Beijing Zoo and Aquarium

I make it a point to visit the major zoo in every country that I visit.  Last year when I was in New Zealand, we wanted to visit the zoo there but was dissuade by our host who told us that no zoo can compare with our Singapore Zoo. But still I wanted to go not to compare the zoos but to see some of the species that are not available in the Singapore Zoo.

So this recent trip to Beijing, we dutifully made a trip to the Beijing Zoo. The hope was to see some more unique animals like the Siberian Tiger and hopefully some other. The zoo had no website or at least one that I can find and the reviews on Trip Advisor was rather bad and so I went with quite a low expectation. It didn’t help that it was drizzling and yet the place was packed. Admission price was rather cheap at only RMB20 which also include admission to the Panda House.

With the rain pouring down, it was a miserable day for not just the visitors but also the animals. Here a poor fox huddled in one corner of its glass enclosure.3-DSC_0956

To avoid the rain, we skipped most of the open exhibits and walked only at those that had some shelters but these were mainly the smaller cage housing birds and small mammals and most of which were hiding indoor.

We then decided to head straight to the aquarium since that has to be indoor and away from the rain. We got a shock when we realize upon reaching the aquarium that there was a separate admission charge and at RMB150 – almost 10 times the admission price of the zoo! And yet it was crowded. We beat a hasty retreat and settle for a lousy lunch but it was still raining after lunch. The rest of the group decided to skip the aquarium but M & me decided to go in since we were there already.

There wasn’t anything much to see. The first part of the aquarium remind me of our old Van Kleef Aquarium with its small tank display of freshwater fish. The usual “giant” fish tank with all the sea water fish such as sharks, rays and bigger ocean going fish were not really that big and spectacular. But the aquarium boast of having Belugas and dolphins, of which the former was something I have never see even on tv. 4-DSC_1064

But sadly the 2 Beluga looks very stressed and pitiful. Throughout the time we were looking at it, they were almost always in an upright position. The aquarium also had 2 dolphins, housed separately in 2 teeny weeny little square tanks. One dolphin was swimming violently round and round and the other was just stationery in an upright position. The other “highlight” was the Chinese Sturgeon. Other than that, there was the usual fish and many many jelly fish.

Back out at the zoo, it was still raining and so we did a quick walk through. Unique animals spotted was the Snub Nosed Monkey, 1-PRP_1673

The Yak5-DSC_1069

And of course the Panda.2-PRP_1684
Overall, the place was a big disappointment. Not only were the animals housed in small enclosures despite the big sprawling site, the enclosures were badly maintained and mostly barren. And information provided were misleading. At the elephant enclosure, the display picture was of an African elephant but all the elephants were actually Asiatic elephants. And because of the rain, we didn’t manage to see the Bison, the Gorilla and Siberian Tiger. The only tiger on display was the more common White Indo China Tiger.

The saving grace for the trip was some beautiful birds in fairly large enclosures and there was a mini walk in shore bird aviary.7-PRP_1654

Channel Billed Toucan

Channel Billed Toucan


Would I go there again? Definitely not. Would I recommend it as a place to visit when in Beijing? I think there are better place to go than this unless one really has nothing else left to do.

River Safari & Amazon River Quest

Went back to the River Safari. Last visit was slightly over 6 months ago and the “boat ride” had not started then. To get to the boat ride, there is an extra $5.00 on top of the entrance fee. But frankly was a bit disappointed with the ride though.

The ride was the sort of lazy river ride that one get nowadays in the big water park. Just that we sat in flat bottom boat which winds round a small area of the park. There are supposed to be a number of animals along the way but maybe we were too early or it was too hot. We only got to see a few of the animals like this capybara, some howler monkey and some pig like animals.

The rest of the animals like the Brazilian Tapir, jaguar, giant anteater, wolf and some smaller monkeys were not visible at all.

Then there are the birds. The flamingoes were behind a netting which was kinda disappointing but there was a small flock of red bird – scarlet ibis(?) and they seems to be flying freely.

Of course the highlight of a visit to the Singapore River Safari is the panda and this time round we managed to see both of them and their cousin the Red Panda. Much more fruitful than the last trip.

This is Kai Kai
This is Jia Jia
The pair of Red Panda seems very stressed compared to the one we saw at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. I think it is because the enclosure is in an enclosed area and too near to the visitors.
Anyway, in my opinion, the Amazon River Quest is not worth the $5.00 especially if there is a long queue. But on the other hand, $5 is not too much and it is definitely better than the boat ride at the Bangkok Safari World where there are no real animals!

Pulau Payar, Langkawi

The highlight of the trip to Langkawi was the visit to Pulau Payar, a marine park off mainland Malaysia. To get there, we had to sign up with one of the many tour companies specialising in the visit there. The 3/4 day trip include the pick up from the hotels, ferry ride to the island, lunch, snorkeling gear and life jacket. There are unfortunately no bathing facilities on the island.
This is the main part of the beach where the tourists get to hang around and swim with the fishes and have their lunch and rest there too.

