I am so thrilled and full of energy, I can’t even wait more than 24 hours to share my experience at the Lion Park today. Usually I allow myself a couple of days to immerse into something before I blog about it, but today was so exceptional that I just have to share before I burst.
But to back up a bit, Tony and I arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning. I came for work and Tony tagged along so we could make a trip of it. It was our first time visiting South Africa and we knew that it would incredible, but still couldn’t prepare ourselves for what was in store.
The first 3 days, I had meetings with my colleagues, and this afternoon was my first opportunity to explore. We were recommended the Lion Park as it is close to our hotel and – holy of all holies – you can pet baby lions. Decision made.
It took about 40 minutes to drive from our hotel and Uber is all over Joburg so it was an easy commute. Upon arrival, my lips started curling up harder and harder, and I swear by the end of the day my cheeks were numb. It was fairly easy to buy tickets – we paid 500 ZAR for a tour, lion cub petting, and cheetah petting – yes, cheetah – and then climbed into the cage of a mobile to start.
At first, we saw “boring” animals. Does that sound mean and spoiled? Yes. But after you have pet a cheetah, zebras and bucks and gnus are just lame.
But we did them justice by taking some photos. We wanted to ensure all animals felt equally special.
Then we entered the lion parks. There were 3 separate areas we drove through and when you see a lion so up close like this, you go speechless. It is nature, God, Earth, at its purest. These lions are so majestic, beautiful, large, scary, amazing – there just aren’t any more words to describe them. They need their own dictionary.
And lazy? Maybe lazy is a word for them too. Most of them slept the whole time. Except for this one who sensed the small child in our caravan and wanted to investigate further.
After the great tour, it was time to pet the babies. This was something I have always dreamed of, and now it was going to happen. We were told to only pet their backs, not their heads or tails. And even though they were so very small, we jumped a bit when they went to nip or hit with their paw.
It was just Heaven on Earth for me, and I could have stayed there for the rest of my life just petting them, watching them, loving them.
The final stop was petting the cheetah and this was one I was candidly very freaked out about. These animals were fast, large (not as large as lions, but still), meat eaters. And we were just going to pet and hang out with it?
I entered the cage cautiously, but the handlers were all up in this cheetah’s business – Sabu was his name. They pet him and frolicked with him like he was a kitten. He laid in the shade and we pet his head and he started purring. Actual PURRING. I couldn’t believe it. He liked it! He liked being pet, manhandled, cuddled. After awhile he got bored with us and walked away, which is exactly what our dog does. That alone made me feel much more at ease.
And that was our afternoon, one of the most magical ever. We are headed to Thornybush Lodge this weekend to experience animals in their natural habitat and will have more to report soon.
What a gift South Africa is!