On a Zoobic Safari
by Irene C, email@example.com. Posted on September 9, 2012, Sunday
DRAWING inspiration from movies of healing through contact with animals, especially for the dispirited or the traumatised, one may find therapeutic benefits from a visit to the zoo.
Watching tame captive animals roaming freely or fierce ones resting inside their cages is among a host of exciting activities for both young and old alike at the Zoobic Safari in Subic Bay, Clark, the Philippines.
The zoo, divided into several sections, covers an area of 25 hectares.
At the entrance, visitors are divided into small groups and after a brief introduction to the guide, are to led to different sections to avoid overcrowding at a single place.
While waiting to enter, visitors can take a good look at several caged Siberian white tigers and a huge black pig.
At the Zoobic Park, visitors have the opportunity to get up close and personal with several Luzon furous hornbills which are native to the Philippines. They flap about freely within a spacious enclosure — some even swooping down on visitors.
Other birds sharing the space are the local blue nape parrots and the umbrella cockatoos from Indonesia. Visitors are allowed to feed the birds with feeds purchased from the keeper
at a nominal price.
The squawkings and chirpings create a cacophany of sounds, and children squeal in delight as the birds fly to their outstretched palms to feast on offerings of birdseeds.
Further down the enclosure, animals seen in their individual pens are carabaos, bearcats, luzon warty pigs, camels, miniature horses and donkeys.
Slithery and stealthy
For those not squirmish, the next stop is the serpentarium which houses a variety of snakes, among them the albino Burmese phyton. There are also the spectacled caiman (a crocodile species) and the Philippine saltwater crocodile. All are displayed behind individual glass units.
Coming up next is the Zoobic Cave where stuffed animals are displayed in a diorama scenery and arranged in a life-like manner.
Nearby is the Forbidden Cave where visitors walk through a theateric setting which includes wobbly wooden footbridges with smoke effect. Along the way can be seen several owls which remain alert to visitors as the entire cave is blanketed in darkness to simulate night.
One of the main attractions is the Tiger Safari where visitors can observe Siberian tigers in their natural surroundings — and even see them being fed up close.
Entering the tiger domain – even in the safety of a secured vehicle — is not for the faint-hearted. Visitors can become ‘prisoners’ in the vehicle, painted in tiger colours, as they are individually locked in from outside by the staff members.
There are four rows of seats in the vehicle and each has a bench that fits three persons, and once inside, you feel kind of caged in. The doors on both sides are reinforced with metal grilles with small square or oblong openings — too small for any tiger to pass through!
A zoo keeper sits in the middle row, feeding the big cats with raw chicken breast meat as the vehicle drives through two individually secured gates.
During our tour, two tigers grabbed at the raw meat offered by the keeper. Once the feeding was over, one of the tigers jumped onto the roof of the vehicle, sending frightened visitors into a screaming frenzy as the feline moved towards the exit and then jumped off to stalk the next vehicle promising another tasty meal.
The tiger jumping onto their vehicle’s roof was not part of the tour but “just a playful side” of the tiger, according to the keeper.
But it was a hair-raising experience for first-timers who would rather watch it all from the safety of their living room via TV documentaries.
While the tigers were feeding with their sharp fangs ripping off chunks of meat, visitors fired away with their cameras.
A second staff member was also on hand to snap photos which visitors can buy in printed form or on decorative plates, mugs, puzzle pieces and other memorabila.
An ocean theme park is not complete without dolphins which perform in their enclosures by the sea. The dolphins are trained to obey hand commands or whistles.
During the show, these intelligent sea-going mammals are first introduced together with an announcement of their various manoeuvres such as “walking” on water, swimming underwater at high speed and a variety of leaps and jumps to the tune of the songs played over the loud speaker or instructions from their trainers.
The show includes the dolphins dancing with their trainers as both men and cetaceans leap through the air and plunge back into the sea.
Also performing are sea lions which can stand on their tail, roll over and do other poses as required.
After the show, visitors can opt for “animal encounters” where they are taught simple instructions for the dolphins to follow, and photo opportunities with the dolphins up close. There are a few options — beach encounter, swim encouter and animal trainer adventure.
A great way to bring back memory of the visit is a stuffed animal from the gift shop near the exit. Among the items on sale are beachwear, slippers, hats, ocean animal themed items and many others.
AirAsia offers two daily flights to Clark from Kuala Lumpur, 6.45am and 7.50pm, and vice versa at 11.05am and 3.15am. One way is almost four hour’s flight.
Encounter with crocs
After the big cats, visitors can head to the Croco Loco where over 200 corcodiles are kept. Visitors can walk over a steel grated walkway with the reptiles just below them.
Here, visitors can buy raw chicken meat tied to a string and dangle it above the crocodiles’ waiting jaws on a fishing-rod contraption.
The crocodiles would jump up to grab a bite as visitors playfully jerk the meat out of reach at the last moment — to the frustration of the reptiles.
But, in the end, the crocodiles still get to eat their fill as an ill-timed jerk of the rod allows them to razor off the meat with their deadly jaws. Visitors would then shell out more money to buy another rod.
Another interesting place is the Savannah where animals such as pot-belly pigs and ostriches are let loose. The pot-belly pigs are physically interesting creatures. Although they may be small (some are just piglets), they have distended bellies like pot bellies or beer bellies.
The Savannah’s selling point is animals living among the abandoned bunkers, used by the Americans, as part of the zoo is on a former army base.
At the Aetas Trail here are to be found the aboriginals of the Philippines. They wear loincloth and perform traditional dances like the monkey dance and war dance.
Real bows and arrows are used in the war dance. It is believed this is done to seek guidance from the ancestors, and the best dancer is the best warrior.
The aboriginals are small in stature, have dark skin and black curly hair — similar to the African afros.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Ocean Adventure. Big on conservation, this eco-friendly park highlights the importance of conserving and protecting the natural environment to allow wild animal to continue thriving in their natural habitats.
Visitors are first herded into an open-air theater for a short session on conservation. It’s akin to telling a story so that children can understand the importance of environmental protection.
Animals like rodents, snakes, bats and dogs are used to get the message across and it’s amazing how they are trained to appear on cue.
Visitors are also taught to start a fire with things found in the forest.
At the end of the tour, visitors are reminded to be environmentally aware by practising recycling — like separating recyclables according to type, paper, plastic and cans. Recycling bins are found throughout the park and a reminder is placed next to them.
The second attraction is the High Dive Show where former Olympic divers perform various breathtaking dives from lofty platforms.
Among the performances are skits and musical dives where five divers, clad in clown costumes, entertain visitors with their aerial stunts.
The last daredevil dive features a diver covered with gasoline and set alight before jumping into the water amidst billowing thick black smoke.