Smitten by my first trip to Taiwan in June 2012 (and also losing my gamble to the wife), I’ve been pestering her (yes she handles all our trip itineraries and bookings) to plan a trip back to ‘Formosa’ – the Portugese name for Taiwan, which means ‘Beautiful Island’ – a name that doesn’t even do justice to the region and her people.
Our maxim when we travel is the ‘3Es’ – Experience, Exposure and Education. We travel so that we open the pages of what our world has to offer in terms of culture, heritage and natural scenery. Taiwan fits this bill completely. Not only does it offer visitors a diverse range of experiences from its rich geography, it is also safe, modern and clean. Her people are civic-minded and warm. Our visits to Taiwan have convinced us that Singapore’s service standards have much room for improvements. Anyway, back to our trip.
The first stop for our 2nd visit to Taiwan in December 2013 was the Leofoo Resort (關西六福莊) located in Hsinchu County, Taiwan. It’s a resort with a difference – built around a safari (yes, you read correctly) with free ranging lions, rhinos, zebras, camels, ostriches and giraffes…you name it. Yes, to some extent, we can’t get enough of our safari experience at Bali so now, we’re back Safari-ing! What a way to start!
We arrived into Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at the crack of dawn and our helpful taxi driver, Mr. Hung Lee sent us directly to the resort. As our room was not ready for check in till 2pm, we took the free shuttle service to the Leofoo Village Theme Park (六福村主題遊樂園) – a family themed park with rides that are suited for young children. It is a small-scale amusement park located near the Leofoo Resort. Though it does not have rides pack high on G-forces, it has a mid-sized petting zoo and more than 30 fun rides and activities divided into 4 theme areas, “Wild West”, “South Pacific”, “Arabian Kingdom” and “African Safari”. We spent 4 happy hours there, took a quick lunch before taking the shuttle bus back to the resort.
With big, clean and comfortable rooms and a safari view (that’s the biggest selling point of Leofoo resort), you will see giraffes peeking into your room, rhinos sauntering past your window amidst packs of pink flamingos sun tanning in the distance. Africa? No, welcome to Taiwan. At the time of our booking, the Congo Rooms (with 2 double beds) were already fully sold, so we topped up to book the Kenya Greenery Room which comes with a loft (3 double beds altogether, sleeps 6) and views of the safari. Check out the sights from our balcony!
During our stay, we paid for several optional day tours and activities. First, lemur feeding. Totally safe and guided by the animal warden, our intrepid 5 y/o gamely and excitedly jumped at the chance to go into the Lemur enclosure to feed, mingle and get up close to the Lemurs for 30mins. They are a frisky bunch which jumped onto her ranger hat and shoulders to snatch the food but she handled it calmly and bravely. That, is our girl.
We also paid for a ride in a private Safari 4WD right into the habitat of these free ranging animals! Our trek began with the feeding the rams and sheep but slowly we crept closer to the enclosure with the lions, bisons, zebras etc. It was enjoyable for children to see these animals within meters, right before their eyes!
A year ago, we visited Mara River Safari Resort in Bali, which was more rustic. Leofoo Resort, in contrast, has a more commercial feel and has the trappings of a typical touristy Taiwanese resort – clean, safe and child friendly. If you want a unique safari experience for the kids without having to go to Africa, then this is a good alternative. It’s an educational, enriching and a memorable start to our 2nd Taiwan vacation.
Dave’s Survival Tips to Leofoo Resort, Guanshi
1. Plan your flight timings well – The resort admits guests only after 2pm and the drive from Taoyuan Airport to the resort takes only slightly over an hour. If your flight arrives in the early morning (like ours did), have your breakfast at the airport, arrange for your driver to pick you up and send you direct to the resort, deposit your bags with the concierge then purchase the theme park tickets, catch the shuttle to the theme park (5 mins ride) and enjoy the theme park with your family first before heading back for check in. This will maximize your stay there. There is a small café at the resort for your lunch and dinner.
2. Bring a camera with a long zoom – Because you can get quite close to these animals, having a long zoom will enable you to get that rare chance to photograph their features up close. Also, if your child is doing the Lemur visit, a long zoom will allow you to catch the action up close.
3. Repellent? – We brought them along and I don’t remember using them as this safari resort is more ‘desert’ than it is ‘jungle’ (unlike the Mara River Safari Resort in Bali).
4. Taxi Driver – One thing that will make or break your Taiwan vacation is the quality of your personal taxi driver. Reliable and popular taxi drivers are often booked out way in advance so plan your holidays ahead and book them early. You can reach our driver, Mr. Hung Lee via his FB page – Tour Taiwan.
5. Taiwan is chilly in December as it’s Winter. Do bring along your cold wear.
Leofoo Resort Guanshi 關西六福莊
Leofoo Village Theme Park 六福村主題遊樂園
* ‘Banana’ – a colloquial term used in Singapore to describe someone who is Chinese by descent but very westernized in his thinking (Yellow on the outside, White on the inside). To read another parent blogger’s review of the Leofoo Resort, pop over to our friend, Sengkang Babies’ Taiwan Post. Stay tuned for more Taiwan Trip Reports coming up!