seeing it later. I asked if I could hop on the tram at that point and he said that I could since there was a tram station nearby. Perfect! Maybe I could hop on and then hop off at the hippos?

No such luck. You were definitely not allowed to just “hop off” of the tram. I prepped my camera and as we passed the hippos tried to photograph them, but with no avail. We were moving too fast and the light was obviously not too promising and my window of opportunity passed quickly. Putting my camera back into its case, I had a half and hour more on the tram until I was back at the beginning of the zoo.

At 9 o’clock each night the Nigh Safari puts on a wild animal show, so I thought I would check it out (since the light wasn’t getting any better at this point!) So I went and watched the show, which was very entertaining. They brought out huge mountain lions and some little (and not so little) rodents and brought up some “helpers” from the audience. The best was when they brought out a gigantic boa constrictor that had been kept under the stage right in front of where I was sitting. I never knew one could scream so loud than when the woman in front of me did when they brought it out. She had been sitting with feet on its hidden holding area the whole time and never knew it and was shocked to see it so close.

After the show, I bought another ticket on the tram, this time a full roundtrip ticket. I inquired about private tours of the park, but was not impressing the woman at the counter since I was not part of a large group. I got back on the tram and rode for another 20 minutes before getting to the 2nd tram stop (where I boarded the first time) and I got my camera ready. I decided that I should try and video tape the hippos on my digital camera (due to all of the conditions) and see how that turned out.

We came, we saw, we went. It all happens so fast that I had just enough time to get the hippos for a few precious seconds before we were off again to repeat what I had already heard before. This definitely was not good. I needed to be shown the hippos in day light and given a proper walking tour.

Back at the main entrance (45 minutes later) I decided to inquire at the reception desk for a private guide after stopping at the satay kiosk and getting a late dinner. The woman at the desk was extremely helpful and said that if I came on Wednesday at 7pm, I could have a private tour (which meant me and four other people) and I would get to see the wild animal show all over again. J

So I left on the shuttle bus heading to Singapore with hope that I will get to see the hippos close up on Wednesday night, with a better chance to take their pictures. The shuttle ride was great, and I met a nice woman named Vanessa who was a playwright and thought my story about hippo photographing was great!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.