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Vinpearl Safari Vinpearl Safari Review - 1st March 2017

Discussion in 'Vietnam' started by Chlidonias, 1 Mar 2017.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    See this thread for some general discussion and news items about the zoo's opening: Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc

    See this thread for FunkyGibbon's review of his visit a year ago: Vinpearl Safari Review - 1st February 2016

    It would pay to read FunkyGibbon's review before this one because most of what he said is still relevent and I don't want to be repeating too much of it.

    First up, the Vinpearl Safari still has an exhorbitantly expensive entry fee, at 500,000 Dong (about US$22), and I can't see the price coming down. Strangely, if you buy a ticket from any travel agent in town, the cost is the same (instead of being more expensive as agents usually are). There is a free shuttle which runs from the town of Duong Dong up to Vinpearl Land and Vinpearl Safari, which are more-or-less beside each other at the top of Phu Quoc Island. Handily, one of the bus stops was about two minute's walk from my hotel. I think you may need to have purchased a ticket for one of the attractions in advance to make sure of catching the bus, because they may not stop otherwise. The first bus starts at 8.30am and takes about an hour to get there. They come back from the zoo every hour between 1.30pm and 4.30pm. The zoo is open 9am to 4pm.

    I was really impressed with the staff. Without exception everyone was extremely friendly and smiling. I literally have not one bad thing to say about anybody I saw working there. There were a lot of staff around too. Often there would be someone stationed near the gibbons, for example, to make sure people weren't feeding or harrassing them.

    Vinpearl Safari is in two halves, a walking route around the zoo and a bus-ride around the safari. I spent five hours there in total. Half an hour was for the animal show, half an hour for the safari ride, and the rest walking.

    I don't normally go to the animal shows at zoos, but I it was starting soon after I arrived so I figured I'd see what was on offer. I whiled away some time watching the flamingoes - a mixed flock of greater and Caribbean in a large quite-attractive enclosure with little prospect for breeding - and then went and sat by the show arena where I was serenaded by deafening techno music. Once the music had been turned off and the show started it was fine. Almost all the displays were showing natural behaviours - tossing items to a toucan and hornbill to show how dextrous they are; a common palm civet showing how keen his sense of smell is (finding hidden food); flight displays with a red-shouldered hawk. My only real complaint about it would be that the commentary was entirely in Vietnamese. You could follow it by what the animals were doing of course, but it would be somewhat lacking for foreign tourists in general.

    ..........................................

    The safari ride was the last thing I did on my visit (it is at the top of the zoo beyond the walking route, although you could easily cut straight up there if you wanted to do it first). Nevertheless I'll discuss that now, because it is a self-contained area and so will be quicker than the main zoo area. The safari bus is included in the entry ticket price, they run every fifteen minutes and the whole ride takes half an hour. FunkyGibbon described the buses already - now they have little chain latches to secure the doors - and they aren't really all that suitable for the ride. On the other hand, the park is pretty quiet so it is likely the buses never have many people on board. Photography is really not an option through the windows either, or at least not if you want good photos. On my bus the guy doing the commentary used both Vietnamese and English so everyone knew what to look for, but the information given was brief.

    Like FunkyGibbon I found the bus ride a bit ordinary. I think they have tried to put too many enclosures (seven of them) into the ride so for the first half you seem to always be going through double gate systems which destroys a "safari" feel. There are now two tiger enclosures (one was previously water buffalo) and a lion enclosure. The lion enclosure had electric wires on either side of the road which I was curious about.

    All the safari enlosures are well-wooded - they have just put fences up around actual forest - but the big issue is that the ungulate enclosures are heavily overstocked. The first enclosure is for dozens of sika, sambar and blackbuck; the fifth (after the three for big cats) has white rhinos; the sixth is mainly African antelope and giraffes; the seventh is zebra and eland (and possibly wildebeest may still be there). The rhino enclosure is looking rather the worse for wear already, the African antelope one is even worse, and the zebra one is devastated - just churned dirt under the trees. I doubt even the trees will survive in the long run.

