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.”
INTO THE WILD
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.
HOURS OF EXPLORING
“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. email@example.com
BEWARE OF THE CATS: These rock caves will be home to Bengal tigers in the Asia drive