Mandai eco-resort to offer guests behind-the-scenes animal experiences

Tiffany Fumiko Tay Straits Times 23 May 19;

SINGAPORE - Beyond snoozing in the middle of five wildlife parks, overnight guests at the future eco-resort in Mandai will be able to participate in behind-the-scenes activities where they can work with keepers and learn about the animals.

Mr Mike Barclay, group chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings, said during a media conference on Thursday (May 23) that the resort will offer a unique opportunity for guests to experience hands-on and learning activities that are not currently available.

Guests could, for example, be taken to the zoo's elephant enclosure in the evenings to help keepers put together "food puzzles" to be placed in the exhibit, and return in the morning to watch the elephants pull apart the branches and twine enveloping the treats, he said.

The yet-to-be-named resort, which overlooks Upper Seletar Reservoir, will be luxury hotel chain Banyan Tree Holdings' first in Singapore when it opens in 2023.

It will sit on 4.6ha on the north-east end of the Mandai precinct, where back-of-house facilities for existing wildlife parks will be cleared.

Plans for the resort, first announced in 2017, include hotel rooms, elevated cabins and treehouses.

The 24 treehouses will be designed in the shape of seed pods and set among the trees surrounding the resort, Mandai Park Holdings said on Thursday.

Local firm WOW Architects has been appointed to design the resort, which will have 338 rooms.

The resort will be owned by Mandai Park Holdings, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, and run by Banyan Tree. The cost of the project is subject to tender and has yet to be determined, said Mr Barclay.

Mandai Park Holdings, which is the parent company of park operator Wildlife Reserves Singapore, is spearheading plans to turn Mandai into a eco-tourism hub by 2023.

Jurong Bird Park is due to relocate there next year, while a new Rainforest Park will open in 2021.

Both parks as well as the resort and two new nature-themed indoor attractions will sit adjacent to the existing Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari.

Banyan Tree's executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping told media at the Singapore Zoo that the resort will be unlike the others it operates across the globe.

It will offer its guests unprecedented access to nature, a "huge irony for an urban setting like Singapore".

"Because so much of this has been planned sensitively, I think our guests will come to realise that it is not just an urban hotel in the middle of Mandai park," he said.

But guest access will not be unlimited.

To minimise unwanted interactions between hotel guests and surrounding wildlife, a 2m barrier will ring the resort, while low-level lighting will be used on paths to guide guests and discourage them from wandering into the rainforest.

The three-storey multi-storey carpark at the entrance of the parks will have two levels added to it so that parking will not have to be offered on the east side of the precinct, said Mr Barclay.

"Things like coach drop-off points will be put underground, so this will really lighten the vehicle-animal conflict," he added.

Construction of the resort, which has a height limit of four storeys, is expected to begin next year.

Where possible, the resort will be elevated several metres above ground to allow native wildlife to move across the site, Mandai Park Holdings said.

WOW Architects' managing director Wong Chiu Man said that the resort complex will occupy only previously disturbed areas to minimise the need to cut down trees. It will also limit energy use with measures such as natural ventilation and the use of solar panels.

As many native animals are nocturnal, an acoustic consultant has been hired to help ensure that sound from within the resort does not spill out, he added.

Nature groups have raised concerns about the impact of the 126ha Mandai development to wildlife in the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve, with several roadkill incidents reported in the vicinity since works to clear secondary rainforests for the two new wildlife parks began in 2017.

Mandai Park Holdings has taken steps to address this, including lowering speed limits along Mandai Lake Road, which leads into the parks.

An eco-bridge for animals will be completed by the end of this year, which will provide connectivity between the north and south sides of the nature reserve, said Mr Barclay.

Rooms in new Mandai resort to include pod-shaped treehouses
Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 23 May 19;

SINGAPORE: Guest rooms in treehouses shaped like seedpods, elevated walkways snaking through a forest canopy and interactive guided nature walks - these are some features the new Mandai eco-resort will offer when it opens its doors in 2023.

Speaking at a media conference at the Singapore Zoo on Thursday (May 23), luxury resort operator Banyan Tree Holdings’ CEO Ho Kwon Ping said that visitors at the 338-room resort will enjoy “unprecedented access” to nature during their stay.

“Because so much of this has been planned sensitively, our guests will come and realise that it’s not an urban hotel in the middle of Mandai park,” Mr Ho said. “It is an experience where they will have unprecedented access to nature in all little ways.”

This is Banyan Tree's first resort in Singapore; the company has 47 other hotels and resorts around the world.

Banyan Tree will operate the resort, which will be owned by Mandai Park Holdings, which manages wildlife attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

The design of the resort will be helmed by local architectural firm WOW Architects.

One of the aspirations of the project was to have the building and the landscape "become one", WOW Architects' managing director Wong Chiu Man said.

This means minimising the impact the resort complex will have on the environment. As such, the resort will only occupy previously disturbed areas within the 4.6-hectare site which currently houses the Singapore Zoo’s back-of-house facilities.

"We have more or less completely kept the rest of the forest intact," said Mr Wong. "Where we have inserted elements such as the treehouses, they have been inserted in such a way that we have scarcely cut down any trees at all."


When completed, the development aims to become the first Super Low Energy resort in Singapore - with its design incorporating energy-saving measures including the use of natural ventilation as well as solar panels.

Extensive planting will be done on the roof and facade of the resort buildings, and more than half the trees on the site will be retained.

Wherever possible, the resort will be elevated several metres above the ground to allow native wildlife to move across the site.

Guests will also be able to choose to stay in 24 treehouses designed in the shape of seedpods, and participate in behind-the-scenes programmes, guided nature walks as well as hands-on activities. There will also be camping opportunities, said Mr Mike Barclay, group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings.

"Right from the beginning, WOW Architects impressed us," Mr Barclay told reporters. "They showed a deep and fundamental understanding of the design brief and they were on the same wavelength as us - they understood what we were trying to achieve."

"When we got together, we decided that whatever design we came up with, we need to immerse people in the rainforest," added Mr Barclay. "That must be fundamental, we need to have a very light touch on the site and we also need the resort to celebrate sustainable best practices."

The Mandai precinct is undergoing a rejuvenation project, which will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

"We want our guests to come to the resort and have a conscious stay," said Mr Barclay. "We want them to be conscious of the rainforest all around them, we want them to be conscious of how it's best to interact with plants and animals, we also want to leave them with some consciousness about how we can lighten our touch on the natural world."

Source: CNA/aa(aj)