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South Africa: Lion Park

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Lion Park | South Africa | Africa

[Visited: August 2014]

We arrive on a bright morning at the entrance gate of the lion park, and see a group waiting to leave. We do not come well prepared; visiting the lion park has been a spontaneous decision. I have vague memories of a lion park close to Johannesburg in my head - more than 20 years before. At the information counter, a lady tells us that we can walk with cheetahs, which sounds great. So we sign up; departure is NOW. While we expect to walk, we are told to board a special, caged bus, and after a short drive, we are asked to take the rear seats. The animal trainer steps out, picks up one of the two cheetahs of the park, and to our surprise, she boards the bus, too. It is a weird sight: the fastest land animal on the planet, sitting on the front row of a bus on a bumpy road.

Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Proud cheetah in the sunshine

When we reach an outside area, the trainer and cheetah disembark, and we follow. The beast is fed meet, and seems very calm and controlled in this open space. At the same time, it is very vigilant: it keeps on looking far away. One of the assistants tell us that cheetahs can see sharply 5km far away, and have trouble with close objects. We are now given the opportunity to stroke the animal. When it is my turn, the first thing I notice is how soft her fur is. The second: she purrs loudly - the only large cat able to do so. When we have all cuddled with the cheetah, she is led to the tree, which she inspects for smells of other animals - she refuses to climb. Another photo opportunity here, where we can pose with the sweet hunter in groups. On our way back, the animal still looks far away, where several kinds of antelopes can be seen. But since their area is too small, she is not allowed to hunt there. It would be impossible for them to escape this speed monster.

Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Lion cub taking a break in the shade

After this exciting start of our visit, we go to the confined space of the park, where we stroke several lion cubs - some of which are white. Their skin is noticeably less soft than the cheetah. There are other animals to see here, too: hyenas, more cheetahs, and the funny meerkats, for instance. To finish our visit, we take a drive through the antilope area of the park, where we see giraffe, zebra, blesboks, wildebeest, and more. The setting reminds us of the great safari parks of Africa: golden vegetation, trees, vistas - but we are too close to Johannesburg to have a bigger game experience. When we come back, the parking is full, and we are happy to have arrived just when the park opened in the morning. And we were lucky: the only other cheetah walk is in the late afternoon!

Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Herd of blesboks in a plain of the Lion Park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Piercing gaze of the cheetah
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Head of Shitana at a tree in the Lion Park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Cheetah looking up into the sunshine
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): One of the meerkats in the lion park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Giraffe under a tree in the Lion Park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Cheetah and her trainer on the bus
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Stroking the head of a white lion cub
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Stroking the head of the cheetah often results in licking
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): White lion cub in the Lion Park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Zebra in the small park
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Shitana taking a rest in the shade
Picture of Lion Park (South Africa): Two cheetahs in the Lion Park, before the Cheetah Walk

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