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Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas is just that.
Photo: PR (White Tiger)
“Within all of us there is an elusive melody which when heard and followed leads to the fulfillment of our fondest dreams.”—Siegfried & Roy
For Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, that elusive melody was the magic of life. After a chance meeting on the German ocean liner TS Bremen in 1959, Roy asked Siegfried “If you can make a rabbit and a dove appear and disappear, can you do the same with a cheetah?” Siegfried replied, “In magic, anything is possible.”
And so the magical partnership of the Magicians of the Century began. At first they used Chico the Cheetah in their unique act of magic, captivating audiences on the Bremen. Their hard work eventually led them to Las Vegas, where they headlined at The Mirage for 13 years. In 1982, the Maharajah of Baroda approached Siegfried & Roy to assist in conservation efforts on behalf of the White Tiger and gave them a pair of cubs to begin their own breeding program. In 1993, they took on a new quest to save the white lions in a partnership with the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens in South Africa.
The result of their conservation efforts was an onstage magic spectacle where every night these tigers and white lions performed with Siegfried & Roy in “the finest piece of live entertainment ever done in the world,” according to Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment and the producer of several Broadway plays.
In 1996, the pair opened Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, a sanctuary nestled in the grounds of The Mirage among lush gardens and tropical waterfalls. In this environment, big cats can live in harmony while being observed up close and personal by the public. According to Roy, “What man has destroyed, we are attempting to resurrect in the Secret Garden.”
Like countless other Las Vegas residents, tourists, and animal enthusiasts, I visit the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat whenever I am in Las Vegas to experience Siegfried & Roy’s offstage magic. Upon entering the idyllic paradise, a specialist gives a brief overview of the animals that reside there and how to make the most of your visit. Thereafter, you are free to explore and discover the majestic creatures at your leisure.
The first wonder to experience is the eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in three separate pools. If they are not frolicking among themselves, you can see the dolphin trainers feeding them and giving them signals to perform various behavioral tasks such as jumping in circles and waving at bystanders.
Beyond the pools, you arrive at the entrance to the Secret Garden, where you can get your picture taken in front of a green screen and later select images of tigers, lions, or dolphins to stand side by side with you in your souvenir photograph.
The Secret Garden is fascinating and enchanting, and there are various types of exotic cats. There are golden tigers with black and gold stripes and White Tigers of Nevada, which include white tigers with black stripes as well as pure snow-white tigers with pink paws and ice blue eyes. Also visible are white lions of Timbavati, with regal manes flowing in the hot desert sun. There is even a small family of leopards, a snow leopard, and a panther. And in the former habitat of Gildah, the ceremonial Thai elephant, there are numerous llamas. For a firsthand experience of what it is like to care for these animals every day, there is the popular Trainer for a Day package and VIP Tour.
If you listen carefully while walking through the tiger habitat, you can hear excerpts from Siegfried & Roy’s CD, “Sound of the Secret Garden.” The music not only enhances your experience, but also adds to the surreal, mesmerizing ambiance of the Secret Garden.
When you finally leave, you can experience two marvels of nature that will undoubtedly be the highlights of your visit. The first is the Fountain of Longevity, where you can feel cool, refreshing water that flows from the top of a large cement urn, softly cascading down the sides in a continuous undulating movement. The second is the Wishing Tree, where legend has it that if you place your hand on the tree and make a wish, it will come true.
Adding to the uniqueness of this attraction is that it is different on virtually every visit. The animals are rotated twice daily, so if you come in the morning and the afternoon you can see different animals. Moreover, even though Gildah and Sitarra, matriarch of the White Tigers of Nevada, are no longer inhabitants, guests can view the wonder of nature’s magic with an occasional litter of tiger cubs that grow into exquisite golden, striped-white, and snow-white tigers. For a firsthand experience of what it is like to care for these animals every day, there is the popular Dolphin Trainer for a Day package and VIP Tour.
Every time I leave the tranquility of the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat for the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip, I can’t help but think of these beautiful rare animals and how important it is to continue conservation efforts so they can be preserved for future generations. As Siegfried & Roy explain, “The never-ending quest of conservation and the rewards of having a family like this are worth lifelong dedication. And we are pleased to share these magical creatures with the world. The secret of the Secret Garden is sharing and giving back.”