Tuesday, February 12, 2008

zoobic safari

Last weekend, my wife and her friend from college days, Ireen, also a mother to a nearly 2-year old boy, went to Subic for a weekend stay. We brought our daughter Elle, 1 year and 4 months old.

We went to "zoobic safari", on the western side of Subic bay area and near the Morong, Bataan gate. The place is quite attractive to many tourists especially on weekends. Entrance fee is P400 per head, babies are free. The package includes a walking tour of a zoo -- different birds, animals and rodents. They have a good collection, definitely much plentier than one will find at the government-run Manila zoo.

There's a short entertainment in this part of the zoo. In the "Aeta trail", there are 3 or 4 male Aetas on G-strings. One plays the guitar, as one dances the graceful "butterfly dance"; another one dances the quick "monkey dance", complete with a very quick climb on a pole and quick descent; then 2 guys dance the belligerent "war dance".

There is also a covered place where different species of smaller alligators (iguana, monitor lizard, etc.) and snakes (from python to indian albino species).

But what makes the place unique compared to many other zoo in the country, both government- and privately-operated, is the close encounter with tigers on the loose. Well, they can walk and run around in a fenced area. Visitors ride a jeepney with steel bards to protect them from the tigers. Visitors buy dressed chicken for P200 a piece, a zoo staff joins in as "feeder". The tigers' area has double gates.

Upon entry of the jeepney on the 2nd gate, just a few meters you will see the tigers -- about 4 or more of them. The "feeder" shows the dressed chicken, and 1 or 2 tigers come close, well very close, you can see their face, claws and teeth as they eat the chicken little by little right across the steel bars! While one tiger is eating the chicken piecemeal, another tiger would roam around the other side of the jeepney, sniffing if there's another chicken available. Tigers that are full don't come close anymore, they just lie down on some corners but are still visible to the visitors inside the jeepney. This close encounter lasts for about 10-15 minutes.

After the tiger encounter, the jeepney goes back to the main building. Then visitors can choose whether to ride the train-truck (P50/head) or bring their own car. First destination is the tiger breeding area. Here, huge and mature tigers are kept for breeding. It's a good tiger farm. Next destination is the savannah -- a fenced area where many ostrich, wild (now tamed) pigs, ducks and turkey roam around freely. if you get off from your car briefly, you can have a quick picture taking with these birds and animals up close, although the tour guide does not allow this practice, i think. The ostrich can kick you perhaps.

Finally, the last destination is the crocodile farm. There are around 200 different species of crocs there. Visitors can buy a quarter- or half-sized dressed chicken tied to a long stick for P50, then use the chicken to attract the seldom-moving animals to move and attempt to eat the bait. I kidded our tour guide, "Luthy", that perhaps they should change the name of the croc farm to "House of Representatives", other visitors who heard my joke laughed too.

There are 2 souvenir shops -- one in the main building where briefings are made, and at the Crocs cafe.

The place is a good learning area for children and adults alike about various animals. The staff are articulate and friendly too.

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