Sunday, 25 March 2007

Avian Aspirations

In the late 70's I spent three years on contract working in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. As so often happens, one remembers most of the more interesting times and forgets much of the rest. A highlight for me was a trip in my Landcruiser up the Highlands Highway to Wabag and a two night stay at the lodge there.

The lodge consisted of thatched huts and I recall that the tradionally-clad cook delivered an inspired western style three course meal complete with carrots in a white sauce. The other thing I vividly recall was a visit to a nearby nature reserve to view the many and varied Birds of Paradise.

I hadn't seen a Bird of Paradise since, until yesteday when we paid a visit to the Jurong Bird Park here in Singapore.

To get there we took the MRT to Boon Lay, the last stop on the line and then boarded the 194 bus from the interchange which is right next to the station. This took us directly to the park.

Having been in the museum / heritage business I am always judgemental when it comes to such attractions but I have to record that the $20 (which included a monorail ride around the park) admission price was well worth it.

Jurong Bird Park is a tastefully and thoughtfully operated attraction and conservation values are skilfully integrated into their displays. Be warned though, even with strategically placed fans, on a hot day such as it was yesterday it can be quite exhausting if you choose to walk everywhere.

The highlight is undoubtedly the huge Waterfall Avery (photo above) and this is also a very goood place to pause on your journey through the park as it offers a shady respite from the Singapore sun. If you are visiting Singapore, or are living here and have visitors, then a visit to the Jurong Bird Park is well worth the effort and a colourful introduction to tropical flora and fauna.

'Flamingo' watercolour - Jurong. Artist Roger Smith

We did not lunch at the Park and decided to have a look around the adjacent neighbourhood to see if there were dining alternatives. A walk across the car park from the Bird Park brought us to the Reptile Park and what a sorry state of affairs this former attraction was. It had obviously closed down sometime before and was rapidy decaying in the tropical environment. Only a small prawn restaurant survives nearby with a few locals fishing for their supper - yes you had to catch the prawns yourself.

The Reptile Park provides a salutory lesson for all attractions - that they either adapt or die. It is a lesson that no doubt the Jurong Bird Park is well aware of.

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