    To give an idea of numbers, there are 14 white rhinos in the fifth enclosure. The sixth enclosure currently has around twenty giraffes with another twenty-ish soon to be released in there, as well as lesser numbers of impala, waterbuck, gemsbok, eland and others. The seventh enclosure has 180 zebras in it. That's one hundred and eighty zebras. It is a ridiculous number, and they share it with at least tens of elands.

    The safari section is obviously popular with the general public - my bus had Vietnamese and Russians, and all of them thought it was great - and I dare say it is the major drawcard over the zoo part. It just feels very cramped though. The tiger enclosures are nice enough, although going through so many gates - especially when the enclosures themselves aren't that large - is like going in and out of prisons. The rhino enclosure also has a nice feel: you can see the vegetation is suffering but with only the rhinos in there it doesn't seem crowded. The last section - the one with all the zebras - is just nuts. The ground looks like it's a cattle-yard in a forest. Once the extra twenty or so giraffes come out of quarantine then the antelope-giraffe section is going to look just as crowded.

    ..........................................

    The walking route around the zoo is quite extensive. On the map it is further divided in two, one part labelled "Zoo" and the other labelled "Primate World".

    Despite the name, Primate World is not devoted solely to primates although I rather suspect that was the original intention. Instead two of the cages have tigers in them (there are quite a lot of tigers at Vinpearl), and further along is a series of small mammal cages containing coati, binturong, and Owston's palm civet. All the cages in Primate World are basically the same. They are mostly quite large and made of strong welded mesh with glass fronts (or, to be more accurate, usually thick perspex fronts). The interiors of the cages had a lot of branches or ropes but otherwise were pretty bare. Getting any sort of good photos was virtually impossible due to a combination of the sun's glare off the windows, the way perspex starts to cloud with age, and the thick mesh around the windows. I particularly wanted to get photos of the Indochinese silvered langurs but I could not. The cages for other species everywhere in the zoo were much the same, although often much more bare. Better than the cages in most Asian zoos, but still could do with more furniture at ground level.

    The big cat and ungulate enclosures were, as FunkyGibbon noted, reminiscent of Singapore Zoo's - smallish stages with mock-rock at the back and a moat at the front. Some of the moats were concreted, many were still just simple dug-out-of-the-earth moats. The soil here is red clay so it is pretty solid, but in the long-term they're not going to stand up to repeated rainy seasons. Most of the moats were also barriered off with electric wires to keep the animals back from them. Some of the ungulate pens were really tiny. The Arabian oryx for example - the group is now in a small pen rather than a cage as when FunkyGibbon visited (his photo is in the gallery) - or the scimitar-horned oryx; and other enclosures are just plain unsuitabke for the animals' lifestyle. I'm thinking in particular here of the klipspringers which are kept in a flat grassy paddock under trees with not a rock in sight. They shared their enclosure with, according to the sign, blue and grey duikers. I did eventually see the blue duikers, a pair sitting at the back (I had thought they'd be much larger!) but of the grey duikers there was no evidence. Then there's the herd of sable antelope which are still in a big cat cage, seemingly since the zoo opened.

    Animals get moved around here all the time though. Since FunkyGibbon's visit there have been numerous movements (and stock changes - compare his list to my list below), and there were even differences between the paper map I got at the entrance and the signboard maps (unusually the signboard maps were actually more up-to-date than the paper map!). Two changes which I noticed from FunkyGibbon's review and photos, the rhinos in the zoo area have been replaced with common hippos (so now all the rhinos are in the safari area) and the wild pigs have disappeared with the kangaroos taking over their enclosure.

    .........................................

    Most of the birds at the zoo are contained in three walk-through aviaries, apart for the huge flock of ostriches in the safari area, the flamingo flock at the entrance, and "Swan Lake" by the flamingoes which has swans and domestic waterfowl. The walk-through aviaries aren't made of proper metal aviary mesh but rather mesh made out of thin nylon rope. It must have been a lot cheaper than metal mesh but I can't see it lasting in the tropics. The roofs are already sagging quite obviously from loads of leaf-fall.

    Aviary number one (they are actually labelled one to three) has waterbirds - lots of lesser whistling ducks, as well as common shelducks, northern shovellers, garganeys, mandarin ducks, coots, painted storks, and great and cattle egrets. Little egret was labelled but not present.

