Monday, 21 August 2017

Pokémon Go day trip to the Amstelveen Safari Zone

Last weekend was the last opportunity to visit one of Europe's so called Pokémon Go Safari Zones. For three weekends in a row, in various shopping centres that partnered with Niantic, kangaskhan (normally only available in Australia) could be found. In addition, an increased spawn rate of the unknown letters forming E-U-R-O-P-E was in effect in these areas. You didn't have to pay anything in order to participate in the event; you just had to be there and look for those pokémon.

I do love catching myself some cool pokémon. And while I don't usually travel beyond my municipality for pokémon and shopping isn't exactly my greatest hobby, it seemed silly to let the opportunity go. Especially so when I found out that the closest Safari Zone, in Stadshart Amstelveen (the Netherlands), was less than an hour drive away.

I was prepared to spend some time on my own, maybe drop by the Cobra Museum (modern art) if I got bored of the shopping centre, but then I found out my brother and his girlfriend wanted to go as well. So past Saturday, all three of us got in the car early to catch us some pokémon.

We found our first kangaskhan already when we were in the parking lot, just getting out of the car. "Okay, now we can go home again!", we jokingly said. We soon found out that kangaskhan spawned regularly all over the place, often even with multiple at a time, so everyone who visited the Safari Zone was going to have a successful day.

As expected, the scene was crawling with pokémon, pokéstops and gyms. All the pokéstops had lures active; most of them even seemed donated by generous other players, judging by the variety of names that had activated them. 

The shopping centre was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. It was huge and totally covered to shelter visitors from the weather. In the middle, a boulevard with a rainbow pedestrian crossing (see top picture) brought a smile to my face. I knew these existed but had never seen one myself. A variation to the white crossings ("zebrapaden") usually found in the Netherlands, these paths voice a statement of equality and acceptance in general, and to the LGBT community specifically. But I digress.

This power bank that I bought at the Action the previous day came in super handy 

My phone is quite old and it just about manages to play Pokémon Go, if you're patient and give it time to load things. However, it was horror in the Safari Zone because of all the mobile data being used. I could barely move my viewing angle in-game and got kicked out of the Lugia raid five times. Luckily, my company had newer phones that didn't suffer so much. After 20 minutes of fruitlessly trying to enter the raid, I borrowed my brother's phone to login to my account and finish the Lugia raid. It would've been a shame to have spent that raid pass without being able to take part in the fight at all.

I didn't manage to catch lugia (don't worry, I did already catch one a couple a weeks ago in my home town, so I'll survive), but it was fun to hook up with random strangers and fight. In my semi-rural home town, there aren't enough players around for raids to just happen organically. It wasn't extremely busy in the shopping centre, but you could see people playing Pokémon Go everywhere, which was a fun experience! Normally I feel like a bit of a dork when I'm hanging out somewhere alone, trying to take out a gym or tier 1 raid boss.

While fighting lugia, I heard from a fellow raider that this Safari Zone had been very busy the previous weekends. Apparently back then it was so crowded that it was hard to move around. I don't know if it was because of the poor weather or because most players had already gotten their kangaskhans by now, but it wasn't like that during my visit. I'm not particularly fond of crowded places, so this was a good thing in my book - not to mention how my phone would've behaved  with so many people around.

I had expected a pretty much generic shopping centre with logs of huge well-known brands. Of course, all the big brands were indeed there. But there were also plenty of fun small shops present, like this cheese store (picture above) that literally had their cheeses stacked up until the ceiling. Unsurprisingly (being Dutch), I love cheese, so I really enjoy shops like this.

Around lunch time, I discovered that my favourite brand of hummus (Maza) apparently has whole cafes with delicious falafel as well (or perhaps it is the other way around). This falafel café was heaven! Everything was freshly made, reasonably priced and so delicious. 

While kangaskhan was extremely easy to catch, the unowns were more of a challenge. There weren't as many of them, and when they did appear it was sometimes hard to target them because they were so small and were covered by other pokémon or pokéstops. My phone was overheating, so I basically shut it off, until one of the others shouted "unown!" and I'd quickly start up the game, hoping I could catch it. The unowns despawned quickly (I think they were only around for about 5 minutes), so it was tricky. Of course we wanted to catch all five available letters (E, U, R, O and P)!

Unsurprisingly, my legs didn't want to carry me anymore when it was afternoon, so I seated myself in a cute cake cafe while the others continued exploring. The cupcakes were exquisite and tasted less chemical than they looked! I couldn't resist ordering one, even though I wasn't very hungry because of the falafel.

