I got up close with creatures of the night on the Night Safari's new Wild About Twilight digital trail
It's been a while since I've visited the Night Safari, nearly a decade at least. But judging from the crowd there on a Tuesday night when I dropped by, lots of Singaporeans are carving out time to visit since (a) overseas travel is not possible, (b) SingapoRediscover vouchers can be used and (c) it's the school holidays.
Another reason why they're doing so might be the Night Safari's ongoing Wild about Twilight event, where a new digital guide trail promises to bring you to little-known scenic spots on the trail, let you know more about these nocturnal creatures, and have an augmented reality experience while at it.
The premise is simple — download the zoo's Breadcrumbs app and you'll be guided on your adventure. Once you set foot on a trail — either the Fishing Cat Trail or the Wallaby Trail — you'll be guided by the app to find points marked out by a bright neon blue light.
And if you visit at least one "point of interest" on each of the four trails and spot one of the augmented reality animals along the trails, you'll be rewarded with a gift which can be redeemed at the entrance of the Fishing Cat Trail.
I have to confess, my memories of Night Safari are confined to the Creature of the Night Show and taking the tram and (mostly) not being able to see that many creatures. I'm glad to say that this visit to the Night Safari has changed that since I did get to spot a lot more nocturnal beasts than I had during my childhood visits.
The trail experience
We started off the night on the Fishing Cat Trail — there's a huge sign near the tram stop that you can't miss. Shortly after entering the trail, I spotted the round sign glowing in blue. At the same time, a prompt jumped out on my phone to tell me that I was near a "point of interaction".
The next steps are easy. Use the app to scan the QR code located nearby, and a task will pop up. Complete it, and you'll gain experience points. Like with most games, you'll level up whenever you add experience points to your account.
The tasks are varied in difficulty, ranging from trivia — where answers can be found on the exhibit panels — to taking photos at some of the beautifully lit spots.
The quizzes were mostly easy enough for children to complete and I met very enthusiastic little explorers who would eagerly shout out the questions and the answers they found.
It got only slightly more challenging at the explorer huts that housed mini-exhibitions about characteristics of the animals at the Night Safari. You have to answer three questions with information from the exhibition, which involves quite a bit of text to go through. That said, the kids next to me found the answers easily enough, so it may not really pose an issue after all.
Of course, it shouldn't just be about answering questions; it's all about the animals, right? While some points had me searching high and low to spot animals indicated by the signage to be dwelling in the area, I was much luckier this time around and got to see most of the animals on the trail.
Not all creatures are separated by a glass panel or a giant moat. There were sections on the trails, such as the Mangrove Walk and on the Wallaby Trail, where you could enter an enclosed area to experience being near the animals. At the former, flying foxes glided freely above my head. While I was in the latter location, the wallabies darted across the human paths, startling a child in the process.
We were told that the trails should only take about an hour to complete — but if you're like us and have the patience to wait for the creatures to come closer to us, it may take closer to two hours to complete all four trails.
If you are looking to explore the full park, the tram ride is still a must as there are creatures like the tapirs and elephants that you can only see if you are on the tram. Likewise, many of the animals on the trail can't be seen unless you are willing to walk, so might as well do both for the full Night Safari experience.
If there's one thing that can be improved, it's the app experience. I was constantly toggling between the Breadcrumbs app and my camera app, and every time I went back to the digital trail, the app would restart and take a bit of time to accurately find my location. It's a problem that I think would plague many of us who would go trigger happy when a leopard comes within close (but safe) proximity of you.
All in all, this visit to the Night Safari was turned out much better than I expected, mostly as I saw many more animals, which you can only do when you take the trails. And I foresee myself coming back again with kids in tow, perhaps using my SingapoRediscovers vouchers too.
Learn more about the Wild about Twilight trail here.