Hello, Hornbills!

It was work that brought us to Amara Sanctuary Resort on Sentosa for a couple of nights. My husband for work, and me for not working. I had thought to myself, what’s there to do on Sentosa? Apart from over-engineered “fun” and the artificial environs, the alternative was to simply hole up in the hotel room and enjoy the air-conditioning. Much to my surprise, I discovered there’s more to Sentosa than just expensive spas and man-made attractions.

It was close to noon as I was returning to our room, and as I prepared to clamber up the stairs I did a double-take. What was that on the corridor outside our room? One was on the fire hose reel and the other on the railing. They were two big birds with rich black feathers and bright yellow beaks. Their eyes were huge round black and white orbs. They were very still. I thought they might be fake. Perhaps Amara had put these fiberglass models and we had missed them when we checked in. I quickly reached for my iPhone. Snap! Speed over skill was the imperative here. I eased up the stairs as gently and silkily as I could manage. Alas! The fire hose reel one took off in flight and sought refuge in the Malayan fig tree just outside. The one on the railing remained, and eyed me steadily, as if daring me to continue up the stairs. Regardless, I continued, snapping away. Then it too flew off and joined the other one in the tree. As I tried to continue taking pictures of them in the tree, they hopped onto the higher branches and away from my intrusive human and digital eyes. It was a real joy to see such color and beauty, and my best photo doesn’t do them any justice.

Sentosa Oriental Pied Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill

These are Oriental Pied Hornbills, and I think the fire hose reel one was female as it had a smaller casque (that thing on top of its beak – or bill in this case). According to Wild Singapore, they are listed as “Critically Endangered” in Singapore. They disappeared from Singapore in the mid-1800s, but have been re-established through the Singapore Hornbill Project. Almost heart-wrenching is this article on Sentosa Cove in Wild Singapore. “When I first started working for Sentosa in 1995, there were hornbills flying around the island,” says Gurjit Singh, Group Director, Property, for Sentosa Leisure Group. “You won’t find them around here anymore. I used to sit in the old ferry terminal building, which has been pulled down, and every morning this hornbill would sit outside my window.” Heartening to know that 11 years after Sentosa Cove was launched, there are still hornbills on the island.

Besides hornbills, peacocks and peahens are a common (if you could call these birds common!) sight all over the island. There are a couple of fake ones in a tree on Palawan Beach, but if you ignore those, these are just birds to behold.

Amara Sanctuary Peacock

Peacock welcome

Shutters Peacock

Peacock looking for a watering hole

Sentosa Peacock

Peacock and peahens

Also, a toucan in a cage, a somewhat-like-a-peacock-but-not-really-a-peacock, and a red lory in the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom attraction.

Sentosa Toucan

Toucan in a cage

Like Peacock

Like a peacock

Sentosa Red Lory

Red lory


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