If you were challenged to name three things the Japanese do better than the rest of the world, technology would surely be one of them.
Orbi Dubai is a super techy indoor nature museum, powered by the computer geniuses at Sega and nature knowledge boxes at BBC Earth. Dreamt up by the Japanese, the first Orbi was launched in Yokohama in 2013 as an experimental attraction. Now, thanks to leisure and entertainment pioneer Majid Al Futtaim, the first Orbi to be housed outside of Japan is here in Dubai. The company behind the UAE’s first indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai, says it is “committed to creating great moments, for everyone everyday” – something they have surely succeeded in doing with Orbi Dubai.
Located in City Centre Mirdif, Orbi officially flung open its doors to the public in early May. The Sega/BBC Earth venture aims to combine education with entertainment in a uniquely immersive environment.
Can’t get to a rainforest anytime soon? Not many people can which is why Orbi Dubai is so fantastic. Using the latest audio and visual technology, guests can wander through various interactive touchpoints, learning all there is to know about those most wondrous of worlds without having to encounter a single (real) creepy crawly along the way. It’s great for scaredy cats who might be put off a trip to the wilds of the Amazon.
Another disappointing fact of life is that unless your name is David Attenborough, the chances of you coming into contact (at a safe distance, of course) with a real-life cheetah are slim. A visit to Orbi Dubai can remedy nature FOMO in the most modern of ways. It help with serious cases of sandpit blues, too, as you can chill out in the air-conditioned serenity of the forest.
As you wander around the huge attraction, you will stumble across key areas such as Animalpedia. The giant touchscreen TV is an interactive experience showing life-size animals which, when touched, offer up lots of interesting facts about themselves. Then there’s Base Camp, a touchpoint which uses clever projection mapping to display some of BBC Earth’s most stunning images on walls and sculptures. The latter are interactive, changing their surface to whatever character of the animal projected upon them.
For a visual treat, head to Earth Palette, where your senses will be fully immersed in nature. This 360-degree experience featuring hundreds of beautiful natural images with animals, landscapes and plants is an area of Orbi a guest could stand for ages in, soaking up the sights.
Think you can outrun a cheetah? How about a gecko? Time Slice is a challenge where adults and kids can to test their own abilities against some of the planet’s speediest beasts.
The main draw, however, has to be the gigantic 35 metre-wide Theatre 23.4. The space has been designed to showcase jaw-dropping custom-made BBC Earth films on two huge screens. Theatre 23.4 actually creates wind, fog and even forces smells out into the air to make you feel like you’re really in whichever landscape is showing. Watch out for the life-like vibrations that will shake your chair!
Dhs100 (ages 10 and above), Dhs80 (ages three-10), under-threes go free; Dhs320 (family ticket for a group of four). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. Magic Planet South, City Centre Mirdif, www.orbidubai.com (04 231 6252).