Every now and then, a buzz can be heard all around Cebu. Sometimes, it’s about a new mall opening, a popular movie, a weird scandal, or in this case, the presence of otherwise distant animals on our shores.
“Welcome to the wild.”
We were excited for our visit to the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park. The prospect of showing breathing animals to our two year old was enough to brave the two hour drive up North to Barangay Corte, Carmen (about 50 kilometers from Cebu City).
Before the trip, we were warned that the park was still on soft opening. Not all the animals were ready to be shown, there were parts of the park that were under construction, and processes were being worked out.
But despite this, Cebu Safari and Adventure Park still had plenty to be excited about. It’s one of the largest safari parks in Asia at 170 hectares. It is home to about a thousand animals from a hundred species from all over the world.
If anything, the soft opening showed a glimpse of what the park could become. World renowned perhaps? An international tourist destination? There was talk of more animals to be housed in the park, as well as rides like a zip line, a hotel, and we even saw an unfinished amphitheater for animal shows. I found myself day dreaming about the possibilities. After all, I only wish the best for my beloved Cebu and this park could be one of the things that puts it on the map.
We paid 800 pesos per person and the little kiddo got 50% off. Rates are likely to increase as the park adds more facilities and becomes more popular. While waiting, I overheard a couple comparing the entrance fee of the Singapore Zoo to the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park. “Mas sulit ni,” they said.
As of this writing, the park is only open on weekends. For reservations, you’ll need to email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 0995 835 3460.
In the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park, there are no small display cages. This gives the animals a chance to move around instead of sit still. This was particularly true in the case of the Celebes Crested Macaques. They were jumping, running and pushing each other all over the place, monkeying around. There was one instance when two Macaques were sitting on top of a cut log. As we were watching, they quickly embraced and closed their eyes. As soon as someone said, “Ka cute!” they jumped down and scurried along.
I had a proud dad moment when the little kiddo, normally averse to new things like touching cute furry animals like a harmless donkey, was game to feed the Blue-and-yellow Macaw. We bought a feeding tray and slowly walked towards their area. The Macaw was as close to my son as any animal I’ve ever seen. He didn’t panic, he was nervous though, at some point he stopped looking at the Macaw as it was feeding, but he never let go. Fortunately, the Macaw didn’t poop on us.
There were many opportunities to interact with the animals. For more harmless animals like the Capybara, the world’s largest rodent, there were walkways that crossed through their space. This gave onlookers the ability to touch them if they allowed us to. Fortunately, the Capybara seems so much cuter and cleaner than our ordinary house rodent.
When I was a kid, my favorite animal was the cheetah. I was excited to learn that they housed a few cheetahs.
Unfortunately, these were one of the few animals with a smaller space. As much as I would have loved to see these beautiful cats running full speed in the grasslands of Africa, they can go as fast as 120 km/h, I understand that having them around means limiting their space. Still, it was an experience to see them up close.
Anyone with a kid knows that Giraffes are a highlight. There’s no animal that looks quite like it, tall with beautiful skin patterns, and let’s be honest, their faces are a little funny looking. We caught them just as they started feeding on greens. That’s when it happened, it stuck its long tongue out to get a taste. Turns out, their tongues measure 18 – 20 inches long.
There were a bevy of small animals to look at as well. When we were having our lunch in one of the restaurants, we were right next to a space filled with Meerkats. Astute observers might remember Timon in the animated hit, The Lion King, he was a Meerkat. Unfortunately, the Meerkats in Cebu Safari Adventure park weren’t singing Hakuna Matata, but they entertained as they ran around the dirt and whizzed through their many holes as we had our lunch right beside them.
While the Meerkats were on one side of the lunch area, an expansive lagoon filled with various birds were on the other. There were many birds ranging from ducks to swans to cranes. The little kiddo was excited, but he called all of them ducks. The smaller ones were baby ducks, while the bigger ones were mommy and daddy ducks. I was as clueless as the kiddo.
At this point, our little two year old had stayed up since 7am in the morning. His excitement kept him awake throughout the car ride and the whole safari. By mid afternoon, he was ready to sleep, but did his best to stay up. There was no way he was missing the Bengal Tigers. They were the last animal we visited. I had seen tigers before, but they were always motionless. We were lucky to catch them right after they were released from their holding areas. Three of them, one male and two females, were walking around their space with regularity.
Only time will tell if Cebu can sustain this ambitious concept. This isn’t the first safari in the Philippines. The first one was the Calauit Safari Park in Palawan, famously started by Ferdinand Marcos. Time had taken its toll on the park. Mired with budget cuts, controversy, and unhappy workers, the Calauit Safari Park in Palawan is an example of the concept gone wrong.
Fortunately, the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park has a chance to be world class and become an international tourist destination. Can you imagine tourists from all over the world circling Cebu in the map? And one of the main attractions could be this park.
As they said, they are still in soft opening, but it is full of possibilities. In two years, I’m excited to bring kiddo number two there, just in time for when he can appreciate the animals.
By then, who knows what the park will look like?