In a city that is always striving to have the biggest, fastest and best of everything, Dubai’s City Walk Phase II is now home to an indoor vertical rainforest known as The Green Planet. Having opened on September 1st, the latest tourist attraction in the city boasts a glass bio-dome (that looks more like a folded sheet of origami paper than an actual dome) recreating the ecosystem of a tropical rainforest.
Visitors are taken on an expedition through underwater chambers and up into the elevated canopy, to explore life within this enchanting natural world. With birds and other critters roaming freely, The Green Planet is a fully immersive experience that is likely to install you with a renewed sense of wonder and a greater appreciation of the natural world.
Stepping into the oldest ecosystem in the world (a first for the MENA region), visitors are invited to learn about the delicate balance of nature, surrounded by over 3,000 species of plants an animals in what can only be described as a hybrid of zoo and botanical garden.
The educational and recreational facility is a living and breathing environment, with adventures beginning below ground in the flooded forest. A cave-like environment of narrow chambers that is home to a selection of aquatic animals such as fish, turtles and graceful stingrays. The aquarium shows the kinds of animals that you are likely to find in an underwater tropical environment and acts as an atmospheric welcome to The Green Planet.
Gazing skywards through a narrow crevice, guests can admire the branches of a large tree fanning outwards and it’s this 25 meter high, man-made and life-sustaining tree (the largest in the world) that acts at the focal point of the entire exhibit.
It is here that guests are invited to board a lift that will take them four levels up into the treetop to experience life in the canopy. The ascent takes a matter of seconds and as the doors open into the bright sunlight, a cacophony of birdsong fills the air, as a variety of bird species fly overhead and swoop around. Although a fully immersive experience, Green Planet doesn’t allow interaction or touching of the animals… unless one decides to land on you!
Being at such an elevation, allows guests a greater appreciation of the forest environment and the flora and fauna that dwell within it. The canopy of the forest is the area that absorbs the majority of the sunlight and it is here that you will find free-roaming parrots and a fascinating exhibit on bees, plus a complex trail of leaf cutter ants behind a perspex wall.
The tree (although manmade) is a fascinating piece of engineering and each branch has been planted with natural elements that will take grip and spread across the structure, over the course of time. The Green Planet is a work in progress and will develop naturally to create more of the green and lush vegetation associated with the forest and enhance the habitats of the animals that dwell within.
Circumnavigating this vertical rainforest is a relatively stress free task, as a large spiral staircase circles downwards towards the forest floor. On route you have the option to clamber across rope bridges or narrow wooden walkways and venture inside a treehouse. All of which are great fun for the kids and functions as an educational playground.
The climate inside the bio-dome has been specifically designed to support the plants and wildlife that are housed within and with humidity levels set to 70 percent, the tropical temperature floats at a satisfying 28°C. The knowledgeable staff inform us that depending on what time of day, or the season, that visitors can expect different behaviours from the animals and their interaction with guests.
From life in the canopy, we descend into the mid-story or middle layer of the rainforest. Recognisable by large leaves that have absorbed the sunlight and respective nutrients from the canopy above. The branches are not so tightly packed here, thus providing the animals more space to move around and it’s here that you can experience the fantastic toucan’s as they hop between branches with their large and distinguishable orange beaks. Make a point to look out for the shy and nocturnal porcupines that are located on wooden platforms in the mid-level.
With each exhibit being sourced from responsible breeders, Eric Hupperts (a Californian wildlife expert) recently told The National newspaper: “This is a living classroom an experience where anyone can learn about tropical wildlife… This tree represents how you would see a real tree in its natural environment, with vines and dripping figs… Within 10 years they will take hold and completely cover the artificial tree. It will be constantly changing.”
Heading back down to ground level, pasts a huge cascading waterfall that feeds the flooded area below, we arrived on the forest floor. A humid, quiet and altogether darker place where the light is less likely to reach. Down here are exhibits that display free-roaming and elusive sloths (asleep in the tress during our visit), vibrantly coloured poison arrow frogs and a green viper. For those of a squeamish nature, we are pleased to note that all insects, reptiles and amphibians are kept behind glass. Narrow waterways criss-cross the forest floor and will require some careful navigation, before passing through the waterfall tunnel and out into the gift shop and associated cafe area.
The Green Planet is an exceptional place to spend an hour or two and makes a great change from taking your children to the mall. Not only is it a fun experience but also one that is educational and interesting, as you are invited to uncover the important role that rainforests play in the future of our planet. This is more than just a collection of exhibits. It’s a living museum that is likely to be popular destination for school trips throughout the Emirates.
The Green Planet is open from 10am – 10pm daily, is fully wheelchair accessible and costs 95 AED for adults and 70 AED for children (aged 2 – 12 years).
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.