I contacted Don, the taxi driver at the hotel who had offered to take us to Safari world at a reasonable rate, and after further bargaining, when I was sure he would reduce it no further, we made a move at 9:30 am. In less than an hour, we were soon at the gates of this amazing place. I strongly recommend you should start no later than 8 am to make the most of your day. Num, Don’s friend and our driver for the day was a friendly guy and helped us translate our queries at the ticket counter.
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Safari world actually has two sections, one is the ‘Safari world’ itself and the other is the marine park. While the Safari world is a huge area of more than 5 kms of drive, the only way to see it is through their private bus rides. And it usually doesn’t take more than an hour. Its the marine park where you should spend most of your time. With its amazing animal shows, you’ll be blown away if you haven’t seen any before. When we entered the park the orangutan show was already over. We quickly checked the schedule and made a dash for the sea-lion show and was it not awesome. Its just astonishing how these sea creatures get trained to perform amazing human-like feats. They can not only balance balls on their nose and jump high into the air, but they also clap with their fins every time their handlers give them a cue. And they slide so effortlessly from the water onto the tiles after each act.
Next was the elephant show and the amphitheater was filled with school kids out on a picnic. The elephants performed the usual tricks of bowing to the crowd, running behind each other in a circle and standing on a stool. But a few other tricks had me stunned. In one, an elephant did a tight rope walk across two boulders and even managed to turn itself around mid way. One could feel the intense concentration in the elephant’s eyes as it nudged itself one step at a time. And then the intense relief as it reached the boulder. A huge applaud followed. The next act was that of shooting balloons using a sniper gun. A board with balloons was positioned at a fair distance and the handler then placed small arrows in the gun. Using its trunk, the elephant then adjusts the gun to take aim. In three shots it wiped out three centre balloons. And to make it look real, the elephant even missed a shot, to which the school kids scream in unison. Two volunteers from the audience were invited into the arena for a Thai massage, and guess who was the masseur!, Ofcourse, the elephants.
If this was unbelievable, the final act had me spell bound. Two elephants walked towards their respective canvas pieces and the MC announced that they would now paint. I chuckled a bit, not sure what to expect from these pachyderms. They started with a few random strokes and for a moment it seemed they’d end up creating some obscure modern art with various colors splashed across the canvas. But a few minutes later it emerged they were actually creating a meaningful landscape.
One elephant painted a tree with leaves and bush around it and the other painted a flower. The audience couldn’t stop gaping. These paintings are available for sale for 500 Bahts a piece immediately after the show.
These back-to-back shows had us excited and we broke for snacks. And then ran to the dolphin show. When I use words like ‘run’ and ‘dash’ for shows, I mean it literally, else you might not get the best views. Its worth it. And by now we had understood the significance of reaching early and finding a vantage point. But we were still the last to enter the dolphin show, the stadium was packed top to bottom and left to right. Judging by the screams and squeals of the kids we safely assumed this to be the mother of all shows. Dolphins are one of the most playful creatures. They simply love to have fun and entertain others. And this was so evident in every move they made. The twists & turns and high air jumps they made had the crowd applauding thunderously. Racing through the water and emerging out of it at high speeds to go up in the air to jump through rings, all with a discernible smile in their eyes. Ofcourse the dolphin handlers were rewarding them with food after every act, but I bet that even if they did not, the dolphins would have continued to entertain. They were absolute charmers.
Just as the show ended, our luck ran out. The dark skies that were threatening us since morning decided to play spoil-sport. And it started pouring cats and dogs all of a sudden, we had to rush back to the dolphin stadium to stay dry. I guess everyone was furiously praying to the gods to relent and allow us to continue enjoying the rest of the day.
After a quick lunch comprising rice, potato gravy, macaroni and various Thai sauces, we rushed to the safari terrace. From here you get an expansive view of the wild life in the safari park. A few buses were doing the rounds. And zebra striped jeeps providing security. The terrace is also the feeding point for giraffes. A herd of forty-fifty giraffes were loitering around. Its like residing on the 2nd floor of your apartment and having your pet giraffe peep into your window to be fed on sweet potatoes & bananas. We touched the giraffes on their heads and posed with them, something impossible from ground level. Aarav went berserk.
Not wanting to miss the safari ride, we exited the marine park with a re-entry stamp on our hands. The animals in this park are out in the open similar to their natural habitat. Its like going out on a real safari in a jungle. We saw rhinos, giraffes, camels, wild buffalos, lots of cranes and deer and then finally the big cats – tigers and lions. These were of course kept away from the other animals, with double iron gates between them (remember the entry into Jurassic park as the iron gates slide open).
An exciting and one of-its-kind showpiece of the marine park is the Egg world. We had low expectations from it, but were amazed to see live hatching of eggs, witness a baby macau break open from its egg, and see various other birds at different stages in their lives including a one day old parakeet.
It was a great day at the safari world and if you have kids, there is no way you can miss this.