Night Safari for all you nocturnal animals

Indian Rhino up close!The first Night Safari in the world is in Singapore — it’s a 40 hectare property with over 120 species of animals; most of them nocturnal and best viewed at night.

You take a zebra-striped tram ride deep into the forest, past the dimly lit habitats of all kinds of animals. Once your eyes adjust, you might just find that you are actually being watched by thamins and Malayan tapirs — that’s before you get to the elephants, tigers, hippos, lions and even rhinos (above right). What’s really special about the night safari is that some of these animals just lie around all day, and though you may previously have thought the ones at the zoo were “boring,” or even “tame,” at night, it’s a different story. I mean, even the sioth bear was busy. And you get really, really close to the animals. No glass.

There are also the options of several walking paths, which are really not for the faint-hearted. Not only are you wandering around paths, winding amongst the lairs of some very dangerous animals, but you start to worry that the local fauna might jump out and attack you at any time, too. There is glass on parts of the walking paths (and really, how close did you want to get to that wide-awake leopard?), but you also have the option of entering several enclosures for an up-close experience with giant flying squirrels (that’s their name; I didn’t add the “giant”) and even — I shudder to recall it — bats. (warning, creepy bat photo coming …)

Bat. It was about this close to me, but larger.Yes, you can walk, unguarded, down a path surrounded by bats just like this one at left. I personally have no fear of heights; bats are my thing. They strike terror into my soul. I think I walked like a stage-hand trying not to be seen by the audience, my arms curled up like a t-rex’s. They were just as close to me as your computer screen probably is to you now, dangling from the trees on either side of the path. Some of them were like, dog-sized. And in case I might have felt lulled into any sense of security, they had no qualms about flying directly in front of me across the path. I could feel the wind from their young greyhound-sized wings.

It’s the kind of moment when you wonder just what insurance is like in Singapore, and why this is the only place that has a “safari,” or basically a nighttime outdoor zoo, like this.

In any case, what an experience. The Night Safari is absolutely not to be missed if you are in Singapore — you’ll probably never see anything like it.

The zoo to which it’s attached, Singapore Zoo, is no slouch, either. You can even have breakfast with free-roaming orangutans — just ask Michael Jackson, who, after having the Jungle Breakfast, famously invited the orangutans back to his suite at Raffles for tea. And they accepted. There’s also the affiliated 600-species Jurong Bird Park, but the Night Safari was one of the most exceptional and unforgettable tours I’ve ever taken.

As a bonus for experience junkies out there, you can also get your feet nommed at the Night Safari by garra rufa fish, or, as they’ve come to be known in exotic spas around the world, doctor fish. You literally stick your feet in a tank of water and a swarm of fish eats the dead skin off. It’s amazing. Here’s a video I took of a woman getting the treatment (about $7.09 for 5 minutes).

I had the treatment too, but I’m not about to post a video of myself screaming like a little girl. Puh-lease.

This trip was paid for by the Singapore Board of Tourism, but the views expressed within the post are 100% my own.