Double dip with trip to Singapore and Melbourne to see wildlife in the city

Riding through this wilderness, it’s hard to believe I’m in the planet’s third  most  densely  populated  country.

Singapore’s Night Safari is a trip on a buggy through a zoo, with no barriers between open-mouthed guests and the animals.

We spot all sorts, from wolves to elephants amid the subtly-lit jungle.

I’ve stopped off in Singapore en route for Melbourne, Australia.

Perfect for families, both bustling cities offer incredible encounters with nature on their doorstep.

The Night Safari is part of a wider conservation area called Wildlife Reserves Singapore that also includes the River Safari attraction.

Here, my wife Hazel and our daughters Miranda and Daisy gawped at giant pandas and rare indigenous birds before taking a leisurely boat trip down the river.

And there’s plenty more nature to explore in this modern, green metropolis.

The 150-year-old Botanic Gardens, close to the city centre, are beautifully landscaped and chock-full of stunning orchids.

Then there is the Garden Rhapsody show at Gardens by the Bay, a sound and light experience among the “supertrees” — huge structures connected by skyways that are clothed in lush, live foliage.

It’s an eco-friendly extravaganza inspired by the 2009 James Cameron movie Avatar.

Inevitably for this Asian foodie capital, there are countless restaurant options.

They range from the signature chilli crab — a mouthwatering combination of creamy seafood and hot and sweet tomato sauce, mopped up with brioches, at high-end Red House Seafood, to cheap and delicious street food on Satay Street and Changi Village Hawker Centre.

We stayed at the M Social, a boutique-style hotel with quirky touches such as a robot that serves your breakfast eggs.

Singapore Tourism Board8
Making new friends… Meet giraffes in Singapore

Rested and inspired by a few days in Singapore, we took an overnight flight to the main event — Australia’s second city.

Melbourne is more family-friendly than Sydney and easy to navigate, with a network of trams.

Our pad for the week was at the Mantra 100 Exhibition — so called because it’s at 100 Exhibition Street — a well-located collection of holiday apartments on the edge of the city centre.

The centre feels like a European shopping destination.

And running off the glitzy retail drag are lanes of the type you would find in Barcelona, Milan or Brighton. Melbourne has a thriving café scene, with a passion for healthy sandwiches, coffee and smoothies.

And if your kids like Asian food — noodles, dumplings and colourful curries — this feels like the best of the region’s cuisines within a couple of square miles.

On our first day we took a Laneways and Arcades walking tour, a great way to get your bearings with a glut of hidden treasures unveiled by a local guide.

If you get tired of the shopping and the eating, a short stroll from the city centre are the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens and the Botanic Gardens, with their gentle hills, ponds, babbling brooks and historic greenhouses.

Locals crash out on the grass to picnic, sunbathe or enjoy the views over the nearby MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and Rod Laver Arena.

And if you are there in January and February, then you can easily get a ticket for an international test match or the Australian Open tennis tournament.

It doesn’t take long to get to Melbourne’s suburbs, such as St Kilda, which has a large beach and the Art Deco-era, historical amusement park Luna Park.

Head further out into Victoria State and you will soon come across some of the world’s best beaches — mostly deserted, even in the Australian summer — and the strange wildlife of the Antipodes.

We headed south, where after an hour’s drive there was an array of independent animal sanctuaries, all doing great conservation work.

We stopped at Moonlit Sanctuary, where the kids can feed unbearably cute wallabies that freely hop around a large section of natural bush.

You can also stroke silky koalas and then gasp at the powerful male kangaroos that flit through the woods with their families.

Then it was back in the minibus for another hour’s drive to Phillip Island, which boasts one of the world’s most talked-about wildlife attractions, the Penguin Parade.

If you reserve a place in the viewing area for sunset, you come up close and personal with thousands of little penguins, who wait until their potential predators have turned in for the night before waddling ashore to their nests.

The tiny birds stagger up the long beach, occasionally stopping to peek at their reflections in the two-way mirrors through which we are quietly watching.

If you’re heading Down Under, especially with kids in tow, then a two-centre trip to these wild and wonderful cities will not disappoint.

GO: Singapore and Melbourne

GETTING THERE: Flights from Heathrow to Melbourne with a two night stopover in Singapore are from £745pp return.


STAYING THERE: One night’s room only at the M Social in Singapore is from £44pp based on two sharing.

One night’s self-catering at the Mantra 100 Exhibition in Melbourne is from £35pp based on two sharing.

OUT & ABOUT: For info on Singapore see

For Melbourne see

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