The sun was shining brightly, with the cool breeze swaying the trees. Surrounding us were the sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing. Decked in our outdoor gear (beachwear for some), we made our way to the River Safari for a day trip.
SADC always strives to be at the forefront of innovation through the conceptualization of novel ideas. However, to remain creative means that we take breaks now and then. We decided to spend a day at the theme park to do just that and to support the local tourism industry, which has been decimated by travel restrictions and the pandemic.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city, River Safari is Asia’s only river-themed park. It showcases endangered freshwater wildlife in the world. It is an advocate for the conservation of fragile freshwater ecosystems, which are homes to many of the featured species. With a tropical rainforest setting, the park design revolves around 10 iconic rivers of the world that includes the Amazon, Nile, Ganges, Mekong, and Yangtze.
Given the current situation, the organizers took into consideration the issue of the team’s safety. We bought the tickets in advance online as the park employed timed entry to limit the number of people at one time. We are encouraged to show the e-tickets on our mobile phones instead of printing out the tickets to reduce paper use.
Beyond wearing masks and maintaining social distance, the team was separated into different groups based on our assignment in the studio. To reduce contact, the groups did not mingle during the trip and entered the theme park at different times. We were disappointed because we could not see our co-workers, who we have not seen for some time. But we understand it was necessary to do so.
For some of us, including this writer, it was our first visit to the park. We were given useful nuggets of information about the park and rides from those who have previously visited. Others offered help to those who needed assistance during the trip.
The lush tropical trees set the background of the enclosures. The park designers had put thought onto blending the animal habitats into the natural setting. We were in awe of the immersive experience that brings us close to the animals while at a distance.
As we moved through the exhibits, we quickly learned about each attraction from the various information placards placed around the area. It educates us how the animals live in their natural environment, the reason that they are endangered and the actions we can take to protect them from further harm. The placards ranged from simple information plates to multimedia videos to interactive panels that appealed to both the young and old.
Without a doubt, the most impressive attraction to us was the climate-controlled Giant Panda Forest. The enclosure designers rose to the challenge to recreate the natural habitat for the two Giant Pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, which lives in a temperate climate.
The pair is part of the conservation effort that involves a captive breeding program for threatened species. They are a part of a 10-year loan from China. The glazed glass dome has bamboo leaves patterns to create the effect of bamboo trees casting shadows on the ground.
We were excited to see the majestic pair. As we passed by, we saw Kai Kai having his nap, while shy Jia Jia quickly disappeared (some say it was due to the handsome men in SADC).
Surrounded by nature and away from the pressures of time, made our trip to River Safari a positively relaxing one. At the end of our visit, I observed the peaceful, contented faces in the group I was in. “I’m glad that we went here,” shares Jocelyn, a UE designer. “I found the whole place stress free. It was pretty cool to see the animals up close.”
For others, it was an educational trip. They were astounded by the sheer size of the giant fish in the Mekong River exhibit. “I didn’t realize the humble catfish and stingray could grow that big!” exclaims Zhaiwei, a Design Researcher.
Some exhibits exuded a sense of serenity. Belle, an ID, highlighted, “the one with the neon tetra fish made me feel calm and peaceful. It was mesmerizing to look at them.”
As this challenging year draws to a close, this trip away from the studio had definitely helped us to refresh our minds. We were glad that we took this trip to socialize with our colleagues without the pressures of work. With a clear, calm, and relaxed mind, we could not wait to start the new year with a refreshed creative spirit.