Although the tour guide said no feeding of the fish, they nevertheless still handed out bread to us to feed the fish. It was rather fun watching all the fishes fighting to eat the bread although I think it shouldn’t be encouraged.

But the real purpose was of course to swim with the fish and that we had plenty of opportunities as there were fishes everywhere. The water was relatively calm and clear and we could see right down into the water.

But of course the best part was swimming with the fish and we don’t even need scuba diving gear for that. But the beach do drop off quite sharply and it was overhead just mere metres from shore. So having life jacket on all the time is recommended for those who are snorkeling but it does make it more difficult to go deeper into the water to look at the fish.

And the Princess managed to took some amazing shots of the fish.

 Yes a shark!
 A puffer

Certainly this was more interesting than Redang Island which was much more rocky and the current was stronger. Definitely the highlight of the trip!

All photographs were taken by the Princess with the Nikon AW110 a wonderful little compact camera which can be used underwater!

River Safari

Our first visit to the Singapore River Safari. To my disappointment, it was only partially open with some exhibits still not opened. But what was open to the public certainly didn’t disappoint. And the landscaping was good. The place was beautifully landscape that it was like being in a resort.
True to its theme, there were exhibits after exhibit of fishes. In this respect, I actually prefer this to the South East Asia Aquarium where what they have are the usual sea water fish.
Here there are more exotic fish like the alligator gar, the Cambodian fish, Siamese Catfish, piranha and manatee, ok that is not a fish but still it lives in the water.

 And of course the highlight of the place are the panda.

And the side show

All photos by Alicia.

Marine Life Park South East Asia Aquarium at Resort World Sentosa

Was recently at the Marine Life Park South East Asia Aquarium at Resort World Sentosa. This is touted as the world largest aquarium but I wasn’t really impressed by it. Maybe it was too crowded and I didn’t get to see all the exhibits close up but somehow I felt that there were less variety of fish compared to say the Underwater World also at Senotsa or the aquariums around the region.
Anyway, here are some photos of the fishes taken with my Nikon D60 using a kit lens.



Fish Farms and Golf Courses

I have been visiting the fish farms in Singapore for the longest time ever since I discovered the fish farms at Old Tampines Road.ever. I love going there to look at the fishes especially the koi  It was a sad day when the whole area was acquired for a new expressway. Fortunately, some of the farms eventually moved to Pasir Ris Farmway. Although the area has lost its charm as compared to the country like feel of Old Tampines Road, it was still a place where I spent quite a number of weekends just gazing at the fishes and getting replenishment for the fish tanks at home.

So it came as a shock to read in the papers and found out that the fish farms has got to go again because the area is needed for “industrial” development. The 13 affected fish farms including the popular Mainland Tropical Fish Farm occupy an area of 21.6ha of land. What I don’t understand is why the farms have to go? Does Singapore really need more industrial space? From what I heard and read, everybody is complaining about the expensive land cost here, scarcity of workers and moving out to Johore and China. So where is the demand for the industrial land coming from?
Maybe the government doesn’t see the fish business as worthy of nurturing. After all, volume in the business has been declining as the aquarium fish hobby slow down. In 2010, the trade exported S$78m worth of fish in 2011 down from S$101m in 2007. I presume companies utilizing these spaces can generate more in revenue and create more jobs so they take priority?

So if there really is a desperate need for industrial lands, is kicking out the fish farms the only solution? Do we not have any other alternative lands for new industrial development?
According to the URA, as at year 2000, Singapore has a total of 22 golf courses occupying about 1500ha of land. How big is that compared to the fish farm puny little area of 21.6ha? I don’t even need a calculator to work that out! So why can’t they kick out the golf course instead of the fish farms?

 Of course, some golf courses are untouchable as they are located in catchment area. But there are many golf courses that are sitting on lands which can be put to better use. Like Laguna National Golf  which is right opposite the Changi South Industrial Park and just next to the New Water Treatment plant and a huge sewage plant at Bedok South. At 126ha, it easily dwarfs the combine size of the 13 fish farms. Or how about Tanah Merah Country Club? Its 2 courses at Xilin and Changi Coast Road are also next to the Changi South Industrial Park. The length of the 2 golf courses at Tanah Merah CC alone, without taking into account the other facilities on site, amounts to 13142 metres. So I think giving up 21.6ha of land won’t be sorely missed by the club. But that of course, as we all know, will never happen – not when we see a list of the members of both clubs. More about the golf course in the next post.

So I guess it will be bye bye fish farms come 2014 unless within this year, there is a sudden spike in demand for aquarium fish and the trade volume increase drastically making it attractive for our very practical and money minded government to support.