Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VIII


Singapore is definately the jewel in the Southeast Asian crown. Modern, clean and tidy, diverse, organised, are just a few of the terms that could be used to describe this former British Colony which celebrates its 48th Anniversary as the Republic of Singapore in August. I have visited Singapore many times, the first enroute to Borneo in 1983. I like Singapore, I don't know anybody who doesn't. We flew into Singapore aboard an early morning Tiger Air flight, arriving around 10:00 to be met by our friend and regular driver Y.S.Poh. Since our hotel rooms would not be available until the afternoon we drove out to Singapore Zoo, always a destination during our returning visits from Timor-Leste.

The entrance to Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo, this year is its 40th Anniversary, is one of the premier zoos in the world. It houses a fascinating collection of animals in very impressive (= expensive) exhibits. We make a bee-line for the reptiles: false gharial, komodo dragons, reptile house, but not to the exclusion of other exhibits

Naked mole rat,
Heterocephalus glaber
Pigmy hippopotamus,
Choeropsis liberiensis exhibit
Greater flying fox, Pteropus vampyrus in the Fragile Forest exhibit


But the reptiles are not only to be found in the exhibits. If you use your eyes you can find wild Singaporean reptiles roaming around the zoo.

Sun skinks, Eutropis cf. multifasciata are everywhere along the paths - if you look
Clouded monitor lizard, Varanus nebulosus
near the Naked mole rat exhibit
Water monitor lizard, Varanus salvator
in the Babirusa exhibit

One of my favorite species at Singapore Zoo has to be my favourite snake, the King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). Singapore Zoo is home to several specimens including an impressive, locally captured 4.0m+ male who would make a wonderful boyfriend for my own 3.0m female Malaysian king cobra "Sleeping Beauty" (see website home page for a Youtube video of her 2012 operation to remove an osteochondrosarcoma ).

4.0m+ male King cobra, Ophiophagus hannah
A rare lounge lizard photographed relaxing in the reptile area

As we were about to leave the zoo Jay complained of feeling unwell. We got him into Poh's vehicle and headed for the hotel but had to stop enroute for him to be violently sick. It seems he may have picked up a bug, probably in Jakarta. When we reached our hotel, the Fragrance Hotel Pearl, situated strategically in Singapore's red-light district, we checked in and got Jay to his room. He was ill for about 12 hours, continually vomiting, so he did not join the rest of us for a meal on the riverfront at our usual restaurant. Hinrich ordered for everyone and we finished off with delicious mud crab.

Fragrance Hotel, Pearl, Singapore Hinrich's special treat, tasty crab
photo: Franziska Wagner

After the restaurant we went for a walk to view the skyline at night and the light-show from the iconic Marina Bay Sands casino.

Marina Bay Sands Casino light-show
photos: Franziska Wagner
There is something strangely War of the Worlds about these images, especially the last one

When we got back to the hotel we found Jay much recovered, but then Kevin began to feel ill and was sick. This is a worry, these guys fly back to the United States on a very early flight in the morning.

The Americans were leaving very early, around 04:30 for a 07:00 flight to Tokyo and thence onward to San Francisco, from where the Californians would fly to Los Angeles and the Virginians to Washington. We got up to see them off but unfortunately Kevin was still unwell which meant a miserable journey home for him. After we had seem them off we returned to our rooms to sleep, the three Germans not being due to fly home until 21:20, with my flight not departing until 23:25.

Back in the room Sven told me he also felt unwell, and he then promptly vomited, the third of the team so affected. The rest of the night and the following day he suffered. When he was feeling a little better I took Britta and Franziska to the Kinokuniya book-store in central Singapore and then we returned to try to tempt Sven out for a break from the room. He continued to improve throughout the day and by the time Poh picked us up (18:00) I was sure he would be okay for his flight home. Poh and I dropped them at Terminal 3 for their Singapore-Doha-Frankfurt flight and then, with time on our hands, went for something to eat and drink in the airport staff canteen.

Poh then left me at Terminal 1 to find my Air Nuigini flight to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Several hours later I was able to check in with an MCO for my excess baggage and boarded my flight. I slept for 4 hours of the 6.5 hour flight to Port Moresby and arrived at 08:00 in the morning to be met by David Williams. The last part of the flight was interesting as the dawn came up and we flew along the southern coast of New Guinea, the large crocodile rivers visible in the early light.

I later learned that the Americans' journey home had been far from smooth. They arrived in San Francisco about an hour before the tragic crash of an Asiana aircraft, and were stuck in the airport for much of the day. Since all flights into and out of San Francisco were canceled for the day, and there was no guarantee that anything would be flying the next day, Hinrich took decisive action by renting a vehicle and driving everyone to Los Angeles. This would get the girls home, late but nonetheless home, and the boys would have to endure one more night in a hotel before they could take a guaranteed flight to their final destination Washington D.C. Of course, all of this happened without their luggage, which would arrive several days later, but with one day of delay they were able to make it home.

By that time I had arrived in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, at the start of another project lasting two-months.


National Flag of Papua New Guinea