Excited to embark on the newly opened Amazon River Quest boat ride, we arrived at 10.30 am at River Safari, five days after it opened.
As we bought our tickets, the first sign of trouble appeared when the counter staff informed us that there was a delay in the start of operations for the Amazon River Quest boat ride that morning and we would have to wait till 12.00 pm before we could go on it.
(Editor’s Note: River Safari updated their website on 13 December 2013, the day after we were there, to state that the boat ride would open at 12 noon from 16 to 20 December. We suggest that you check for more information before heading there.)
Nonetheless, since we had already waited eight months to sit on the boat ride since our last visit to the River Safari in April 2013, we decided that one-and-a-half hours would not be too bad, especially since we could see the rest of the exhibits and have lunch first.
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Where is River Quest?
At noon, we made our way to the Amazon River Quest entrance.
We should have gone sooner, for by then, the queue stretched into what seemed like an eternity. A staff member came by to inform us that the expected waiting time was 90 minutes, and there was a possibility that the Amazon River Quest may close early too.
We decided to brave the wait.
At the start of the queue, a staff member had checked the height of children who looked like they do not meet the 1.06 metre minimum height requirement. Later, while in line, we saw staff members use tape measures to re-check the heights of children. Presumably, this was to avoid any unfortunate incidents where parents and children queued for one-and-a-half hours before being turned away from the ride.
Thankfully, we waited only 70 minutes to get to the front of the queue.
Parents with children should be prepared for the wait and have something handy to help their children pass the time. We recommend bringing along friends but a more likely alternative, we suspect, would be an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. If not, there are always the safety videos looping overhead.
(Editor’s Note: On 13 December 2013, River Safari’s website stated that a time slot booking system has been implemented for the Amazon River Quest Boat Ride, presumably to spread out the queues. Limited seats are available and the time slots cannot be replaced in the event of a ride suspension.)
Boarding the Boat
The Amazon River Quest boat has five rows. We were told that the first and last rows can take two passengers each while the middle three rows can take up to three passengers. This works out to be a total capacity of 13 per boat, but there is only one gate for passengers to board the boat.
One gate means that only one boat can be loaded at a time. While passengers are getting into the boat, the boat just behind could be empty and waiting to be loaded with passengers. Passenger embarkation, making sure their safety belts are securely strapped, takes up some time. Having a second gate to load two boats simultaneously would help to reduce the long waiting time.
As we set off on the boat ride, the skies above decided to open up.
At the boarding dock, the staff had told us that no umbrellas should be opened during the ride (we did not have any umbrellas with us anyway) and to put on our ponchos before we got into the boat (we didn’t have those either).
The open-top boat provided no shelter in the event of rain, and rain is exactly what happened that December afternoon we were there.
The ride started off with a nice “lift”. As we made our way along the watery channel, we could not help but feel that the animals were sniggering at us from their shelters as we floated by in the rain in our open-top boat.
We passed the habitats of the Spider Monkey, Giant Anteater, Maned Wolf and Guanaco, and strained our eyes hard to spot them through the foliage. At the jaguar enclosure, which was in a sheltered tunnel that got us out of the rain, it felt as if the boat floated by too quickly. It was one of those blink-and-you-will-miss-it moments as we were swept along just as our eyes located the jaguars.
Only the flamingos did not seem to mind the rain.
Unlike Night Safari’s tram ride, River Safari’s boat ride, which is approximately 10 minutes long, does not have any commentary and does not slow down to let you have a better look at the animals. It is best to keep your eyes peeled at all times.
At the end of our boat ride, we asked our young companions if they had enjoyed the ride. They replied, “Yes, can we go again?”
Looking back at the queue, we quickly hustled them towards the ride’s exit and on to the rest of the River Safari.
As of 13 December, the website has a notice that states that the ride is complimentary until further notice.
We wonder if River Safari is intending to keep the $25 pricing and charge an additional fee for the boat ride. We don’t think that the Amazon River Quest boat ride justifies raising the current admission fees of $25 for adults and $16 for children to what the website states are the “usual” admission fees of $35 for adults and $23 for children.
With the blink-and-you-miss-it experience on the boat ride, if they are intending to charge an additional concession fee for the ride, we feel that they should reduce the River Safari entrance fees. The current $25 for adults and $16 for children feels steep for the River Safari, particularly when compared to much larger Singapore Zoo next door ($22 for adults and $14 for children). Hopefully, Wildlife Reserves Singapore will get the pricing and the boat ride experience correct soon. For now, if you are planning a visit to the River Safari, we feel the highlights of the attraction remain the Giant Panda Forest and the Manatee exhibit.
You can also visit River Safari website or read our earlier story of River Safari Singapore: Review of Life Along the Rivers.