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.
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.
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!
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lion Park (South Africa). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lion Park. