‘Caged’ at the Zoobic Safari

WHEN you watch tigers inside the zoo, you enjoy it but when its you who is inside a cage and the tigers are circling your cage looking for a possible opening and licking their tongues while poking their paws at the grills to get at you, that’s a totally different story.

You don’t have to go on a Safari trip to Africa for a close encounter with tigers and other wildlife but let’s go on a quick tour to the Zoobic Safari at the Subic Bay Freeport in the Philippines.

From the Pub Hotel we were staying in, Susan and I rented an SUV for 2,500 pesos (around $55) for the day, including the driver to take us on a tour of Olongapo City. We started out around 9 a.m. and drove past the Subic Bay Freeport and into the cool jungles of Olongapo until we reached the Zoobic Safari, a 25-hectare wildlife sanctuary

The first half of the two and a half hour Zoobic tour includes a quick briefing and a glimpse into the indigenous culture of the Aeta tribe through their dances, then off you go for a walk to the Zoobic park to see exotic birds and animals you don’t see everyday like the otter, cougar, wild boar and Rodent World. I skipped the Serpentarium tour, not wishing to get up close and personal with serpents or iguanas and used the time to gobble a hot sandwich at the restaurant instead.

The drive-thru tour came next. We boarded the open tram for an additional 50 pesos (roughly $1.15) and off we went to the Forbidden Cave where you have to walk on a shaking hanging bridge to see live and stuffed animals. Driving through the Savannah, you can see different animals from ostrich to camels and more. The last destination was the Croco-loco Park where you get to see thousands of crocodiles of all sizes and ages in one setting. The platform is screened and safe so no need to fear.

We saved the best for last, up close with the tigers. This time, we got off the tram and boarded a jeep with windows barred by thick grills then into the tigerland we went. At first I didn’t see any tiger when then the jeep stopped, we held our breaths. A huge tiger spotted us and was heading toward us. Then came another tiger, baring his fangs as he circled the jeep and peeked at us and tried to poke his giant paws in. Our guide fed them with raw chicken meat through the slats in the window. The other tiger jumped onto the roof of our jeep and we cringed as the 400 lbs tiger landed, shaking the jeep.

The tiger peeked at us from the roof through the glass. Excitement was mounting when another tiger from somewhere growled. I’ve seen movies of tiger safari adventures in Africa but when you are inside the jeep that suddenly feels too frail when surrounded by tigers, it becomes a different story. My mind started a marathon of what-ifs, what if all 30 plus tigers charge toward us and crush the jeep. Luckily it was all in my imagination and we were back and out of the fenced tiger zone in no time.

We saw more tigers after that, but this time they were in cages and we were out. That felt a lot better.  As an option, you can go for the Night Safari for a ‘roaring night of fun’ when most of the animals are at their best element. That would have been more exciting.

Zoobic Safari also offers photo sessions with the animals. With the supervision of a staff, you can cuddle up to a tiger or sling a big snake on your shoulders, an adventure I was not brave enough to dare. The Zoobic Safari is the only tiger safari in the Philippines that has made the Subic Bay Freeport as a prime tourist destination. If possible, try to go on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to see animal show and animal parade. Unfortunately, we missed that.

Entrance to the Zoobic Safari is PhP 495 per person or about $12, less PhP 100 for kids 4 feet and below) and PhP 650 (around $15) for entrance with a set meal. The next time you and your family take a trip to the Philippines, visit Zoobic for this unforgettable tour. It’s one experience kids and adults will remember. For more information and directions on how to get there visit www.zoobic.com.ph.