When you finish your Safari tour, right after you stop saying "Wow, that was amazing!” and trying to decide what you liked best about it – whether it was the feeding of naughty chimpanzees, the gentle giraffes that lower their heads to be petted or the visit to the sleeping chambers of the lions where you were carful not to receive an especially smelly urine spray, you will probably already start thinking about your next visit, as this is a real enchanted experience that you all simply owe yourselves.
The fear pyramid
Our tour in the African savanna area starts at 7:15 in the morning with climbing the tractor that goes on the feeding round. Rami Tam, the outdoor feeding manager, hence to be called our "tractorist”, sits in front of us and explains what is happening while we start staring in amazement with our mouths and eyes gaping. A multitude of animals come out and gather on the feeding route along the trail while Rami, with the help of a special installation, starts distributing their food, their favorite mixture. Fierce rhinos come near us, oryxes behind them, hippopotamuses rise up gracefully from the lake, zebras in various wonderful stripe patterns, ostriches, many birds and more. All have their breakfasts right there with us and we are very excited by it. An abundance of migrating birds fill the space with different colors and help themselves to the food without asking. Rami says that during migration seasons the birds know that it is worthwhile to stop here, get food and gather strength for the rest of their journey. During these times the amounts of food that Rami loads onto his tractor are bigger to accommodate the birds as well. Rami explains how based on the order in which the animals appear on the trail on which we drive one can tell who are the strong ones and who are the weaker ones in the animal kingdom, when usually all the animals give respectful precedence to the menacing rhino herd which needs to be first. A real fear pyramid.
Thinking games for badgers
After getting enough of African dining, we meet with the charming guide named Lior, who is just waiting to provide us with a fun experience. From this moment onward, we feel a part of the Safari team and become active caretakers. We enter the zoo and receive explanations about the residents of the various cages. Dorit the beautiful female porcupine that was found on a southern road near its mother who was run over and was brought to the animal hospital at the Safari, the wise badgers being challenged with sophisticated thinking games just like in a classroom for gifted children, the tigers who will soon move to their new home and seem very excited. There was also a pulse raising encounter (behind glass of course) with a tiger that decided to examine my face and suddenly opened its mouth and also showed me how sharp its nails are. Scary!
We meet the penguins that arrived from South Africa, a special species that can live in the hot conditions of Israel, near their pool. Small and sweet they wobble toward their caretaker to receive their breakfast- sardines gourmet into which were put also vitamins that are meant to compensate for traveling a long way inside refrigerators from out of the country. When I ask how he knows who received it, Lior says that it is "just like a mother always recognizes her children”.
After the various birds we arrive at the climax of the tour: the feeding of the monkeys. Listen, if anyone had any doubt about Darwin’s theories, it will disappear here. You look at the chimpanzees and you see us, a bit more hairy, loud and almost completely human. We pass through the kitchen (yes, kitchen with boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits from the market, fish, meat and other delicacies), and take with us a full bucket with pieces of melon. This will be the luxurious breakfast of the chimpanzees and the gorillas today. We climb carefully until we stand right on top of them and then the main show begins. The whole family gets together and starts cheering us to throw them food with hand movement that would not shame peddlers at the market. They also give loud directions. There is no describing the joy that gets a hold of them and of us. Old Lily, who had her 43rd birthday this year, does not receive special treatment from one of her younger sons who pushes her aside when he sees a piece of melon flying toward them. One of the youngsters manages to catch a piece even from the top of the pole on which he sits. We do not want to leave. Can we also serve them lunch?
Pedicure and manicure for the elephants
After leaving the happy family, we pay our respect to the quiet gorillas and enjoy looking at the orangutans, a mother and son who were put yesterday into the same area of the gibbons and are at an adjustment stage. It is charming to see how the little one holds his mother’s body all the way from one pole to another.
At this stage I am wondering how it is possible that I haven’t put the Safari into my most desired occupation list but this line of thought is broken by Lior’s explanations about the trainings that the animals go through. Apparently a couple of years ago some of the caretakers went through a training which allows them to train the monkeys, elephants, lions and other species that live here to present their various body parts. And why is this necessary, you are asking, well, for treatment purposes only. We find out that the elephants, for example, need to have a manicure for their feet and nails every once in a while so that they will be able to carry their enormous body’s weight safely. When teaching the lions to lift their heads, they reveal the upper part of their bodies, including their necks, which they never show willingly so as not to show weakness. When they do that, the caretakers can recognize signs of nightly attacks by their cell mates, such as scratches and bruises that may get infected and need to be treated. When the monkeys learn to present their shoulder, they can get injections easily and when they are taught to present their ear one can treat them with ear drops. This kind of training can certainly save lives.
The Safari presents a new perfume fragrance: "Calvin Klion”
Later on we do not miss a glimpse at Yosi, the biggest elephant in the Middle East, rising to the height of about 5 meters, and weighing, well, we will not reveal that due to privacy issues, as well as a shocked glimpse at the birds that gather around his large amount of excrement. A real National Geographic moment.
Right after that we go back to the parking area, go into our private vehicle, accompanied by Lior our faithful guide, on our way to the lions’ den, which is secured by two fences that one can go through only with the pressing of a button by security from the inside. As a part of the tour, we are allowed to go into the lions’ sleeping chambers where they are put in the evenings, usually two in a cage, and meet the brave neta who works with them. She has just finished washing a section of the area but despite that we are hit by a strong wave of smell. Neta amusingly calls this smell of Lions’ urine "Calvin Klion”. Neta warns us not to stand too close to the cages so as not to be sprayed and when we see a strong spray bursts from one of the cells we all thank our good fortune for walking ahead in time. Neta tells us about her large scary cats while one of the males starts scratching one of the doors in its cell with its nails and roaring loudly, just like a dog asking to go out on its daily walk. Neta suggests that we go back to the car as she is about to let the lions out into the large area where they spend their days.
We do as she says and after a short wait we smile as we watch the lions run outside like happy kindergarten children running out for recess. They look so cute that for just one moment one can forget that this is the king of the beasts that puts fear into all the other animals.
That’s it, we have reached the end of our tour which was full of events, scents and pictures taking and we already plan our next tour: a night safari, a midnight safari and perhaps a sunset one?
For booking Safari tours please call: 972-3-6305328. A paid tour, from the age of three and up.