Wednesday/Thursday, 14 and 15 August 2013 – 4th and Final day in Singapore – Flight Home to Canberra

Wednesday/Thursday, 14-15 August 2013 – 4th and final day in Singapore – Flight Home to Canberra

This morning we got up early and out in front of the hotel to get our 8.00 am pickup ride to the Singapore Eye stop where we then transferred onto a colourful bus to take us to the Singapore Zoo for Breakfast with the Orangutans. ”Breakfast with the Orangutans” lets visitors meet and interact closely with the orangutans in the zoo, which has included Ah Meng (died on 8 February 2008) who was an icon of the Singapore tourism industry. IMG_10432

The Singapore Zoo formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens and commonly known locally as the Mandai Zoo, occupies 28 hectares (69 acres) on the margins of Upper Seletar Reservoir within Singapore’s heavily forested central catchment area.. The zoo was built at a cost of S$9m granted by the government of Singapore and opened on 27 June 1973. It is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore,who also manage the neighbouring Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16% are considered threatened species and 2534 animals. The zoo attracts about 1.6 million visitors each year.

From the beginning, Singapore Zoo followed the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalistic, ‘open’ exhibits with hidden barriers,moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. It houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world. In 1977, primatologist, Dr Francine Neago lived inside a cage with eighteen orangutans for six months to study their behavior and communication.

On 27 June 1973, the Singapore Zoo opened its gates for the first time with a collection of 270 animals from over 72 species, and a staff of 130. By 1990, 1,600 animals from more than 160 species lived in social groups, housed in 65 landscaped exhibits with boundaries conceived to look as natural as possible.

Animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures separated from the visitors by either dry or wet moats. The moats are concealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of vision. Dangerous animals that can climb well are housed in landscaped glass-fronted enclosures. The Singapore Zoo is the first zoo in the world to breed a polar bear in the tropics. Inuka was conceived on 26 December 1990.

The zoo also embarked on various rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife. Steve Irwin, the animal activist and conservationalist known as “The Crocodile Hunter”, admired the Singapore Zoo greatly, adopting it as the ‘sister zoo’ to the Australia Zoo. He was at the Singapore Zoo in 2006 to officiate the opening of the ustralian outback exhibit.

We travelled about 30kms through lush vegetation and arrived at the Zoo and went straight to the Ah Meng Restaurant for our Breakfast which was a great spread.

After our breakfast, we went and saw a group of orangutans and had our photos taken with them.

Chris and I with the orangutans

Chris and I with the orangutans

The orangutans were then taken back to their “homes” and we wandered into the polar bear enclosure and saw one perform. It was then onto the People Mover and did the circuit of the zoo and then decided to do a walk passed the various animals – lions, giraffes, monkies, zebras, elephants, penguins, flamingoes, leopards, rhinos and the Australian outback where there were kangaroos  and flower exhibits.

After watching the antics of some monkies (as if we hadn’t seen enough monkies on our trip – they somehow are fascinating – we headed to a bronzed statue of Ah Meng.

Ah Meng (circa 18 June 1960 – 8 February 2008) was a female Sumatran Orangutan and a tourism icon of Singapore. She was smuggled from Indonesia and kept illegally as a domestic pet before being recovered by a veterinarian in 1971. She was then eleven years old and was given a home at the Singapore Zoo. Ah Meng was the head of her small clan, which lives in a large enclosure with about twenty other orangutans. She had five children and became a grandmother in 1990.

She belonged to the Sumatran Orangutan species, a rarer breed of orangutan now critically endangered due to illegal logging and poaching. There are about only 7,500 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. Ah Meng died on 8 February 2008.

Ah Meng was the “poster” girl of the Singapore Zoo. Pictures of her have been used in Singapore’s tourism advertisements worldwide. She has also been featured in over 30 travel films and more than 300 articles. Some of the foreign dignitaries and celebrities that visited Ah Meng included Prince Philip and Michael Jackson.

Due to her early years being raised by a family, Ah Meng was more approachable by humans than other primates in her clan. Due to her interactive nature, she was the first to host the Zoo’s ‘Breakfast With Ah Meng’ programme, whereby visitors would eat their morning meal and then have a photograph taken with the orangutan. By allowing visitors to interact closely with Ah Meng and other orangutans, the Singapore Zoo aims to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the orangutan’s natural habitat as well as of other environmental issues.

