“Oh no! Not a bird park again”. This was my immediate response to my friend’s suggestion of visiting a bird park in Singapore. How was it going to be different from the ones I had visited in other countries?
“A bird park is a bird park”, I said. Well, actually no.
It took me three trips to Singapore before I finally agreed to check Jurong Bird Park out. And how wrong I was!
When one thinks of a bird park, one thinks of a zoo for birds resigned to their fate of being caged. You move from exhibit to exhibit, looking at caged fauna, before eating at the restaurant and going home.
Here at this park, you rarely see cages. Only the birds of prey are caged lest they eat the tinier birds.
A Macaw perched on a branch at the very start made sure that I heard its request to take a photo with it. It was free, as I was told.
The entrance to the admission booths was beautifully made, with two swan figures kissing each other. We walked through a beautiful path underneath arches that were loaded with blooming orchids. There was a certain vibrance to the place.
My friend suggested we first take a monorail ride around the park before exploring the area on our own. That would give us an idea on how big the place is. But we walked and soon I realized that the park was huge and it would be almost a full day affair to go through it. There were guided tram rides at nominal rate but we, the walkers, were not interested.
The overall plan of the 20.2 hectare Jurong Bird Park is divided into five geographic zones: South East Asian, European, South American, African and Australasian zone. Each Zone has its own garden theme, exhibits and sculptures with indigenous plants, all of it coming together in a beautiful landscape. Most of the birds are indigenous to South Asia, and the park has more than 9,000 birds from 600 species.
The Park has four aviaries; one of them, the African Waterfall Aviary, is probably the world’s largest walk-in aviary with the tallest 30 m man-made waterfall. There are native style pavilions surrounded by palms and green ferns. My eyes stopped at the statues of African women making jewelry pieces. Inspired by the St. Lucia wetlands, these wetlands transported me into a world of African birds. The exhibits showed us a balanced eco-system on display, and an understanding of how birds and men co-exist.
Before I realized, I found myself in the middle of a jungle with colours flying all around me! I was in photographer’s paradise. I am no birder but I cursed myself for have wasted previous opportunities to come here. It was absolutely stunning!
I was excited and confused! What do I see first?. Penguin’s Happy Feet or the Pelican Cove? Shall I become a child and go for the Children’s Parrot Show or be brave enough to watch the ‘Birds of Prey’ exhibition?
My friend smiled at me.
I meandered into the lush diversity of the South American zone. I went behind the scenes at the Breeding & Research Centre, the bird park’s nursery where eggs and chicks are nurtured into adults. I went to meet rainbow coloured residents from Australia at Lory Loft. For a couple of dollars, I fed a nectar & pollen mix to the Lories and lorikeets of ten different species. You don’t have to go after them; they come to you when they see the plastic cup in your hand.
But my favourite place in all was the Flamingo Lake, which has been adopted by our own SBI. There I saw hundreds of Flamingoes being set loose. Prior to going there, I had only seen white Flamingoes with a hint of red on their bodies. Here the case was opposite. They were adorably red and an absolute delight to our eyes! Oblivious to awestruck spectators, the flock was busy pecking at the food, occasionally making sounds.
As I moved ahead, it was time for the ‘Kings of the Skies’ exhibition, which consists of trained falconers demonstrating their craft and skill of hunting with birds of prey like eagles, falcons, and owls using fake dead animal props. It was amazing and awe inspiring to see the birds hunt at the command of the falconers, patiently waiting for instructions, and then striking.
At the Pools Amphitheatre, a huge crowd had gathered for the captivating ‘High Flyers’ show. I forgot to even move my camera when these huge birds flew just above my head. The hornbills and Macaws were the stars of the show, and they performed tricks such as flying through a ring, carrying a letter, and even a parade!
One of the enjoyable qualities of the park is that many of the exhibits are as educational as they are visually stimulating.
Just like these colourful fliers, time flew soon and it was time to bid the park goodbye with a promise to visit the place again.
Getting there : The Jurong Bird Park is on the western side of Singapore Island. The best way to get here is by using the park’s pick-up bus service from Orchard Road. You can also take the MRT train to Boon Lay station, and then catch a bus for the final short stretch to the park.
Get around the park by battery operated vehicle or stroll along leafy landscaped walkways.
Ticket Price – SGD 18 per person. You can get discounts by buying package tickets with night safari and Singapore zoo.
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