WTF is not the abbreviation of a vulgar phrase in English. On the Duck & Hippo ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ signboard on the bus, it means ‘Where’s The Food?’
A Moving Dining Experience
A first-of-its-kind dining concept in Asia, the Singapore GOURMETbus combines scenic city tours with the enjoyment of a specialty meal.
Now, enjoy the best of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand Award 2017 local fare in its cool, air-conditioned interior, while cruising past scenic views of iconic landmarks. Forget long queues for multiple stalls, or sweating it out in a humid and warm hawker centre. We bring the food to you.
We created a truly unique way to experience Singapore – enjoying our sights while sampling the best menu from the MICHELIN BIB GOURMAND AWARD 2017 and present to our guests.
Tour Singapore the DUCK & HIPPO Way!
Look at Singapore through our DUCK’s eyes and have a splashing fun time!
There is no better way to tour Singapore than catching a ride on the ORIGINAL DUCKtours. This hour-long journey brings you up close to Singapore’s famous skyline, historical landmarks and gorgeous bay view. The very first amphibious themed attraction in Asia, this award-winning DUCK is rated Number One in Singapore. 1 million passengers, 14 years of perfect safety record, best in tour experience! Ride the one and wacky DUCK and embark on a unique city and harbour sightseeing tour in Singapore.
More than a tour, it’s 60 minutes of full-on thrill where you go on a voyage to discover the past, present and possibly the future. Hear the captivating Singapore story from our well-loved DUCKtainers commentating onboard the craft while you capture snapshots of our city’s major monuments.
Embark on a land and sea adventure onboard a remodeled Vietnamese warcraft that promises great family fun.
Why the Duck and Hippo Tours almost did not do business in Singapore?
At the National Day Rally 2004 held at the University Cultural Centre, NUS on Sunday, 22 August, 2004, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in his speech:
“As a government, we have to rethink all over problems, big and small. Nothing should ever be set in stone. We’ve made big changes recently. The GST changes is a big one. The CPF cut was a big one and now, we are working on wage reform. That’s another big one which will take some time and this will have a significant impact on our future. So, we’ve got to change our policies or look at our policies. We’ve got to support entrepreneurs. We’ve got to support Singaporeans being spontaneous , being unconventional. We should not put obstacles in their way. We should help them to succeed.
Let me give you one example. These are the Duck and Hippo Tours. You know what’s a Duck Tour? It’s a boat with wheels where you take a ride, you go into the harbour, you sail around, you come back. The Duck took two years to get a licence – nearly died. Very difficult because they went to the LTA (Land Transport Authority). LTA says, “Your duck has a propeller, how can it be a car?” They went to the MPA (Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore). MPA says, “Your duck has wheels!” So, ding-dong, it took two years.
Eventually, we sorted the problem. The Duck became a success. So came the Hippo. The Hippo is a bus with no tops, okay? So, you sit on top, you drive around. It’s just like in London or one of the other Western cities. Question — is the Hippo a bus? A very important question because if it is not a bus, it is not allowed to stop at a bus-stop. So, that one we did better. Six months, we solved the problem. I think we have to do better than that”.
[Source: Prime Minister’s Office]
How Duck tours nearly ended up a lame duck
By Karl Ho
[Source: The Straits Times, 24 August 2004]
Entrepreneur mentioned by PM Lee took two years to register his tours after going through endless rounds of negotiations
When Mr James Heng tried to get his Duck tours off the ground in December 2000, he nearly cried in frustration.
He had spent $1 million on buying and rebuilding two American amphibious vehicles to turn into tourist vehicles to turn into tourist vehicles here, but could not get a licence for them.
“I had to present the vehicles first before we could have serious engagements with the authorities,” he said yesterday.
He went through endless rounds of “negotiations, discussions, presentations and re-submissions”, and had to deal with at least seven agencies.
“Every entity was pulling me from all sides,” said Mr Heng, 43, the chief executive officer of Duck Tours.
Along the way, he was told he had to abide by some strange rules.
One agency said bumpers had to be built round the 13-tonne vehicles, which are popularly known as “Ducks” in tourism circles.
“This was to protect pedestrians from being pulled under. But we’re travelling at a safe speed of 30kmh and are so big,” he said.
Another said the Ducks required “police escort” because of their size.
It took two years before he got a licence to run his tours.
His plight was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as an example of how policy makers should not put obstacles in the way of entrepreneurs.
Mr Heng said it was sweet vindication to hear Mr Lee talk about his experience.
Trained in architecture and with a master’s in business administration from the University of Hull in Britain, he started out as a marketing executive with Neptune Agencies, the marketing agent for Neptune Orient Lines.
He later went into various businesses, including running his own freight-forwarding company.
In 2000, he chanced on the concept of Duck tours on the Internet. He and a silent partner poured $1.5 million into the project.
Another 180,000 passengers have taken the tours so far. They are given a ride around the city before making a splash in Marina Park for a harbour tour. Adults pay $33 and children $17.
Mr Heng said he knows of other businessmen who have faced red tape.
“One thing about the civil service is it is easier for it to say ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’,” he said.
“If you approach it the other way round with a ‘why not?’, we’ll have so may more interesting things here.”
In fact, even when the Ducks were finally allowed to operate in May 2002, he was told he could ferry only 12 passengers at a time instead of 31, its full capacity.
“We were bleeding because 12 passengers just isn’t viable. And we had to work like dogs, not ducks.”
However, help came from the government-led Pro-Enterprise Panel, set up in 2000 to remove red tape. It facilitated meetings between Mr Heng and government agencies.
In September 2002, the Ducks were allowed to carry 31 people.
Earlier this month, Mr Heng launched Hippo tours. Hippos are open-top buses which ferry tourists for a fee of $23. The concept took six months to get clearance.
His company made a $500,000 loss in its first year but posted a $350,000 profit last year.
“We started off as a lame duck, but now we’ve taken off pretty well,” he said. “Hopefully the Duck will be a springboard for many better things.”