You’ve probably heard of Nofa Resorts before and those following me on instagram and snapchat will already be familiar with the residents of Nofa safari park. This is the place where you get to see giraffes in Saudi Arabia! It’s such an incredible sight to see giraffes in the beautiful red sand dunes. Nofa resort is a hidden gem outside Riyadh where you can go an an “African safari” and visit their wildlife center, a unique experience in Saudi Arabia. Nofa safari is a great way to spend some time out of the city and the animals are really well looked after.
Nofa safari park used to be accessible only through corporate visits, VIP bookings and events. I’ve visited Nofa on several occasions during these events and private visits, always hoping they’d open this amazing place for the public one day. Starting from November 2017 this dream came true and the Nofa resort has finally opened their safaris for the public!
We were so thrilled to be the first ever group to try out their safari tour for public this November!
The Nofa resort area is massive and actually consists of several different resorts one being the safari park and wildlife center, which is now open to public. The rest of Nofa resort, the Golf Club & resort, the Equestrian resort and the lake area still remain closed from public. To see those places you’d need to book a private tour with Nofa or attend one of the events they hold there from time to time. To keep up to date with these events, follow Blue Abaya on Facebook where updates will be posted. The good news is a Radisson hotel is being built inside Nofa, which would mean it the future it’s going to become even more accessible to public.
How to Go On Nofa Safari?
To go on the Nofa safari tour you have to book in advance directly with the Nofa Resort by sending them a message. The price of the safari tour is 100 sar per person (plus VAT), safari prices are same for both adults and kids. (Babies under 2 are free). They accept cash payments only.
Contact info to book your safari and google map location of Nofa resort at the end of this post! The entrance fee includes the safari game drive and the wildlife center tour.
Tour timings are from 9 30 am to 3 am SATURDAYS and the tour lasts about 2 hours. You’ll first be taken on the game drive through the safari park then on to the wildlife center.
Drive to the resort which is about an hours drive (90km) from Riyadh toward Mekkah on the highway. Park cars in the visitor center parking lot and from there you pay the entrance fee ( cash only!) and get your wristbands. Buses will take the visitors on tours around the resort, first stop at the safari rest house where you’ll get some complimentary coffee, tea and water before your game drive starts.
The safari experience starts with open-top vehicle rides around the safari park on a set trail. There are over 700 species in the safari park, many of which are classified as vulnerable, endangered or even extinct species from the wild. You’ll see zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, wildebeests, gazelles, ostriches, antelopes, pygmy hippos and the endangered Arabian Ibex and Oryx, native to Arabian peninsula.
To this list of animals some people will say, what are giraffes zebras ostriches and hippos, animals familiar from African continent doing in Saudi Arabia? Well what’s important to note is that most of the species living at the Nofa safari park have at some point in time in fact been inhabiting the Arabian peninsula. Only in the last century or so were ostriches hunted down to extinction for example.
Archaeologists working on excavation sites in various location in Saudi Arabia have uncovered fossils of hippo, bovine and equine species. They identified Hartebeasts, Roan antelope, cheetahs and even elephants among many other species in the deserts of Arabia. These animals used to roam the areas called ‘paleolakes’ which you can read more about from the fascinating Green Arabia project.
More concrete evidence of the existence of these species on on Arabian soil comes from the hundreds of rock art panels around Saudi Arabia depicting these species being hunted by man. You can find rock art all over Saudi Arabia showing ostriches, oryx, gazelles, ibex, wild asses, bovines, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, wolves, hyenas and many other animals familiar from Nofa. You can see some of this magnificent rock art at the Jubbah archeological site in Ha’il.
Nofa Wildlife Center
After the safari drive, you’ll be taken to the wildlife center where you can interact with the animals under the supervision of the professional Nofa staff. Most of the guys working there are vets and professional animal handlers. It’s apparent that each and every one of the people working there really care about the animals, which, lets be honest is not always a given in Saudi Arabia. This is why Nofa is definitely a better option than the Riyadh zoo! Nofa is setting a great example for all other zoos and wildlife reserves in Saudi Arabia; treat animals with respect, kindness and care, keep the park clean and train your staff!
