By Shaye Wilson
We are in the midst of Dubai’s exceptionally warm summer, and while it feels as though everyone is traveling either back to their home countries or to the glistening shores of the Mediterranean, for those of us still here, the UAE can still be fun, and many attractions are offering exciting activities that are generally only available during the summer months. One of these activities is overnight camping at one of Dubai’s most innovative nature-spots, cylindrical rainforest, The Green Planet Dubai.
After spending the entire Saturday, (not to mention the entire week leading up to the aforementioned Saturday), counting down, 18:30pm was finally upon us and my four-year old son and I packed ourselves and our overnight bag into the car, complete with road-trip snacks, as we embarked on the 15- minute journey from our house to Dubai’s City Walk where The Green Planet Dubai is located. As the first to arrive for the 7pm start, we were allowed to take our pick of the four ready-and-waiting tents that were dotted across the four floors of The Green Planet’s lush, animal-rich biodome. My son selected a cosy tent tucked away in a corner of the fourth floor and we claimed our stake by leaving our overnight bag in the tent – and making sure that the tent was swiftly rezipped to ensure no creepy crawlies would be joining us in our tent while we slept. We were given a little welcome kit which included a sweet itinerary that would take us well into the night and continue the following morning once we had been awoken by the deafening squawks of the resident parrots and toucans, not to mention the lemurs jumping on the roof of our little tent!
The night kicked off with a tasty BBQ dinner followed by the opportunity to roast marshmallows over an open fire with Dubai’s iconic skyline, complete with the sparkling Burj Khalifa in the background. Once dinner was complete, we were ushered into the exploratory centre where we got to enjoy a hands-on experience with a variety of reptiles including a Bearded Dragon and, a highlight for my son, a Python, who was happy to be snuggled and cuddled as much as one can with a slippery snake!
Following on from the educational meet-and-greet with these beautiful, scaley creatures we embarked on the exclusive-to-this-experience, Night Tour where we were all given head torches and taken through the four-level biodome with our guide, Anthony treating our small group to a tour of the nocturnal animals who were lively and just as excited to see us as we were to see them. The resident female sloth and her baby even made an appearance as they slowly and quietly made their way through the biodome, allowing us to come in a close, but respectful proximity of them – it was absolutely magical, and hard not to feel just a little bit special getting to watch these notoriously shy creatures go about their business in the quiet, night-time hum of the biodome. The nocturnal tour finished at about 10pm and we then had the option of either heading back to the exploratory centre where we could watch an animal-focused film and play boardgames or head back to our tents to get a reasonably early night in preparation for the next morning’s early wake-up call. My son professed to be exhausted and suggested we go to bed, although I suspect he was mostly just excited to get to go to sleep in our tent surrounded by the novel animal rustlings and not-so-subtle bird calls. We all got given walkie-talkies and a definite highlight of the entire experience for my son was when he was able to call Brian, our fantastic co-ordinator, through the walkie-talkie to ask him to turn the lights off as we were going to bed. Oh, to be four years old again!
The next morning, we were abruptly awoken, Squid Games style, with the bright white lights coming on to let us know it was time to get up and help the biologists prepare the animals’ breakfast. My son was in his element helping to distribute the specialist foods into the various bowls and then assisting in pushing the breakfast trolley down the four levels of the biodome, stopping here and there to give the animals their breakfast. The final item on our itinerary was a delicious, chef-cooked breakfast, complete with a table laden with delectable pastries and fresh fruits, and by 8am, our magical, 13-hour overnight camping experience was over, leaving us with hearts and heads filled with incredible memories and an even closer bond.
We’ve already decided that we will be treating our son to an Overnight Camping Experience at The Green Planet again next year, but next time, we’ll arrange for a few of his friends to join too in order to make it even more fun! The entire experience was truly magical, and The Green Planet Dubai has created something very special, a lush, animal-rich oasis in the dessert essentially, that we feel very lucky to have gotten to be a part of.
For more information on The Green Planet’s experiences, visit www.thegreenplanetdubai.com
Where: The Green Planet Dubai, City Walk Dubai
Experience: Overnight Camping At The Green Planet Dubai
Price: AED 700 per tent