Where should you go to see thousands of tulips? The Netherlands? Wrong.
And where do you go to see a stunning array of desert cacti? South America? Wrong again.
You can marvel at these and more at Gardens by the Bay, right here in Singapore.
The unique tropical attraction, which opened in 2012, has already had more than 10 million visitors.
In keeping with its central theme of a sustainable urbanised environment, it sets a benchmark in viable environmental design and green technology.
For instance, the two conservatories use a combination of technological approaches to ensure energyefficient cooling. In addition, the surrounding lakes are not just for beauty or to ensure a tranquil setting; they also act as a natural water filtration system and an aquatic habitat for fish, terrapins and frogs.
Showing the power of imagery and the attraction of innovative design, the two distinctive domes of this premier leisure destination, as well as the groundbreaking Supertrees, have been repeatedly photographed, with striking images posted on social media sites, gaining well-deserved international attention and earning accolades from around the world.
If you hanker for a chance to watch African animals, head to the Singapore Zoo for its African Hooves and Horns programme. The first of its kind in Asia, it is a private guided tour that gives visitors a memorable experience of the creatures commonly found on the African savannah.
Think about this for a moment — how many times will you get a chance to feed a giraffe or come close to a white rhinoceros.
Singapore Zoo’s Wild Discoverer Tour provides an extra perspective, giving visitors a first-hand view of how the animals are cared for.
At the reptile garden, for instance, you can stand with the keepers, feed some of the creatures and even touch some. Another prized experience is the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia Feeding Tour, which highlights the intelligent and mischievous nature of baboons. The chance to feed them provides a memorable perspective of their natural behaviour.
There are more than 100 members of the Hamadryas baboon troupe, so there is no shortage of entertaining antics as the encounter unfolds. After dark, hop over to Night Safari.
Before the safari gets under way, the fire-breathers of the Thumbuakar Performance will keep you entranced with their rhythmic actions on stage and the ease with which they act as human flame-throwers.
Board a special tram for a guided tour that takes you across seven geographical zones, from the Himalayan foothills to the Asian Riverine Forest as you learn riveting facts and tales about each group of animals.
There is also a Leopard Trail, a fishing cat trail and even a taste of Australia at the Wallaby Trail. The Safari Adventurer Tour aims to bring guests along a journey into the world of nocturnal animals, highlighting the walking trails and providing a sense of exclusivity through a buggy ride and a specially arranged elephant feeding tour.
It is a premium product that appeals to anyone who is in search of an in-depth experience at the zoo. Night Safari is the recipient of Best Visitor Attraction Experience at this year’s Singapore Experience Awards.
If it’s Friday, put on your walking shoes and join the Secrets of the Red Lantern — A Chinatown and Geylang Night Tour.
Think of this tour as a time machine. It simultaneously allows you to straddle two centuries — the 21st, which surrounds you as you walk; and the late 19th, which is dramatically brought to life in the many stories told by your guide over the ensuing two and a half hours.
It is all about providing a quality experience, according to Journeys (Heritage Tours & Travel Services), the owner of the tour. The company has curated a unique brand of local walking tours, which it has been operating since 2003.
Explains managing director Jeya Ayadurai: “The quality of the tour programme is of the utmost importance to us. From in-depth research to field interviews, the richest stories are shared with our guests to allow for a better understanding of what makes Singapore so unique.”
The tour aims to give an authentic introduction to Singapore’s more poignant stories from the central red-light district of the 1880s, taking its name from the profusion of red lanterns that characterised brothels in the area.
The stories told on each tour are not fanciful or embellished with fictional story-telling devices. Instead, they are the result of painstaking research into the era, with attention to accuracy of the facts.
For example, guests are brought to real addresses to get a feel of what was then the dramatic underbelly of the port. To obtain details of real cases, researchers delved into the most reliable source of information — a treasure trove of coroners’ reports.
Because of the level of detail that is presented, the experience is akin to being involved in a live performance, especially as the verbal aspect is fully scripted.
The company welcomes feedback from all those who take the tour, and all responses, be they in verbal, written or online form, are taken into consideration.
In the old gangster days in Chicago, the expression “sleeping with the fishes” implied retribution.
Now, it denotes pure enjoyment. You can literally sleep in the company of a wide selection of fish species at the popular Ocean Dreams initiative, introduced by the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa.
After the last of the daytime visitors have left the premises, the preparations begin for the sleepover. More than finding Nemo, the Ocean Dreams programme provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and to watch colourful schools of fish in the Open Ocean Habitat.
In addition to a 90-minute guided tour that takes you behind the scenes, you will also be regaled with heroic oceanic tales that transport you into a special dimension. Here at one of the world’s largest oceanariums, with a total volume of 42.8 million litres of water, the figures are impressive.
It is home to more than 100,000 marine animals encompassing over 800 species. There is a magical quality to observing the 10 different zones that include 49 habitats and to see creatures both large and small in their own environment.
At Adventure Cove Waterpark, children and adults alike can splash out at their own pace.
For those with a competitive spirit, there is the Duelling Racer, where speed rules, but there are also other rides, such as the Pipeline Plunge, Riptide Rocket, Spiral Washout, Splashworks, Tidal Twister and Whirlpool Washout.
If you are in no hurry, relax at the Adventure River, where you float serenely in a tube through a grotto, tunnel and tropical jungle garden.
Or if you want a good mix of thrill and chill, try Bluwater Bay, a wave pool where the waves begin on cue at 15-minute intervals. For an immersive experience, try Ray Bay, where you can wade among rays that glide past you in the water. Or go to Rainbow Reef, where you can snorkel with 20,000 fish, a highlight of the overall experience.
Ocean Dreams by S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa is the recipient of Best Learning & Travel Experience at this year’s Singapore Experience Awards.