Coming face to face with wild and exotic animals is a dream that many people have, but it’s a dream that should be experienced safely. Nobody would ever recommend wandering into the jungle on your own in the hope of coming face to face with a lion. It’s a journey you might never come back from. On the other hand, there’s something a little sad about seeing such majestic creatures in the confines of a zoo. They’re usually a long way from their homelands, kept in cramped spaces, and not allowed to live their lives the way they would if they were free.
Because of the points raised above, the best way to see wild animals in freedom but also in safety is to go on safari. It’s something many of us want to do while we’re still young and healthy enough, but far too few of us ever get around to it. Part of that is down to the fact that so many of the world’s greatest safari destinations are hundreds - if not thousands - of miles away. When we hear the word “safari,” we usually think of the continent of Africa. That’s a reasonable thing to do, because most of the best safari parks on the planet are in Africa. From the Okavango Delta in Botswana to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia by way of the Tanzanian Serengeti, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to African safari destinations.
The words “safari” and “Africa” are so intertwined in the minds of holidaymakers that they’ve almost become a cliche. There’s a whole niche industry of casino games based on safari adventures, and almost all of them use Africa as a backdrop. The most popular of them is the “Africa Goes Wild” slot, which is heavily featured at UK casinos featured on Sister Site, but we could also mention "Safari King" and "Stampede," both of which use "Big 5" animals as a hook and African destinations as scenery. There are dozens of games that use the same African template, but the companies that make them will soon have a new source of inspiration. That's because Sharjah is going to build and open one of the biggest safari parks in the world. If you're a city resident, games are no longer the only way you can get close to these animals without doing extensive travelling. They're about to come to your doorstep!
Dubai already has a safari park - the imaginatively titled "Dubai Safari Park" - which offers three thousand animals. It's admirable, but the new project in Sharjah is set to make it look tiny. When it's complete, it will offer visitors the chance to see more than fifty thousand animals drawn from several hundred different species. It will, in fact, be the largest safari park in the world outside of the African continent. The new park follows a similar naming pattern to the one in Dubai by naming itself "Sharjah Safari" and will be inside Al Dhaid's Al Bridi Reserve. Development of the park and the space is already well underway. More than 120 different animal species have already been introduced to the area, including birds, reptiles, and mammals, and are currently acclimatising to their new environment. Elephants, jaguars, giraffes, crocodiles, and wild turtles are among them.
Al Bardi Reserve has been open since 2007 but was originally conceived as a conservation park with the intention of protecting endangered species and promoting biodiversity. The company behind the park believes it's achieved all of those aims and now wishes to go further. It's obtained a further 3,500 acres of land to expand into and will use this additional space to host all of the additional animals it's having brought in over land and sea, and through the air. The existing lake is scheduled to be surrounded by brand new restaurants, cafes, visitors camps with overnight accommodation, and a large conference centre for staging events and conventions. Samar trees are to be planted in open spaces to provide shelter for animals, food for goats, and nectar for local bees to turn into honey. The honey will then be sold both in the park's cafes and internationally as one of many ways of funding the park's operations. Sheltered areas for animal watching or simply for relaxation will also be included.
This is a grand-scale construction project and will take time to see through to completion. While it's clear from the number of animals already present at the site that things are well underway, we don't yet know how long it will take to see it through to the end. The park's owners aren't yet willing to commit to a date, being of the opinion it's better to keep things open than to commit to a date and then have to push it back if things don't go to plan. In broad terms, it's likely to be either late 2021 or early 2022 when it opens for the first time. At some point between now and then, we'll receive information about prices - both for overnight or multi-day stays or daily access for locals. We would hope - but don't currently know - that residents of Sharjah will get a discount when visiting the park.
As you'll know if you're a regular reader of this website, this isn't the only exciting project that's in the pipeline for the next twelve months. Between late 2021 and early 2022, Sharjah is also set to welcome Pearls Kingdom and Al Noor Island, adding to an already healthy set of attractions for tourists and locals alike. Internationally, Dubai is still a more famous city and is, therefore, more popular with international tourists, but Sharjah is beginning to gain traction. If it continues in this vein, the world will soon see that there are more reasons to visit the United Arab Emirates than a short break in Dubai. If 2021 is a year of planning and development, perhaps 2022 will be the year that the name "Sharjah" implants itself on the consciousness of the global public. These are exciting times!