Inside the wildlife center, they have all sorts of reptiles, and you will be shocked to hear that yes they do live in the Saudi deserts! Such as the sand boa, which although entirely harmless to humans, can disappear into the sand in like 2 seconds and you will not know it’s there! Which makes the thought of sitting on a dune next time unnerving.. Am I sitting on a snake?!
How about the yellow scorpion, which digs holes in the rocky areas and comes out to hunt at night. They are poisonous but thankfully not deadly (other than to children and elderly). These things are really good to learn!
Vipers and the freakish-looking dubb lizards are something I would gladly like to avoid when out and about in the desert. On the other hand, the adorable desert gerbils and the cutest little hedgehogs ( Desert hedgehogs species) are actually quite common in Saudi Arabia, we’ve been lucky to spot these in the desert and I’ve even seen hedgehogs in the parks in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter. My son insisted to hold one and the hedgehog rolled up into a ball when he held it. They also had some porcupines, hares, guinea pigs ( ok these are definitely not native species) and lizzards.
They also have a variety of birds you can interact with such as a friendly parrot, owls and falcons which you can hold. For the brave adults you might get a chance to pet a cheetah named Yaz. As a cat lover, I absolutely loved this experience. This beautiful creature was eating some raw meat off the plate on my lap while I got to stroke it and admire her beautiful coat up close. She was purring so loud, the sweetest thing. They did not want to burden the cheetah too much and limited the interaction with her so this activity is clearly only available if the cheetah is in the mood. Naturally, we can’t expect a wild animal to be sitting around all day just to be fed or expect it to behave OK if hundreds of people come to pet it. We were lucky because no other people came that day.
Outside they also have a crocodile which my kids were convinced was a fake one because this thing did not move one bit. It just sat there with its mouth wide open like a statue. My daughter innocently wanted to check the authenticity of this crocodile statue but thank god her hand did not fit through the fence because the croc snapped its jaws shut when she approached much to her amusement.
We had so much fun my kids did not want to leave and my daughter requested to come work there as an animal caretaker. One day maybe she will do just that :) The only sad looking animal we saw at Nofa was this Zebra. He might be the only of his kind at Nofa, and being a Grevy’s zebra, not many of his kind are left in the whole world. Maybe he is longing for a companion, and that’s why his eyes look so sad.
I can highly recommend this trip especially for families with kids, a great learning experience! It’s clean, well looked after and the animals are all healthy (not drugged up like in some places just for people to take selfies with etc) The animals are not in cages, they have proper enclosures and room to move around. They have shady areas where they can seek shelter from the sun and other weather conditions. The safari drive actually only takes you to one small part of the entire area that the animals are able to roam in. This also means that some of the animals might not be visible during your game drive. Many of the animals come to feed in the mornings and late afternoons, when the light is also best for photos.
Pro tip for photographers: the vehicle will be moving at a swift pace most of the time, only slowing down slightly. Be prepared to take handheld shots from a moving vehicle! Bring your best zoom lens.
You will not find anything like the Nofa safari experience currently in Saudi Arabia.
I’d recommend to take some reading like a safari book of animals. I’d definitely take one with me if I were to go one more time on this safari with my children. On the actual drive around the safari park they don’t really explain much about the animals and the driver does not stop a lot ( also a challenge for photographers!). Having been on “real” safaris in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, I was already familiar with all the different types of antelope species in Africa, but for someone who comes for the first time on a safari, it would be useful to have more information.
My improvement suggestion for Nofa Resort: More information about the animals in the safari park. Either by training the drivers to know the names of different species or by making flyers / info posts where each animal is featured.
-Please note that this activity is available for families (no single males).
-This is also an abaya free zone for those who wish to remove them.
-Don’t bring any food to the safari. Coffee and tea, water are complimentary.
-Restaurant at Golf resort available for lunch after safari tour (bookings necessary)
-Do not litter!
-Children of all ages are welcome.
-Bathrooms can be found at the safari park visitor center.
-Arrive 30 minutes prior to your safari trip departure time.
-Reserve at least one hour each way for the drive out to Nofa.
-Bring cash for all payments
Nofa Contact Info
966 59 325 5918
Exit 857, New Mecca Highway
P.O. 66223, Riyadh 11576
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