April 7, 2019 — It wasn’t a light and breezy morning here in Subic. As summer officially begins, the temperature rises and the winds appear shy. That day was unbearably hot, but there was no stopping my group and me from touring the beautiful attractions Subic has to offer. There’s more to this sunny city than its industrial and commercial features. Rocky beaches, for one thing; a marine park, for another.
A nearby jungle was our first stop. Found in the heart of the forest of Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zoobic Safari is a 25-hectare forest adventure park that is known to be the only tiger safari in the Philippines. Its selling point is the interaction with the tigers — guests are given the opportunity to get up close with the biggest members of the feline family.
After getting past through the entrance, I noticed several cages with tigers locked up are out on display. There was also an area where a zoo staff busies a cub on the table with a bottle of milk. Next to it was a sign that indicates you can take a photo with the cub for a five hundred pesos or so. I skipped the attraction and waited for the tour to start.
There are two options to getting around the vicinity. One is by walking; another is by riding the tram. We chose the latter. It is easy to tell that the forest park has been standing for a long time; many attractions were no longer open to the public such as the Eggziting Story and Savannah.
We were first dropped off at the Lion Close Encounter where we saw several lions in their cages. Most of the animals laid on the cold bars, resting. The time I spent at the Lion Close Encounter was filled with pity rather than amazement. Perhaps I visited at a bad time or maybe it is poor judgment talking, but from what I saw, it seemed like few of the lions were in bad shape; their coats were untamed and their eyes were droopy.
On another note, we were instructed to take a walk towards the next stop, Forbidden Cave. We got to see a diversity of animals — from crawlers to winged ones — originating from different parts of Asia and the world.
The weather didn’t give us a lenient time. We only covered a fair walk under the sun, but the few kilometers felt like miles due to the temperature.
While we were on our way to the Tiger Safari Ride, the tour guide gave us tips and historical information about the site where Zoobic Safari stands. The Americans, during the war period, used Subic Freeport Zone as a naval base. It was amusing to discover that most of the buildings around are refurbished bunkers.
Most animals, such as zebras and boars, were placed in a natural environment and were allowed to wander from place to place; only tigers and lions stayed in cages. Our tour guide informed us that tigers sleep in cages when they are not in the safari area. Depending on the rotation, each tiger gets to roam around freely and soak in the muddy pools.
Once we got off the tram, we waited in the station for the safari ride. It was a strategic move for the management to place establishments in the tram station because, by this time, most visitors are catching their breaths. I enjoyed a cup of mango graham shake to rehydrate while waiting for our turn.
Excitement built up as we got inside the caged jeepney. The safari area was a protected space that gives the tigers right to move around in their own territory. In my head, I imagined our cart to go inside the safari area and be approached by tigers as soon as they see us. But the tigers needed some luring before they give in. The zookeeper, who also takes care of these ones, threw bits of meat to make the tiger get up from its relaxing bathtime and come near our jeepney.
If they are lucky, visitors will not have to smell like raw chicken meat after the Tiger Safari Ride. As for me, I sat next to the zookeeper who fed the tiger. Hence, the meat blood splashed over my legs and face (yikes) as the carnivore chewed on its treat. It was indeed an intimate fellowship with this one.
After the unique experience, the tram brought us to Croco Loco where we walked a trail crossing an artificial pond full of crocodiles. An interesting sight caught my attention: two crocodiles were seemingly fighting over another crocodile. My initial thought was the season of mating for these reptiles. The zoo staff on stand by confirmed it.
My group was still astounded by the natural ways of crocodiles so I decided to go ahead to the next stop, the Aeta’s Trail. The attraction looked like it was still being developed, but I stopped for a moment to check if my route was right. A zoo staff approached me and told me that an Aeta show will begin once the other tourists arrive. While waiting, I got to chat a bit with the Aetas who even offered me a glass of ice-cold Coke. Who could say no to that?
The Aeta show started with a bang, literally and figuratively. A group of natives danced their tribal dances along with the beat of the drum. Their short yet captivating performance involved shrill animal impressions of eagles and monkeys. (I wish they had more to share about their culture.)
It was interesting to see the human side of the jungle living. These men are pure Aetas and they live right in the middle of the forest inside the Zoobic Safari site. I have to say that this one’s my second favorite, following the Tiger Safari Ride.
Just a few steps is the Bone Muzooeum. It houses a collection of preserved bones and skins of animals such as wild goats, sheep, deer, ostriches, greyhound dogs, and crocodiles. Truth be told, I may have missed this one due to hurrying. Instead, what I saw was this big structure which seemed like a pathway leading to a wall. This marked the end of the tour. Next to the Bone Muzooeum is the parking lot.
For jungle lovers, this could be the closest thing to a safari trip you can experience here in the Philippines.
Guide to Zoobic Safar
Smoking is not allowed inside the park, except for the designated areas.
Animals are not to be teased but respected.
Never extend any part of your body inside the animal enclosure.
The tour will take about 2.5 hours to complete.
Bring an umbrella or a cap to protect you from direct sun exposure.
This trip was part of a media tour sponsored by Le Charme Suites. Itinerary and expense are not published.
P595 / child 3ft-4ft
Free of Charge 3 ft below
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Address: Group 1 Ilanin Forest, Forrest Adventure, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Contact Number: (047) 252-2272 ; (02) 847-0413
Operating hours: 8:00 am – 4pm ; Open daily from Monday-Sunday