The time: eleven o’clock at night. The place: the Ramat Gan Safari. Four human couples, including myself ventured out into the dark night. Soon, another young couple joined us, followed by others. A veritable Noah’s Ark. We all climbed aboard the park’s train and set out on a midnight safari.
In fact, a late night train ride is a perfect way to avoid the summer heat. After a warning about staying quiet and turning off our cell phones, we were on our way.
At NIS 85 a person, the midnight safari is a completely different experience than a daytime visit to the Safari in the Ramat Gan humidity. First of all, we had the park to ourselves. Yet the most notable distinction was the train ride among the animals.
We didn’t have to inch forward in an endless line of cars, and there were no traffic jams caused by overly friendly ostriches or by a rhinoceros with a propensity for getting too close to the road.
Our tour began with the slumbering ostriches, but the real action didn’t start until we reached the hippopotamuses, the rhinoceroses, the zebras, the gazelles, the addaxes, and the antelopes. Although we occasionally encountered sleeping animals, most of them were awake and active. There was plenty to see whenever the train would stop.
For example, we caught the single male gazelle, the lord of his ten member harem, on a bathroom break. We were not deterred, and our expert guide Sharon proved quite adept at identifying the animals and pointing out their unique features.
Everything looks different at night, and we found that to be true during our midnight safari as well. Visibility was extremely limited, except where Sharon and his helper directed their flashlights. When they spot lit the hippopotamus – while noting that this is the site’s most dangerous animal – that’s all we saw.
All the animals at the Ramat Gan Safari are quite used to humans and their vehicles. “Can that be what I think it is?” the guide assumed amazement. We all peered at what turned out to be an ostrich nest on the side of the trail. Nine large eggs piled into a ditch evince multiple cries of wonder.
My cynical self told me that someone placed them there for our benefit; I agreed that it was too good to be true. (Maybe they should have booked me on the singles tour.)
“Now we are about to enter the lion enclosure,” the guide solemnly intoned. A slight tremor of excitement and fear rippled through the train; apparently, several riders were under the impression that we would be going into the lions’ compound in open train cars. In fact, the park’s insurance company insists that the lions be caged at night (in their sleeping cells).
At almost midnight, the merry group alit from the cars and stepped gingerly into the King of the Beast’s “den”. The nine large cats were crowded into a very small cage, fairly close to the bars. Presumably, you have never been that near to a lion.
The Safari’s marketing department promised unusual content; there was much talk of love: animal love, classic love, love of women, ibex courtship rituals, and much more in the same vein. However, the tour was somewhat disappointing in this respect.
Except for several brief sexual references, such as the duration of rhinoceros sex (at least an hour and a half) and the penis size of the hippo (embarrassingly tiny) and the zebra (a member of the horse family, let’s not forget), the guides didn’t spend too much time speaking about animal romance.
We passed a pair of eagles and then moved on to the birthing area, where we found a bunch of baby animals. Our guide discussed assorted species’ maternal behaviors, and we headed over to the next stop.
The zoo was dark and empty, and half of the group couldn’t find their way from the bathrooms to the stuffed animal room. We were treated to a short lecture on taxidermy, followed by coffee, cookies and cold drinks, and then asked to fill out a feedback form.
On our way out, we slowed down near a mother hippo and her young calf but didn’t stop. We passed water birds and a rhinoceros, and then the tour came to an end.
Several weeks ago, the safari spokeswoman revealed why the lions are caged at night. “For that, you have to come to the safari at night,” she declared. She’s right. One can receive logical and convincing explanations over the phone, but some things can only be seen with one’s eyes. And the caged lions’ eyes, I’m sorry to say, appeared sad. Very sad.
To arrange a nighttime safari, call 1800-38-28-29(Avialable in Israel)
For more information: www.safari.co.il
Reproduced with permission: Ynet