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All you want to know about Orbi Dubai

Dubai is not short of attractions, but a new indoor nature museum called Orbi is hoping to take things up a notch. Officially launched on May 9 at the City Centre Mirdif, the edutainment concept is the result of a partnership between game-maker Sega and BBC Worldwide, and features cutting-edge footage produced by the BBC’s natural history unit. Orbi Dubai is the first of its kind outside of Japan. Located in Mirdif City Centre, this is the third Orbi experience to open and the first outside Japan. It describes itself as a “game-changing multi-sensory experience” and a “supercharged indoor nature experience”.

More specifically, it has a number of interactive experiences. These include immersive 4-D-cinema screenings of wildlife footage. Much of this was filmed especially for the Orbi experience by BBC Earth’s world-renowned natural-history team, and has been augmented with smells, wind and water effects, and motion control programmed by Sega boffins. Orbi also features simple games, such as one in which players grab animals from a giant interactive screen to open up fact sheets about them. The attractions It all sounds great in theory but how does it measure up in real life? The centrepiece of the attraction is the main theatre, where a huge 35-metre screen is combined with two additional large screens behind the audience, to create a 360-degree, at-one-with-nature experience, screening specially-made wildlife films accompanied by 4-D effects. We watched a fascinating film that followed the animal inhabitants of Yellowstone National Park, from bison to foxes, over the course of four seasons.

Each day, this film alternates with another about the ever-popular meerkats of the Kalihari, which is sure to prove a big draw. Taking the interactive cinema experience a step further are the Mountain Gorilla exhibit and African Elephant Transporter. The gorilla zone is particularly engrossing, allowing visitors to virtually “join” a film crew in the mountain forests of Uganda, through the use of 3-D film, lighting and water effects, moving seats and the occasional poke and prod. Away from cinematic experiences, Frozen: Mount Kenya replicates the blustery -25°C conditions at the top of one of Africa’s highest mountains, using a wind chill simulator. Visitors enter a small room, where temperatures drop to sub-zero levels while an icy wind blows. Images from infra-red cameras show how your body-temperature drops as the conditions deteriorate – coats are available for the faint-hearted. The verdict Children are sure to love this fun and engaging way of learning about animals and the environment, though some of the exhibits might be a little scary for younger ones. The mountain gorillas, for example, offer an adrenalin-fuelled ride, while footage of a pack of ravenous wolves hunting a baby elk could be a little much for young eyes. Overall, though, parents can rest easy knowing that not only will children learn as they enjoy the entertainment, but operators say it is also an environmentally-friendly experience.

For example a pneumatic, air-based system is used for moving parts, rather than oil-based machinery. “I’m passionate about the world we live in and the extraordinary elements that make up our planet,” says Orbi ambassador Nabil Al Busaidi, the first Arab to walk to the North Pole and one of fewer than 500 people who have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. “It is so important to educate children about the natural world and to encourage them to take ownership of it for future generations. I’ve undertaken some incredible expeditions and seen many of the unique sights that the world has to offer. Now the UAE will be able to experience this first-hand too.” ​• Orbi Dubai is at the south-east entrance of Mirdif City Centre; open from 10am to 10pm weekdays, and to midnight at weekends. Standard tickets cost Dh140.