In 1992, the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board conferred Ah Meng a “Special Tourism Ambassador” award in recognition of her contribution to tourism in Singapore. She was the first non-human recipient of the award. She received a certificate and a stack of bananas. As she aged, her public appearances became less frequent for fear of subjecting her to stress.

In March 1982, during the shooting of a promotional video at MacRitchie Reservoir, Ah Meng climbed a tree and stayed there for two nights. On her way down, she fell seven stories and broke her right arm.  In March 1992, Ah Meng attacked a French female research student who was studying orangutan behaviour and spent much time with Ah Meng’s long-time keeper, Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, out of jealousy



Ah Meng died on 8 February 2008 due to old age. She was 48 years old, or 95 orangutan years, and is survived by two sons, Hsing Hsing and Satria, and three daughters, Medan, Hong Bao (Named for the red envelopes given to relatives during Chinese New Year, and the reddish hair orangutans have), and Sayang (a Malay word term similar to darling in English), as well as six grandchildren.

On 10 February 2008, a high-profile memorial service for Ah Meng was held before a crowd of 4000 visitors at the Singapore Zoo.

As a tribute to her, the next orangutan born at the Singapore Zoo will be named Ah Meng Junior. A durian tree will be planted at her grave because durian was her favourite fruit. A life-sized bronze statue forged in her image was also unveiled.  And all this for an orangutan!

.IMG_10561 IMG_10558Christine and I with Ah Meng RIP

It was now starting to rain quite heavily so we bought ourselves “lovely” green raincoats – nearly boiled in them – and about 5 minutes after we donned the raincoats, the rain stopped. We looked so glamorous though.

We now hurried to the busIMG_10571 that was leaving promptly at 11.45 but no, we waited for an inconsiderate couple who had decided to stay on and not advise the tour operator/bus driver so we were a 1/4 hr late getting back to our hotel. We had to then hurriedly finish our packing in order to be out by 1.00 (late checkout). We deposited our luggage in the holding bay and had a drink. Christine then went off to a “Cat” exhibition but I decided to give my ankle a rest so stayed at the Bar and did some emails and edited some of my hundreds of photos.

It was then time to leave and get a taxi at 5.00pm to go to the Singapore Airport. Our taxi driver drove quite fast so we were there by 5.30. We changed what little Singaporean money we had and wandered around the airport until it was time for me to say goodbye to Christine and board my plane – Flight VA5515.  It took off at 8.15pm.  Offered the hot towels and drinks and then it was dinner. I had a spare seat next to me and as it was going to be an 8+ hour flight to Sydney, I decided to take a sleeping tablet that Christine had given me. It did the trick as I had a good sleep and next I knew I was being woken up for a continental breakfast.

We arrived in Sydney at approximately 6.00am (Thursday 15 August) and cleared Customs quite quickly. Then it was onto the transit bus for Virgin- found lounge B1 and sat for only 10 minutes and we were able to board Flight VA632 to Canberra. It was a smooth flight and landed at 9.05am.  Peter and James were there to meet me and brought me home.  I was into my little pad at 10.00 after a wonderful, wonderful, full on trip.IMG_0794

It is so hard to say what THE highlight was as there were so many “highlights”.

Some of my memories will be – seeing the elephants and monkies in their natural surroundings, the hospitality and smiling faces of the Sri Lankan people, visiting the tea plantation, making the top of Sigiriya, having our high tea at Raffles, visiting the Supertrees in Singapore and up in the Singapore Flyer, our elephant ride and bullock ride. Seeing the lush vegetation and beautiful flowers throughout Sri Lanka and Singapore.  It was great travelling with Mary, Christine and Janice and sharing all the laughs we had. Meeting up with Jennifer in Singapore. Also, while in Sri Lanka, our tour guide, Neil who went beyond his call of duty and driving us safely throughout the tour.  Sure I have missed some, but will “go on” this trip again when I read my blog and get my many photos developed.

Thank you God and the pilots of our planes, for bringing us all home safely.

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