Singapore--For the Birds
Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Two months before my 2018 trip to Singapore I’d been in Papua New Guinea, desperately trying to get a good photograph of the stunning Cassowary, the largest still living flightless wonder of the world, today only found in PNG and Australia. I’d had plenty of sightings, but my photos were hopeless, and I was resigned to relying on Google to show my friends a decent depiction. Now the ostrich-like prehistoric looking behemoth with a dagger-like beak than could seriously main a too-close photographer, was posing for me, looking confident and regal in his large and well-tended enclosure in Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park.
My initial agreement to spend one of my few precious days in Singapore visiting the Bird Park was more in keeping with marital harmony than an enthusiastic endorsement. In exchange for a trip to the outdoor bird park in broiling heat, I would have a few hours cooling off in Singapore’s famous air-conditioned and never-ending shopping arcades, with stops at enticing food stands. It was a balance of cultural expectations, or so I thought.
The Lonely Planet Guidebook and online reviews describes the Bird Park as “dated”, implying it does not rank as a premier Singapore experience. Not so! Yes, there is nothing high-tech. The food venues are multi-ethnic, but quaint compared to a walk down Orchard Street with exotic tastings every block. Some areas could use refurbishment and some walkways need better signage, but we watched adults and children alike exploring this very different part of modern Singapore. The “oohs” and “aahs” heard by everyone watching majestic birds of prey no longer able to live in the concrete towers of the modern city were reminders of how important places like the Singapore Bird Park are.
I wish I knew enough to describe all the beautiful feathered friends we saw. A few were familiar, but most were not. The habitats of the bird park reflected multiple parts of Singapore, Asia, South Pacific and its once prolific bird wildlife. Even restricted to a man-made habitat, they all seemed to be making the best of the situation, as if saying “we have always been here and will remain.” Perhaps my favorite was the Splendid Starling proudly carrying a prized branch down the bridge behind us. I’m certain his nest will be a special addition to Jurong.
· The Jurong Bird Park is about a 20-minute ride from the downtown area around Orchard Street and costs about $15 Singapore dollars. Taxis regularly patrol the exit of the park, and the wait for a taxi is rarely more than a few minutes. The ride back is about $20. Busses are also available
· The park entrance fee can be combined with entrance fees to other Singaporean areas for multi-day visits.