Sleep in a zoo!
How about spending a magical night in an African-style bivouac camp, among zebras, wildebeest and antelopes? All in a superb tent lodge with an exotic meal and a private mini-safari... This is what's on offer at Planète Sauvage, a zoo like no other in Nantes. We gave it a try.
A zoo just for us
"It's incredible, it really feels like you're in the bush!". Sylvie's eyes are wide as she gazes at the great plain that surrounds the camp that has become our home after a little private safari in a truck. This began when the park closed in the late afternoon, when visitors normally leave. A rare privilege that allowed us to watch the keepers bring in the animals as Rémy, our guardian angel for the evening, explained what was happening. "Did you hear that? The hippopotamus, one of the most dangerous animals in the world!". After a little detour to the Mongolia bivouac to drop off the members of the group who opted for this destination (1), our adventure could get started in Tanzania.
(1) Planète Sauvage offers two bivouac options, in Mongolia or Tanzania. Each has its own unique qualities, with varying décor and animals.
Surrounded by wild animals
Around our base camp, zebras, wildebeest, antelopes and large kudus frolic peacefully on the sun-speckled grass, separated from our camp of spacious tent lodges by wooden barriers. "This time, it feels like we're in a cage," whispers Romain between two clicks of his camera button. If we listen hard, we can hear the lions and elephants a few hundred yards away. It must be said that Planète Sauvage is not like other zoos: its 150 species of animals grow up in semi-freedom over 198 acres, among the cars discreetly picking a path around them to take a closer look. It's amazingly immersive.
Chatting to the guide around an African meal
It's time to head to the wooden refectory for an aperitif. The one-day adventurers have a tonne of questions which Rémy, a true devotee, is all too happy to answer. "Can a giraffe kill a lion?" "Of course – although they seem fragile, these amazing animals weigh 1.6 tonnes on average!" "How do elephants stand up?" "Why do antelopes breathe out of their noses?" "Have you worked here long?" "How do the keepers protect themselves in the tiger enclosure?" "What are we eating?" It's really true. The starter will be chorba, a vegetable soup from the Maghreb that is cooking as we speak over the wood fire, followed by thiéboudiène, a Senegalese fish dish, before beef skewers and thiakry, a yoghurt and semolina-based dessert. As the zebus snort around the neighbouring watering hole, guests help to prepare the little feast that we finish by torchlight.
A night by the fire, under the stars
"I feel totally disorientated, it reminds me of a journey in Rajasthan," murmurs Martine. Céline and Sébastien have "come from the Paris suburbs to take a walk on the wild side". The adventure brings together a dozen explorers, including four retirees from Bordeaux. "There are sometimes children, too," says Rémy. "It's a magical experience for them." Questions abound continue at the table, with our guide telling us about the terrible "Joe the wildebeest", who chased anyone who comes onto his territory to tear them to shreds, as well as the start of the bark and the story of the fearless grandma who got out of her car in the tiger enclosure to relieve an "urgent need". Our lively conversation continues around the fire, and we're glued to our barrel or log seats under the stars. Midnight is nearly here and the audience gradually retires to bed as the last embers die out...
The adventure continues the next day!
We wake up in a good mood, despite a night slightly disturbed, for some, by the distant roars and trumpets. A quick shower in the fully-equipped bathrooms installed on-site for participants who, having hurriedly eaten breakfast, have a little wander round the camp. It's time to pack our bags and get back to the truck. To prolong the fun a little more, spending the night in the camp allows visitors to explore the park's other delights the following day: the Chemin de Brousse (Bush Route), the Cité Marine (Marine City) and its dolphin shows, the Temple de la Jungle (Temple of the Jungle) and the Sentier des Incas (Inca Trail). There's also the safari, of course, which some lucky visitors can repeat at their own pace by car with priority access during the morning, before "normal" visitors arrive. A final privilege provided by this unique experience that proves, as Martine would say, the "you don't need to go very far to travel far!"