    Aviary number two is the one FunkyGibbon noted as being packed with birds. From his photos it was relatively bare then - now it is quite thick with vegetation and looks great. There are still loads of birds in there, but of just a few species. There were red-billed blue magpies flying everywhere, and lots of hill mynahs, common mynahs and white-vented mynahs. I also saw a couple of black-throated laughing thrushes and black-collared starlings, and singles of turtle dove and spot-necked dove. The lone signboard (with only six species on it) said there were Chinese hwamei, red-whiskered bulbul and Eurasian blackbird as well, but they are all quite obvious species so I don't think they are in there. None of the smaller birds like mannikins and white-eyes which were photographed in here by FunkyGibbon were here either - I suspect the magpies probably ate them all.

    Aviary number three is pretty much wasted on peafowl. The only birds in here that aren't peafowl were chickens and a ring-necked pheasant. The signboard inside the aviary said there were several species of parakeets as well. I was looking for them (I could hear them), and found that they were (now?) all housed in a side-aviary made of metal mesh. I guess they found that parrots can bite through nylon mesh. In this small aviary were Indian ringnecks, Alexandrines, plum-headed parakeets, a few Fischer's lovebirds, three lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos, and a pair of yellow-naped amazons.

    Side-note: just by aviary number three is the Giraffe Restaurant which would be DavidBrown's favourite. The dining area overlooks a small giraffe enclosure - the giraffes can actually stick their heads into the restaurant, and you can feed them here for 30,000 Dong - and while I was in there a flying dragon (Draco) zipped past and landed on a nearby tree trunk. Sadly the food is just well-overpriced fast food.

    .........................................

    Summary:

    Vinpearl Safari is still brand-new - not much more than a year old. It has its faults, some of which are severe like the overcrowding of ungulates in the safari area or the placing of other ungulates in tiny pens in the zoo area. Some are of less concern from the animals' point of view, like the potential for the unlined moats to eventually degrade. But it is one of the best zoos in Asia, and I really think the owners wanted to build a world-class zoo. That has to be commended. Some of the issues are probably more from trying to rush the opening and now they're stuck with them. But then the push to just import big numbers of animals when there simply isn't the room is really not appropriate at all. And then there are all the stories about the numbers of animals which have died, which have no doubt been exaggerated or glossed depending on which side you work on.

    From the visitor side, this is mostly a very good zoo indeed. Even when the cages aren't quite large enough the use of windows immediately mollifies the "cage" effect and makes it look more acceptable to the zoo visitor. The area is pleasant to walk around with lots of trees and excellent staff. The entry fee is way too high but it is Phu Quoc Island where everything is relatively expensive.

    I do have some concerns that there will be pressure to further divide up the zoo area to add in more animals and everything will end up in smaller and smaller cages, but time will tell if that happens.

    For now I'd say this is a zoo definitely worth visiting.

    ..........................................

    End note, just a personal thing from the zoo: I don't very often see "new" species when I go to zoos in Asia. Maybe one here and one there. At Vinpearl Safari "new" species for me were Owston's Palm Civet, Indochinese Silvered Langur, Klipspringer, Blue Duiker, Impala and Thomson's Gazelle.
     
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    SPECIES LISTS:


    MAMMALS:

    Red Kangaroo

    African Lion (including white lions) - in the zoo and safari
    "Bengal" Tigers (including white tigers) - in the zoo and safari
    [I didn't notice the Indochinese Tigers of FunkyGibbon's visit - all the signs I saw said Bengal]
    Leopard
    Serval
    Caracal
    Bat-eared Fox
    Sun Bear
    Asiatic Black Bear
    Striped Hyaena
    *Small-clawed Otter (in the animal show)
    *Common Palm Civet (in the animal show)
    Owston's Palm Civet
    Binturong
    Coati

    Asian Elephant

    White Rhinoceros - only in the safari
    Common Zebra - only in the safari

    Giraffe - only in the safari

    Dromedary (Arabian Camel)

    Common Hippopotamus

    Common Eland - only in the safari
    Common Waterbuck - only in the safari
    Nyala - only in the safari (and only one female seen)
    Impala - only in the safari
    Thomson's Gazelle - only in the safari (only one seen and I'm not sure if I have the species correct)
    Klipspringer
    Blue Duiker
    *Grey Duiker was signed but I didn't see any
    Greater Kudu
    Bongo
    Sable Antelope
    Gemsbok - in the zoo and safari
    Arabian Oryx
    Scimitar-horned Oryx
    Blackbuck - only in the safari