At the end of the day we returned home with several kangaskhan, all different unknowns, and then some. I'd been too busy to visit the Cobra Museum, so I guess I'll have to go to Amstelveen again someday. I miss the pokémon madness already.

When we were heading towards the car, my brother suddenly noticed a wild snorlax nearby. Off we ran, and each of us managed to catch it. Mine was extremely low level with poor stats, but I don't mind, as I already have an awesome one. The others got a better one and were overflowing with joy.

Overall, it was a memorable day, and a way more fun experience than I could have anticipated. Niantic definitely hit the target here. With the shopping centre being free to enter for everyone, the area big enough for people to spread themselves out and phone service working fine (at least for the people that didn't have to operate an ancient phone), this low key version of the originally planned event was good fun - probably even more so than a paid huge event would be for me.

As usual, all photos in this article are made by me. The pokémon have been digitally added back at home. As for my phone: don't take my complaints about it too seriously! I got my phone secondhand from a friend and I'm very thankful for it: without it, I wouldn't have been able to play Pokémon Go at all. When I state its age, it's merely to make clear that my experience doesn't reflect that of the majority of players present.


  1. I've pretty much quit playing the game. My phone is going on three years old but works great. However, the changes they have made keeps making my phone run hotter and hotter. So, I just quit bothering. Plus I get tired of the game interrupting getting stuff done when I'm out. So, I just deal with my husband playing instead....

    Anyway, glad you had fun! I had no idea they had that kind of event going on. I probably would've went along yo catch a few too. :)

    1. Haha, here it's the other way around: I'm the one that actively plays; my boyfriend only runs the app when we're taking a walk together. For him it's more a good excuse to go outside and exercise a bit (Saartje is sorely missed...).

      We both grew up with pokémon, but to him the combat mechanics of a game are very important, and he finds them lacking in Pokémon Go. For me... well, I guess I'm just stuck in childhood, because augmented reality pokémon still excite me. :D

  2. I was a bit disappointed to read that those Pokemon in the screenshots were edited in afterwards! If they naturally appeared in places such as a teapot's spout, that would have been cool. XD

    1. They could've been! Alas, augmented reality isn't that precise (yet). Also, I was struggling so hard to even get to the catch screen of the unowns that I didn't want to jinx things by turning on AR. And as the AR pokémon screenshots are of extremely poor quality (presumably to save phone battery), you guys are better off this way, even though it might be more dull.

  3. Good hunting!

    I'm glad you're keeping up with Pokemon Go, as I've seen fewer people out and about hunting for them lately. (True story: oldest mini-Red is at a double reed camp last year, and while going from the dorm room to the master class for the day she espied an elderly woman walking along the sidewalk near a major road. As they passed her by, they heard a "Dammit! I thought I caught it!" from her.)

    1. As you know, I couldn't care less that it's not 'cool' anymore to play Pokémon GO, but as it shares some functionalities with MMOs, less people playing it around you does affect the gameplay. Especially the new pokémon raids can be tough to battle in semi-rural areas such as mine.

      And that's a cool story about the elderly lady! Are you and the mini-Reds still playing occasionally?

    2. We didn't pick the game up. The oldest's phone doesn't have the spare space on its onboard memory to add the game --too much bloatware installed on it and the internal memory is only 8GB-- and my phone is a work phone, so I'd have a bit of a problem trying to explain away that on my app list. (Yes, they do check, unfortunately.)

  4. I still play Pokemon Go! I am such a hard core Pokemon fan since Heart Gold and even long before when it came out. I remember the craze of Pokemon in the 90s. How did the years fly by so fast? I am at level 22 finally! I hatched a dratini which was godly awesome from my 10 Km egg which I am proud of.

    1. Yay, a fellow Pokémon GO player! Like you, the pokémon games got me hooked back in the 90s (I never really cared for the anime, guess I was too old for that).

      Congratulations on your dratini! It's one of my favourite pokémon (especially its evolution, dragonair). It's not too bad to come by here in the Netherlands, because half the country's surface is water biome, but I still haven't gathered enough candy to evolve my dragonair into a dragonite. One day... ^^

  5. Ah! I'm super jelly. I don't live anywhere near any of their special events. Well done on the unknowns though! I haven't been able to raid enough (still missing my Zapdos) so I don't have any hope of the special Mewtwo raid. Lol

    1. I hope you managed to get that Zapdos during the previous weeks! And now we have these new legendary dogs popping up... luckily there's a good chunk of time to catch them, so hopefully it will be easier for people like you that can't raid that much. :)


You can insert links, images and videos to your comment using these tricks.