Sunday, October 2, 2016

Into the Woods

If you don't live in the UAE, you won't be aware that Dubai now has a rain forest. I start this post in such a glib manner because, so used are we to improbable man made architectural exploits, that creating a rain forest in one of the dryest places on earth seems positively sensible.

I was pondering the lack of international publicity for this intriguing project, because you know, it's a rain forest, with the emphasis on "rain", the wet stuff, that we don't have much of. But that is, as I say, pretty run of the mill when you compare it to under water hotel rooms and man made islands with their own artificial weather systems to create snow, yet The Green Planet is a pretty diverting morning or afternoon out. Particularly so during the long, hot summer when indoor only activities are necessary and you need something do other than shop, eat and moan about the heat.

As you can see from this pic*, you can get pretty up close and personal with the wildlife, and it's a different kind of experience from the all encompassing fish fest that is The Dubai Mall Aquarium. You walk in through a small aquarium exhibit, featuring examples of rain forest fish, then take a lift to the top floor. The structure is built around a giant artificial tree with a spiraling walkway that takes you down through the various levels of the jungle canopy until you reach ground level. Along the way you meet guides who explain the significance of the various species. The tree structure is inside a bio-dome or "greenhouse", for those of you who prefer to call a spade a spade.

I have a confession to make, my best beloved readers, for which you are likely to mock me really quite severely. I live in skyscraper land, "Vegas on steroids" "the world capital of skyscrapers" etc, etc, yet, I am afraid of heights.

I spent a couple of our years here living on the 22nd floor, and when we were unceremoniously kicked out of that apartment, we looked at one of the 48th floor *vomits* but enough was enough. I had visions of multiple falling deaths the first time we threw a party, so we moved to floor seven then eventually to floor four, and that is quite high enough for me.

The reason I mention this, is that while the Green Planet is of piffling height compared to some of the mega structures in Dubai, I mean, it's like the equivalent of four floors I think, the fact that you can lean over the barriers of the spiral structure to look down at the forest floor below, and that there are optional rope bridge type walkways, had me biting my nails and nervously hanging on to Desert Baby. The thing about taking a nearly 20-month-old, you see, is they have no sense of danger, and they can get a bit wriggly and thrashy when you try to pick them up and point them in the direction you want them to go, rather than, say, let them run up and down past the same exhibit for a solid half hour tripping up various people as they go. And having a thrashy wriggly toddler next to a chest high barrier on a slightly flexible-feeling structure in front of a sheer drop, is, for the vertigo sufferer, "ungood".

Anyhoo. Please don't let this put you off visiting in any way. I am literally the world's biggest wuss about heights, and if you are not troubled by them, this will be no problem for you at all. I just thought the image of someone who lives in the land of mega buildings, and indeed, for now at least, the world's tallest building, who is afraid of heights, might amuse the heck out of you.

Practical stuff. The parental units among you will want to know if it's pushchair friendly. You can take them in, but they encourage you to leave them outside in the "stroller park" and to be honest, I think you're better without, as at busy times it would be a bit of a nightmare maneuvering the bulkier models on some of the narrow pathways. It's not loads of walking, so toddlers will manage it, possibly with a bit of a carry. Baby carriers are probably a better idea anyway because there's not much to see at buggy eye level.

It's not cheap - 95dhs per adult, 70dhs per child, and either under 3s or under 2s free, not sure which as both were indicated on signs. It's in the Entertainer, with a two for one adult ticket offer, and bound to be on other deal websites at some point. It opens at 10am until 10pm, except on Thursday and Friday when it is open until midnight. If you're keen, like we were (woken at dawn by toddler), then there is a little coffee shop next door when you can hang out until it opens and be first in the queue for tickets. I am told that if you go later in the day, the sloth is more likely to be awake, but, personally, considering his name, I would say there's not much point planning your visit around a sloth being awake or moving.

Bear in mind that the survival of the plant and wildlife species inside depend on conditions being kept similar to a rain forest, ie hot and steamy, so dress accordingly, particularly if you're the one wearing the baby.

It is definitely more than worth the visit, if nothing else, it is a much needed blast of green for us desiccated desert types, and, as is typical of Dubai, they have pulled out the stops with the architecture.

*All pics courtesy of Him Indoors and benevolent friends

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