    Sika - only in the safari
    Sambar - only in the safari
    Common Muntjac

    Ankole Cattle - only in the safari
    Gaur

    Sheep

    Malayan Crested Porcupine (including albinos)

    Buff-cheeked Gibbon (labelled as gabriellae so presumably the Southern)
    Pileated Gibbon
    Indochinese Silvered Langur (germaini)
    Crab-eating Macaque
    Northern Pig-tailed Macaque
    Stump-tailed Macaque
    Hamadryas Baboon
    Olive Baboon
    Squirrel Monkey
    Ring-tailed Lemur
    Black and White Ruffed Lemur

    **Species no longer present since FunkyGibbon's visit a year ago:
    *Wild Pig are not present (their enclosure now has kangaroos in it), and neither are warthog which were presumably supposed to be arriving (see FunkyGibbon's review thread, post #6). Neither species is depicted on the map now.
    *Blue Wildebeest - these may have still been in with the zebra, but I can't imagine how I would have missed seeing them.
    *Malayan Tapir (this wasn't on FunkyGibbon's species list, but it is pictured on the current map - however the enclosure now houses a cramped herd of Scimitar-horned Oryx)
    *Water Buffalo - no sign of these in the safari (where they were is now another tiger enclosure, but they are still pictured in that spot on the current map)

    **Chimpanzee and Orangutan are both featured in photos on the zoo map-pamphlet but are not at the zoo.


    BIRDS:
    (Most of these were in three walk-through aviaries)

    Ostrich - only in the safari

    Black Swan
    Mute Swan
    Chinese Geese (domestic)
    Greylag Geese (domestic)
    Muscovy Duck (domestic)
    Lesser Whistling Duck
    Common Shelduck
    Northern Shoveller
    Garganey
    Mandarin Duck

    Greater Flamingo
    Caribbean Flamingo

    Painted Stork
    *Sacred Ibis (in the animal show)
    *African Spoonbill (in the animal show)
    Cattle Egret
    Great Egret
    *[Little Egret was signed in an aviary but not present]

    Common Coot

    *Red-shouldered Hawk (in the animal show)
    *[Bald Eagle was shown in the show on an advertisement film on the free shuttle-bus]

    Common Peafowl
    Domestic Chickens
    Ring-necked Pheasant

    Indian Ringneck
    Alexandrine
    Plum-headed Parakeet
    Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
    Yellow-naped Amazon
    Fischer's Lovebird
    *Gold and Blue Macaw (in the animal show)
    *Scarlet Macaw (in the animal show)
    *Green-winged Macaw (in the animal show)

    *domestic Doves (in the animal show)
    Spot-necked Dove
    Turtle Dove

    *Great Hornbill (in the animal show)
    *Toco Toucan (in the animal show)

    Black-throated Laughing Thrush
    Black-collared Starling
    Common Hill Mynah
    Common Mynah
    White-vented Mynah
    Red-billed Blue Magpie


    REPTILES:

    African Spurred Tortoise
    Asian Giant Pond Turtle
    Yellow-headed Temple Turtle

    Siamese Crocodile

    *albino Burmese Python (in the animal show)

    Nile Monitor
    *Savannah Monitor (in the animal show)
    *Bearded Dragon (in the animal show)
     
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  3. kiang

    kiang Well-Known Member

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    Any of the species on show there a life tick for you Chli?
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    these ones (in the last paragraph of the review):
    Owston's Palm Civet, Indochinese Silvered Langur, Klipspringer, Blue Duiker, Impala and Thomson's Gazelle.

    I really like Klipspringers! So pointy-footed.

    (And the Thomson's Gazelle may not have been that species, because I couldn't see it properly).
     
  5. kiang

    kiang Well-Known Member

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    So you did, apologies.
    Any snifters of okapi coming from S Africa or any wild ass?
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I couldn't find out about okapi (the people I asked didn't know anything). There's no wild ass there - I can't see them getting Indian wild ass (khur) though, that would just be too difficult.
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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