Back in 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park left an indelible mark on my teenage mind. And even though its sequels didn’t quite impress me as much, it is safe to say the idea of walking among dinosaurs in the concrete jungle we live in is equal parts enticing and terrifying.
Exactly three decades later, imagine my excitement when I discover that dinosaurs have not only landed in Singapore, but that they are now inhabitants of ‘the largest live indoor forest with dinosaurs’ at SAFRA Yishun. An expedition was certainly in order.
Gearing up for adventure
Dinoland is located on the second level of the clubhouse, and accessible via either the stairs on the left of the main entrance or the lift near the reception counter. With John Williams’ ‘Theme from Jurassic Park’ playing softly in my head, we make our approach.
The first thing I saw were two yellow safety barriers to the side of the entrance and safari-type tarps everywhere. For a moment, I wondered if it was somehow closed for renovations despite having made a booking. That was not the case, however, as two ‘rangers’ at the counter were quick to reassure us.
While waiting for our 5pm guided trail to begin, one of the friendly rangers gave us coloured rubber wristbands and had us sign a safety waiver – in case we got bitten by a raptor? – while the other helpfully pointed us towards the toilets (right next to the entrance) if we needed to empty our bladders first. Gulp!
Jokes aside, it’s because the experience lasts 1.5 hours, so a visit to the loo beforehand isn’t a bad idea, especially for the kiddos.
The guided trail began promptly, with the ranger lifting a tarp and welcoming us into the ‘holding area’. Here’s where visitors can don safari vests and hard hats to prepare for the adventures ahead. As we did so, we eyed the warning sign on the inner gate suspiciously before following our guide into the danger zone.
Walking with dinosaurs
It was bright and sunny outside so my eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting in the indoor ‘forest’. Concrete flooring also gives way to gravel and ‘undergrowth’ – I’m glad I wore sporty sneakers.
Barely two steps in, my companion exclaims, “Look up!” Our first sighting of dinosaurs was peeping at us through the treetops above – it was a humongous Brontosaurus! As the life-sized animatronic creature continued to munch on leaves and swish its massive tail, our guide shared bits of trivia about the species.
In fact, he seemed to be a veritable encyclopaedia of prehistoric knowledge, unless you’re a paleontology geek yourself. And since most visitors to Dinoland are kids (and their hapless parents), he can probably field all their questions like he was John Hammond himself.
Following the guided trail, we continued the meet-and-greet with all the popular species the movies introduced us to. There was a Triceratops family with an adorable baby I decided to call a “Tricera-tot” – we hear it’s a hot favourite with younger children.
Of course, you can’t have a dinosaur experience without a rawr-some T.rex or two, or a team of cunning Velociraptors. We even clambered up a ‘cliff face’ to search out a nest of Pterodactyl eggs while their dad kept a watchful eye overhead!
And that’s not all. We also got to see, hear, touch and learn about other fascinating creatures that lived alongside the dinosaurs, and participate in all the activities that came with them. It almost felt like I’d entered another Spielberg blockbuster franchise revolving around a certain archaeologist!
For instance, to reach the sandy habitat of the furry Megatherium, a species of ground sloths that lived in South America before they went extinct, we had to hop into a mining cart on rails and pull a rope to heave ourselves across the tracks.
Then we scrambled through an underground cave and hopped on rocks across a swampy river to avoid the Deinosuchus, a massive reptile that’s the predecessor to today’s alligators and crocodiles. Captain Hook would’ve had no chance against these jaws!
The final activity before the end of the trail is another fan favourite – digging for fossils. Generally, we found the entire Dinoland experience extremely hands-on, educational, as well as surprisingly immersive.
So much so that when our guide sadly pointed out broken claws on a couple of the smaller Velociraptors, I felt so sorry for them. Parents, do remind your little ones to be gentle with the dinosaurs while interacting with them!
As we waved goodbye to our friendly ranger, there was just one more thing to do to complete our day with the dinosaurs. We headed back down to the ground floor and popped into Springleaf Prata Place for a tall glass of Milo Dinosaur!
SAFRA members enjoy 10% off tickets to Dinoland. Find out more at safra.sg/amenities-offerings/dinoland
SAFRA Yishun: 60 Yishun Ave 4, #02-01, Singapore 769027
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