Living in Jakarta can be overwhelming at times. Exotic bars, glamorous malls, fancy cars and world-class restaurants, all surrounded by horrendous traffic and abject poverty. A 2-hour drive away, Taman Safari offers a great chance to escape from the craziness of Jakarta and enter a strange man-made animal world. Taman translates to park in Bahasa Indonesia (the National language).
As the name suggests, Taman Safari begins with a safari. However, this is no ordinary safari. Strangely enough, it starts off with the purchase of a few kilos of carrots and bananas. An elephant induced traffic jam leaves you with no doubt as to what the carrots and bananas are meant for. All the animals have connected the dots between tourists and food.
Progress is slow. Fortunately, the fascination of having a zebra’s mouth pressed against a car window or an elephant snout in your face never gets too old.
Once you’re done with the vegetarian section, all windows are required to be tightly shut. The residents of the next section would choose you over the carrots. Lions, tigers, bears and rhinos either glance suspiciously at the passing cars or ignore them completely. That probably depends on whether lunch has been served or not. The lush green landscape does well to disguise the fact that this is just a zoo with a drive through cage.
You would assume that boring half-asleep animals in cages would never be able to match up to a carrot safari. But then comes the central exhibit – a liger (cross between a male lion and a tigress). Ligers grow larger than tigers and lions and exist only in captivity since the territories of lions and tigers do not overlap. And all of a sudden, the zoo’s interesting again. Next comes the petting park where all tourists go wild since they can now pose for a picture with either a tiger or lion cub. The cubs are trained to smile for the camera with a stick. I believe that this practice is extremely cruel since the primal instinct of these hunting animals is to either attack or run away from humans.
A wooden walkway through a large football stadium sized cage allows you to get pretty close to a wide range of birds in all shapes and sizes. Exotic parrots, one legged cranes and weird orange beaked birds are all on display along with a bat cave. Unfortunately the thrills of the zoo and safari ensure that the bird park experience can never match up.
And if all THAT wasn’t enough to make an interesting day, Taman Safari has various shows on offer as well – elephants that paint and dolphins that walk on water. They’ve even gone one step further to cater for the non-animal lovers with a Wild West show and a motorcycle globe of death (that’s not as morbid as it promises to be).
If you catch yourself in Jakarta with some time to spare, Taman Safari’s sure to entertain, amuse and bewilder any seasoned traveler. Besides that, squeeze all this stuff into a day and you’ll need a week to recover. Phew.