| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Al Ain Wildlife Park visit

Emma Milner takes her herd to Al Ain Wildlife Park for an adventure

Lions, tigers and, er, Nile Crocodiles? Oh my! It certainly isn’t easy to remember all of the animals at Al Ain Wildlife Park. Monkeys and chimps are sure to stand out – you’ll hear their chattering from the car park – and no child is likely to forget watching a lion roar.

As you walk through the main entrance it is hard to know which way to turn first. With 4,300 animals, including 2,500 mammals, 1,200 birds and 600 reptiles you’re going to struggle to see them all in one day. So the best thing to do is grab a map and follow the loudest noise. If that leads you into the lion’s den you’re definitely on the right track.

Set up more than 40 years ago as Al Ain Zoo by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort (AWPR) opened to give a home to the UAE’s diminishing animal life. Today it is leading the way in preserving and breeding some of the most endangered species, not just in the UAE, but the rest of the world. The park is an accredited partner of the highly respected San Diego Zoo, which acts as an advisor on all matters relating to the wildlife.

The pride of the park are the white lions, which arrived in Al Ain just over a year ago. A gift from Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa, the extremely rare big cats are part of AWPR’s carnivore conservations initiative, which is working to bring attention to some of the world’s most endangered species.

If at first the enclosure looks empty don’t go running for the Hafeet mountains. The lions will be in there somewhere and it’s well worth waiting around for a glimpse of them.

Also prowling around the lions’ den are two – not exactly cute, because they’re pretty big now – tawny lion cubs. Chewing everything in sight and playing rough and tumble with each other, they remind you of watching your own kids, just not as messy.

Returning visitors will find many more new animals to discover. Towards the end of last year 71 new deliveries, including sand cats, corn snakes, Vervet Monkeys and Arabian Oryx who all joined the pack.

A stroll around the park itself is easily worth the Dhs15 entry fee. Walking among the flowers, plants and landscaped hillocks of the recently opened Children’s Garden would be pleasant enough by itself. But add the giraffes on the horizon and squawking flamingos and this could be the UAE’s best picnic spot. There is even a fruit and vegetable garden, so you can prove to your skeptical brood that some food really does grow on trees, rather than just appearing in a packet at the supermarket. Just don’t be tempted to feed the animals. What’s good for you is pretty much guaranteed not to be good for them!

When we visited the information boards detailing the names of the animals and their origins were being updated. While this did mean a lot of ‘creative’ answers to the standard questions of who, what and, of course, why, there are plenty of staff on hand to help with the more tricky questions.

The obligatory gift shop is right near the exit so you will no doubt leave with animals (of the stuffed variety) to add to your menagerie at home.

Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort is open daily from 9am-8pm. Entry costs Dhs15 for adults and Dhs5 for children. Call 800 2977, or visit www.awpr.ae.

By Emma Milner
Time Out Dubai,

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