Cebu’s latest attraction is a passion project of Consul Michel Lhuillier. He created the Cebu Safari & Adventure Park, where the animals are free to roam in their natural habitat. The wildlife haven is home to 120 species and over 1,000 different mammals, birds, reptiles, marsupials, and amphibians, grouped together into the five continents of origin, namely Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America. There are no cages to restrain the creatures that inhabit the 170 hectares of wide plains, rolling hills and teetering mountains.
Selfie with Andres, the Warty Pig
Located some 50 kilometers from Cebu City, it is approximately an hour and a half car ride to the third-class municipality of Carmen, where the safari and adventure park is located. The circular fountain teems with packs of the wild, providing a sampling of what is to come.
Three cherry mascots welcomed us at the entrance: the Philippine Saltwater Crocodile, Andres the Visayan Warty Pig, and Amihan the African Crowned Crane. Amused guests with beaming faces took turns having their photographs and selfies with the animals. Everyone wanted a remembrance of the quirky characters.
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There was an obligatory, short presentation that encouraged everyone to have fun while being mindful of several dos, but with a few donts.
Visitors start a free-wheeling tour from any point in the park by walking, which we opted to do. Otherwise, the alternative option is a leisurely in-and-out ride on one of the several zebra-patterned shuttles, which continuously circle the periphery on regular intervals.
Beside each habitat are illustrated signage with information on the creatures written in a friendly, easy-to-comprehend manner. It left no room for guessing and provided helpful data to enhance appreciation.
At Orangutown, interact with a playful family of primates. There are Gibo the dad, Lucy the mom, and Dante the baby. Waiting nearby are Celebes apes, gibbons, meerkats, and lemurs.
We stood at awe at Tiger Turf, which an ambush of Bengal tigers call home. The Kings of the Jungle, a pride of six white lions, and their cousins, a coalition of cheetahs, can likewise be spotted claiming their territories.
Africa and Other Continents
Kangaroos, rheas and wallabies live across the residence of the uncommon llamas, emus, capybaras, and Javan rusas. The Deer District hosted a herd of Indian black bucks, Waterbucks, Philippine brown deer, and even Visayan spotted deer.
A circular Aviary Dome has a colorful menagerie of spirited parrots, colorful-tailed lories and melodic pigeons flying from tree to tree, just like in their natural Australasian environment. Cassowaries rest near a man-made forest with the flightless bird from Papua New Guinea, the cousin to the emu.
The Canopy Trail transports you into the jungles of Africa. There are a multitude of vast ponds with white swans, black swans, cranes, flamingos and pelicans that glide serenely on the waters. The Safari Stadium is a multi-purpose theater soon to open. It will become the prime venue for daily bird shows with a stage for well-trained pet performers.
Doctors for the Animals
The highlight of the visit was the African Savannah for an up close and personal with zebras, helmeted guinea fowls, African crowned cranes and wildebeests, either grazing, playfully skirmishing, or peacefully resting.
Feed giraffes, gold and blue macaws, and toss whole chickens into the giant crocodile pit. Black panthers and black bears are some of the latest additions, with definitely more to come according to Vice President and COO Eduard Loop. The health and well-being of the animals are the priority of the in-house team of veterinarians led by Dr. Glenn Perez. Daily check-ups are part of the regular routine.
Take a stroll on the boardwalk, rest by the viewing decks and outposts, have ice cream at the kiosks, and take a bite at the food stalls. Have a hearty lunch at the Safari Restaurant, and stop by the souvenir shop.
Asia’s Longest Zipline
Adrenaline junkies can try the Zipline, which is one of the longest in Asia at 1.3 kilometers long. Skybikes transport you from summit to summit, while a Giant Swing tosses you 35 meters above into the sky then back. For the truly brave, there is an Obstacle Course than can be negotiated either individually or as a team.
The entire park is set against the backdrop of Michel’s Garden, an open-air plot with a million orchids of different varieties. There are various colors of mayanas on terraces among the blooms. These are the other passion projects of businessman and entrepreneur, gentleman-farmer-rancher Michel J. Lhuillier.
What started as a mini patch of flowers some 30 years ago became an ever-expanding collection of fruit trees, indigenous plants and blossoms from around the country. The next addition were horses of different breeds, which now freely gallop around the ranch.
View from a Hill
Michel’s desire to share his pleasure of wildlife and flora began the search for exotic animals and birds, which led to the creation of the Cebu Safari & Adventure Park.
Ten log cabins have been constructed and a 60-room hotel will soon follow, nestled on the highest vantage point for a picturesque view of the nearby mountains, vast oceans, and neighboring isles. An Adventure Waterfalls is in the works, an aquatic destination for thrill seekers, and a camping ground for families.
Cebu, known for its history and heritage, shopping and nightlife, beaches and resorts, now has an additional tourist attraction. It has already changed the landscape, adding a new destination for visitors, thanks to the dreams and passion of one man.
The Cebu Safari & Adventure Park is open every day, except Mondays and Tuesdays, from 8am to 5pm. Ticket sales are until 2pm. Guided tours take three hours. For inquiries and reservations, email <[email protected]>.