Dubai. In the middle of a desert, but full of life, action and fun. A city on steroids. Many of you may already have visited or had a stopover in Dubai, and more than likely already experienced some of its top sights including the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountains, Palm Jumeirah island, or the Atlantis Resort with its water park and famed dolphin experience. And talking about wildlife adventures, you can visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, the relatively new Dubai Safari Park, or the classic 4WD desert trip (aka Dune Dinner Safari) including a camel ride and falconry experience.
Green Planet Dubai
But, if you fancy doing something really different, then go green and visit The Green Planet Dubai at City Walk near Sheikh Zayed Road.
Accessed via the Dubai Mall and a 20-minute walk along the air conditioned Metro Bridge, the region’s first biodome was opened in August 2016.
One of only a few biodomes in the world, it is an amazing vertical tropical rainforest in Dubai.
This fully glass-enclosed ecosystem is built around a central structure, one of the world’s largest man-made tree.
It supports over 3000 exotic plants and animals creating four levels of rainforest.
The canopy is at 30-45m, followed by a mid-storey, forest floor and finally a flooded rainforest.
There are multiple levels of access, including a suspension bridge, a three-storey waterfall and numerous interactive educational stations to explore along the way.
We had no idea what to expect but as explorers, found so much to do, touch and feel. But it was our up close and personal animal encounters along the way, guided by the very friendly and accommodating, knowledgeable staff, which topped off our visit making it a highlight of our short trip.
See The Rare and Exotic
From learning how to handle a snake, to feeding a stunningly beautiful toucan flying freely around the canopy, to being mesmerised by a totally not shy and well-camouflaged chameleon.
They say when photographing animals, always try to take THE shot when there is eye contact between you and your subject.
Well, tell that to a chameleon whose eyes move independent of each other, constantly roaming in all directions at the same time… A still photographer’s nightmare, but a videographer’s dream!
Meet Liam, the Two Toe’d Sloth
The piece de resistance was spotting Liam. One of two, two toe’d sloths living in the Biodome, he was characteristically asleep, in a tree right next to our path (they sleep for 18 hours a day).
At the mere sight of him, I thought my ‘sloth-ship’ had come in. But then he awoke and my excitement overflowed. He was right there, face height and within arm’s (and camera’s) reach. Oh, my godfather…
For all of 15 minutes of a sloth’s wakeful moments, he entertained us. His keeper informed us of his ‘slothful’ (and very enviable) lifestyle.
How a small snack can totally exhaust a slow moving sloth with a metabolism slower than a self-confessed menopausal female totally amazed me.
A few bites of his favourite feed of sweet potato wedges, some cursory poses for our cameras and opportunistic gentle strokes of his fur, and that was it. He was done. Time for another slothful nap.
Almost on cue, he slowly ambled down the tree to ground level, whereupon he simply curled up under a leafy plant, and, yes, went straight back to sleep.
In contrast to Liam, I was so full of adrenaline and excitement at our brief encounter. Never in my dreams did I think a short visit to Dubai would deliver one of my life’s dreams to see a sloth, up close and personal, never mind actually touch and stroke one.
Well, Liam did it for me. From then on, nothing else mattered. The biodome had delivered.
The Green Planet, truly a great place to visit, for the young and not so young. Do yourself a favour, if you are heading to Dubai, go there. Take the family. Just do it!