The wild called, and we answered. Last week saw the soft launch of the much-anticipated Dubai Safari, and we were more than willing to don our khakis and be at one with nature in the 119-hectare animal sanctuary. Here’s what we found when we left civilisation behind…
1 Drive through the Safari Village
Perhaps the only drive-through in Dubai where you won’t come out with a cheeseburger and large fries. The main attraction of the park is a Safari Village driving experience, where visitors board a bus and embark on a 75-minute journey through “Africa” and “Asia” to marvel at the beautiful creatures originating from the continents. The village houses the UAE’s only drive-through hippo and tiger exhibition, the UAE’s largest drive-through lion and elephant exhibition, the world’s first drive-through crocodile exhibition and the UAE’s largest troop of baboons (more about them later). The safari village is also home to the white rhinoceros – weighing up to 2,300kg.
2 Witness some lazing lions
There are nine brown lions living in the Safari Village, led by dominant male Scar (naturally), and tailed by runt of the litter, Roy. On our visit, the lions are sprawled out catching a few rays and a bit of shut-eye, although our tour guide tells us that male lions rarely do much else, relying on females to hunt the prey, feed the entire pride and raise the cubs… We’re saying nothing. We also learn that the roar of a lion can be heard from 8km away on a still night, which makes us thankful of the remote Al Warqa 5 location.
3 Have a laugh with hyenas
If we’re going down the Lion King route, it’s only fair that we give the hyenas a mention, and we discover, in fact, that they are actually creatures after our own hearts. Nature’s original recycling machines will eat literally anything – carcass, bone, the lot. Notorious for their laughter, which is a sign of strength, the striped hyenas are led by a dominant female and live in the Asian section of the Safari Village. All that eating and laughing sounds pretty nice. We think we’ve found our spirit animal.
4 Dodge a buffalo
The saying goes that an elephant never forgets – but what you really need to worry about are the buffalo. The herd are situated in the African area, nestled safely away from the lions. Our guide tells us that if someone does something to hurt them, they will remember for years after the incident. It seems our similarities with the animal kingdom only continue to grow. Neighbouring the buffalo are the huge white rhinos – which are currently sectioned off from the safari and will be gradually introduced to the vehicles.
5 Hang out with baboons
The backside of a baboon can look frankly obscene, but in actual fact, their vibrant red bottoms actually signal the mating season. On our visit, it is red moons aplenty, which we hope will soon mean the patter of tiny monkey feet, although this is already the largest troop of baboons in the UAE. We see at least a couple of dozen on the rampage, led by a dominant female, who dictates everything to the rest of her squad.
6 Come together with the antelope
The male and female springbok antelopes were originally kept separate – until the antics of ladies’ man, Chris, brought the herd together. Keepers noticed that the male springboks had taken a dislike to Chris, but that in the presence of females he was in his element. As well as springboks, the safari is also home to the sambar deer and the klipspringer. The antelopes share their quarters with a couple of ostriches, who we’re told could “snuff out the life from us” with one kick. Charming.
7 Take a dip with a crocodile
The Safari Village is home to word’s first drive-through crocodile exhibit, where the bus literally drives through crocodile infested waters, while you cling to your seats within. You’ll need nerves/a bus made of steel.
8 Explore the globe
As well as the Safari Village, there are other zones where you can observe the animals and learn about where they come from, at the bargain price of Dhs85 for adults and Dhs30 for children (access to all zones). The Arabian Village is a 60,000 sq m area where visitors can learn about wildlife species native to the region, like Arabian oryx and Arabian wolves. The African Village is home to a diverse array of mammals, including white lions that were rescued from a hunting farm in South Africa. There is also an Asian Village set to open and a Wadi area, where you can have a picnic on the grass while listening to the smooth sound of flowing water – punctuated with the odd roar from Scar and co.
The safari is home to the most diverse array of animal species in the UAE and the Dhs1 billion project by Dubai Municipality is dedicated to animal welfare and conservation. The park intends to provide a safe home to 5,000 animals by 2020 and is committed to contributing to global efforts to protect endangered species and ensure animal welfare through best practices and techniques anchored on expertise and scientific research. Up-close animal encounters will also be available when the park opens fully in January, including giraffe feeding, meet and greet animal experiences and a kids’ farm.
Dhs85 (adults, including safari), Dhs50 (adults, excluding safari), Dhs30 (kids, including safari), Dhs20 (kids, excluding). Open daily 9am-5pm during soft launch, 9am-9pm thereafter. Al Warqa 5, opposite Dragon Mart (no number).
The amount of zones the park has, including African, Asian, Arabian and the Safari Village.
The number of male brown lions that live in the African section of the Safari Village.
The number of animal species that are currently living at Dubai Safari. The total number of animals is over 2,500.
The amount of animals that the park intend to look after and provide a safe home to by 2020.