We headed off to The Green Planet on their opening weekend, because who doesn’t want to experience a day in a rainforest, while living in the desert. To be honest, while landscaping in the UAE is a testament to human creativity and ingenuity which allows for 24/7, 365 days a year greenery that often makes you forget that you’re living in a desert, there are times when you crave something less manicured and something more wild and green.
Located at the City Walk, the Green Planet can be a bit hard to locate if it’s your first time in the area because there’s still some roadwork ongoing, but the building is easy to spot, and is located right opposite The Hub. We had booked tickets online, to avoid any potential queues at the ticketing counter, and decided that we’d head out bright and early so we’d get in just as the place opened up. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea, but we got our tickets easily enough, and were ushered through for our rainforest experience with two important reminders – No flash photography and No Touching!
You start your visit at the ground floor, where you get an amazing view of where you’ll be headed (the rainforest above) while at the same time enjoying turtles and all sorts of fish in the aquarium. From the moment you enter, the temperature is a comfortable 20 something degrees, and while it’s humid it’s not uncomfortably so which means you can easily spend hours inside.
Once you’ve had your fill of looking at the fishes, you head into an elevator which takes you right to the top, from where you’ll begin your journey, naturally working your way downwards. The first thing we saw as we stepped off the elevator… were parrots! Just sitting there… comfortably… about to begin their early morning preening. I think the most surprising thing, for me at least and for the many kids who came in after us, was just how loud parrots can be. It’s positively startling, especially if you’re not expecting it.
The thing I loved most about the place, was the fact that all the birds were free to fly around, which meant you had to spot them in all the dense foliage. There were signs all along the footbridges giving you the names and details of the birds, and you had to hope you were lucky enough to spot them. Free to fly also means free to poop, excuse the French, where and when they please, which often includes on unsuspecting visitors, which is why I’d advise you to keep a pack of wet wipes on you when you go. Just in case!
There were all sorts of birds, from green and red parrots, to toucans and then of course, there were the other animals which we had’t expected like the sloth (who was just beginning his rather slow journey into the rainforest) and rather large sleeping porcupines (in fact, I didn’t even know porcupines could be so big or that they are nocturnal!) There were also a number of fascinating critters, not all free to roam thank God. I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself if that tarantula had been out wandering. One of the nicest things was that there were guides available everywhere who were willing to share their knowledge with you to help you pick out a male from a female lizard and also to creep you out by telling you just how lathe those lizards can get once they’re fully grown.
The animals aren’t the only wow factor at the Green Planet- in fact for me, it was the tree that was perhaps the most awe-inspiring. The tree, as they explained to us, is man-made and other vegetation has been planted in such a way that it will grow over the structure which acts as a support. Which means, while the tree looks amazing now, it will take a few years before the tree is fully covered in wild green and a place for all those animals to truly call home.
As we made our way down, over rope-bridges and past preening parrots, we met weaver ants making their homes, bees building their hive, leaf-cutter ants being their diligent selves carrying upto 5000 times their body weight in leaves and butterflies just sitting pretty on the large leaves of the canopy.
The experience was both wonderful and educational and I’m pretty sure I’d like to be back in a year or so to see how much the canopy has changed. The Green Planet is open from 10am to 10pm everyday (closing time extends upto midnight on Thursdays and Fridays) and tickets can be bought online or at the entrance for AED 95 for adults and AED 70 for children (Prices as of Sept 2016).