A home fit for a king

Shoshana Ke­dem takes a be­hind the scenes tour of Dubai Sa­fari be­fore the an­i­mals move in


The line-up of an­i­mals and at­trac­tions at Dubai’s new sa­fari mega-park has been un­veiled to 7DAYS. With 75 per cent of Dubai Sa­fari al­ready com­plete ahead of the Oc­to­ber soft open­ing, we took an ex­clu­sive tour to find out more about the 5,000 an­i­mals that will be liv­ing here in stage one of the project.

High­lights of the park in­clude driv­ing into a croc­o­dile-in­fested pool and watch­ing chee­tahs race salukis. The route of the 4x4 sa­fari drive also re­vealed wild an­i­mals from three con­ti­nents.

“There’s four parts to the tour,” Dubai Sa­fari di­rec­tor Tim Hus­band said as we en­tered the Ara­bian ex­hibit, which will be home to packs of Ara­bian wolves, oryx, moun­tain gazelles and other crea­tures, such as camels.

“Also, there’s the Ara­bian drive-through; the Asian vil­lage that you walk-through; the Asian and African drive-through and then a walk-through African vil­lage.”


Af­ter ex­plor­ing Ara­bia, the tour con­tin­ues into the Africa ex­hibit, lined by trees im­ported from the con­ti­nent and di­vided up by a moat sys­tem where wa­ter sep­a­rates lions from the graz­ing an­te­lope, ze­bra, gi­raffe and rhino.

“The dry moat sys­tem is stop­ping the lions eat­ing the an­te­lope,” added Hus­band.

The first stop in the African drive-through is a chee­tah ex­hibit where a rocky roam­ing area gives way to a race-track.

“We’ll have 12 chee­tahs in to­tal, some will be used for run­ning, and oth­ers will be on dis­play,” said Hus­band, point­ing to a fenced lane along the side of the ex­hibit where the chee­tah will be baited with a stuffed lure.

“We’ll have a few chee­tahs that will run along that fence line.

“Just like grey­hounds chase a lure, we’ll have chee­tahs chas­ing the lure.

“We’ll run a saluki dog first and it will come up on the speedome­ter how quick that was, and then we’ll run a chee­tah af­ter to show the speed dif­fer­ence.”

In or­der not to over-ex­ert them, the chee­tahs will only race twice a day.


A sprawl­ing crag of ar­ti­fi­cial rocks hous­ing a pride of nine male lions have built-in air con­di­tion­ing, while the chee­tah rock ex­hibit has mist­ing ma­chines un­der­neath.

“What we’ve done here is all the ar­ti­fi­cial rocks will ei­ther have mist­ing ma­chines un­der­neath and some will have AC run­ning through the rocks to keep the an­i­mals re­ally cool,” said Hus­band. The fi­nal stop in the Africa ex­hibit is a drive through crocodile­in­fested pool. Me­tal gates open into a deep pool flanked with Nile croc­o­diles ei­ther side.

As we turn into the Asia ex­hibit we drive un­der a rock tun­nel with a wa­ter­fall cas­cad­ing over it, while Ben­gal tigers roam around the sur­round­ing area. Asian an­telopes graze through high grass in the back­ground.

This leads to the Asian ele­phant ex­hibit where worker ele­phants im­ported from Laos have been lib­er­ated from the servi­tude of the log­ging in­dus­try.

They now roam freely through the open-air rock sanc­tu­ary cooled with mist­ing fans and cool­ing sys­tems for the swim­ming pools and mud baths.

Turn­ing out of the ele­phant ex­hibit visi­tors on the Asian route drive un­der a rock-arch with a break in the mid­dle where wild Hi­malayan goats called tahrs and wild Hawai­ian sheep called mou­flon leap over­head.


“The African and Asian drive-through takes 45-60 min­utes while the Ara­bian drive-through takes 30 min­utes,” Hus­band said. A walk through the African and Asian vil­lages - where guests have close en­coun­ters with a range of smaller an­i­mals - takes an ad­di­tional three hours. The African vil­lage will have tiny an­te­lope called dik-dik, but guests won’t be able to pet them as they can suf­fer from stress. “It should take seven to eight hours to see it all in stage one. Stage two - when we do the Amer­i­cas, Aus­tralia and South Amer­ica - adds an­other eight hours on top,” he said. Plans are un­der­way to build a ho­tel at the resort so visi­tors can make the most of the sa­fari with a two­day trip. The new sa­fari will also host two the­atres for ed­u­ca­tional an­i­mals shows. “It’s just to get peo­ple know­ing about the an­i­mals them­selves and their be­hav­iours,” said Hus­band. The larger the­atre will seat 1,000 peo­ple to ac­quaint visi­tors with cute, small mam­mals such as ot­ters, bin­tur­ong (mini bear cat) and rac­coons. A sec­ond the­atre seat­ing 300 visi­tors will hold close en­coun­ters with birds and rep­tiles. Dubai Sa­fari will also have an un­der­wa­ter ob­ser­va­tory for visi­tors to view pygmy hip­pos and their young. shoshana@7days.ae

BEWARE OF THE CATS: These rock caves will be home to Ben­gal tigers in the Asia drive

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