Another Finalist of the Singapore Service Excellence Medallion is the River Safari. Officially opened in 2014, River Safari is Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park. Occupying 12 hectares and developed at S$160 million, the park is home to over 400 plant species and 6,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals representing 200 species. The park sees about 1 million visitors a year, with 70 per cent being locals and tourists making up the rest.

It is operated by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

What sets apart the service standards at River Safari?

There is a strong corporate focus to bring guests through immersive experiences with wildlife, achieved through prioritizing the experience, service as well as enabling their staff to make on the spot decisions to make guests happy.

My mum and Asher with a staff from River Safari during a Halloween event last year

My mum and Asher with a staff from River Safari during a Halloween event last year

I particularly like the emphasis on enabling their service staff and giving them more flexibility for on ground executions. When dealing with human interactions, a lot of things are unpredictable and you really have to trust your ground staff on the most appropriate and timely responses. While top-down strategies are great for framing the broad objectives, the set rules should be flexible enough for the ground staff to have some leeway for on-the-spot decision-making.

For instance, if a guest approaches a service staff with a unique request like having his or her cap getting yanked away by a playful parakeet in the park, how can the staff react at his best if he is not empowered?

Family Bonding

River Safari presents interesting events for families to create fond memories together. My family and I attended one of their uniquely created family-bonding events, Safari Boo, last year. The special event was in conjunction with Halloween, but was deliberately kept “merry and not scary”, in consideration for the best experiences for the little ones.

For parents with small kids like myself, it was a delight as there were not many such family-friendly Halloween events and activities around. The event also encouraged guests to play an active role in their experience with fun and attractive exhibits and props.


River Safari promotes conservation efforts and aims to inspire actions towards conservation. This is promoted throughout the park, with educational signboards and messages woven into the park narrative.

When we visited the park with Asher, we were able to make use of the opportunity to educate him on conservation in a fun manner as he learnt more about wildlife and the importance of protecting their natural habitats.

Seamless Experience

Planning a trip to the River Safari starts from home – on your desktop or mobile with an internet connection. The website is kept updated with the latest promotions and activities, including useful resources like park maps so that visitors can plan their adventure before heading down.

This provides for a seamless, fun experience for everyone with minimal hassle.

Empowered Staff

What I really liked was staff responding to guests’ requests with “Let me see what I can do” instead of “Let me check with my manager/supervisor”. The team is empowered to delight guests on appropriate occasions like birthdays, and this can be in the form of allowing priority tram or boat boarding as a birthday surprise, or even surprising the visitor with cakes and gifts. During situations like rainy weather, staff can exercise the discretion to provide buggy services for families with elderly or with young children, provide replacement for soiled or wet clothes, or even revalidate tickets. The staff also help to track feedback by conducting guest surveys personally on top of tracking feedback on social media platforms like Facebook.

Key Takeaway:

When we attended the Safari Boo event, candies and other sweet treats were given out to the kids for free. For fairness, each kid in queue gets one item from the staff. However, I observed that flexibility was exercised in some instances when the kids were extremely fussy. It may not seem a big deal, but a howling kid can ruin the entire park experience for the family because of one piece of candy!

Overall, Rachel and I have always enjoyed the warm hospitality of the folks working for the various WRS parks, including the River Safari. When you chat with many of them, you will learn how passionate they are about their jobs, with many of them having worked with the company for several years.

I firmly believe staff empowerment has a part to play in staff retention and happiness at work as it is a nod of approval and trust from senior management. The visitors like us will only truly benefit from the better, faster and more efficient services.

If you are impressed with River Safari, why not join in the online voting to determine the winners for 2015?

For the first time, the Medallion Judging Panel is inviting the public to weigh in, and vote for our favorite Organisations. The votes cast by the public will be taken into consideration by the Medallion Judging Panel and influence the final outcome of the selection.

Show your support and vote now for your favourite finalist organisations of the Singapore Service Excellence Medallion. Vote here: