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Breakfast with Orangutans
Breakfast with orangutans? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Nope. Singapore Zoo offers this rather amazing opportunity most mornings. The breakfast is also awesome. What am I going on about?
When Our Traveling Zoo went to Singapore a few days ago we stuck to a strict budget and toured this very expensive city on the cheap. Breakfast with Wildlife was one of our few splurges and it was absolutely worth it!
The Singapore Zoo has an excellent reputation, and being lovers of animals, we were intrigued. There’s a Night Safari that people love, but that wouldn’t suit our little kiddos. After a little bit of exploring on the internet, we discovered that the zoo offers a jungle Breakfast with Wildlife, and that sounded too cool to pass up. We thought that a visit to the zoo might just give everyone in Our Traveling Zoo something they’d like.
Singapore Zoo Location
Located on the northern outskirts of downtown, the Singapore Zoo was an easy MRT (don’t say “metro,” you’ll confuse everyone) ride away from our hotel in Bugis. Well, an MTR ride plus a $1 shuttle ride. The shuttle arrives every 20 minutes and picks up people next to the metro exit. Ignore the sign that says you have to use a transportation card to take the shuttle: you can pay cash after you get off. The train ride there gave us a better picture of the city at large, as we hadn’t seen much outside of the most touristy parts of Singapore.
A Good Meal Close to Orangutans
The breakfast with orangutans was nifty. We arrived a little early, as recommended, so we could work our way to the open restaurant without being in a big rush. When the zookeepers let the orangutans onto their perch a few feet from the dining area, there was a sudden hush and then burst of chatter. Soon everyone was abandoning their meals to get a picture taken. We waited until the queue died down a little bit, which was not the best choice–even though the line moves quickly, by the time we got there, the animals were getting a bit bored. Those who lined up early got pictures with primates who were still pretty keen on being there. Nonetheless, it was awesome to be within six inches of these amazing animals. The oldest orangutan in attendance (Ishta, the granddaughter of Ah Meng who had quite a celebrity status in Singapore) seemed to look straight into your soul. Jenia actually teared up just looking at her.
We were a little worried about the vegetarian options, but we shouldn’t have been. As you can see on the menu, there was lots of good food for various tastes: everything from eggs and baked beans to dim sum to French toast to curry. It is a buffet with unlimited access and children under 6 eat free (there is a discount for kids aged 6-12). Jenia thought the grilled tomatoes were superb. Turtle and Princess unsurprisingly favored the fresh fruit, fresh juice, and yogurt. Shon stayed true to himself and ate heaping portions of everything. As there are only 20 or so tables available every day, it is wise to reserve in advance (and the earlier you reserve, the closer you will be to the animals). You do not need to pay in advance, but you do need a confirmation from the website (it took me two tries to get it but the support service was great).
We Learned About Orangutans
We also learned a lot about orangutans. It turns out, for example, that the word “orangutan” is Malay for “man (orang) of the forest (utan).” These creatures are normally very solitary. They share 97% of the DNA with humans. They are the largest tree-living mammal. Like chimpanzees, they can fashion tools and learn sign language. Singapore Zoo has 26 of these beautiful creatures, which makes it the largest colony of captive orangutans in the world. The apes have lots of freedom to roam. At any time, you might glance up as you walk through the park and notice an orangutan swinging overhead on the network of ropes and platforms available just for them. There were two species of orangutans hanging out at breakfast with us, mainly distinguishable by different coloring. The animals mate for life, and live long lives, too, 35-45 years in the wild and up to 60 under human care.
It is no secret that orangutans are an endangered species. Between deforestation and palm oil plantations, orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat in the past 20 years. As they are tree-dwellers, poorly equipped to live on the ground, they cannot adapt to such changes. If you would like to learn more about orangutans and how you can help them, please check out this wonderful resource.
After we finished gorging ourselves on the delectable breakfast foods, we explored the rest of the zoo. It was a hot and humid day, as most in Singapore are, but there was lots of shady space which helped make the heat tolerable. There is stroller, wagon, electric scooter, and wheelchair rental as well as a tram one can ride if going gets hard. The zoo also offers a variety of shows, tours, feedings, and keeper talks that we mostly had to skip–there is only so much time in a day! As one might expect in Singapore, the employees are very friendly and helpful, the bathrooms are clean, and there are baby-changing facilities available throughout the zoo.
What We Liked
We were quite impressed. The enclosures were usually spacious, and they were all clean and tidy. There are animals you can see really close–at an arm’s length or so–like lemurs and tamarinds. Shon dug the lush jungle landscape. It was fun to happen across actual wildlife such as a 2-foot lizard sunning himself on the path, too. Jenia liked the animals, of course, and commented that the water in the various animal pools, such as the one belonging to the African penguins, was really clean–”The cleanest I’ve ever seen in a zoo,” she exclaimed. The kids enjoyed the children’s zone that had a lovely splash pad, ponies to ride and goats to pet.
Worth the splurge! Even though this isn’t a cheap endeavor as Breakfast with Wildlife is an additional fee on top of the entry ticket price, having breakfast with orangutans is something we will not forget. It was a moving and educational experience, a humbling one, even, a fantastic start of the day and a delicious, satisfying meal. No regrets.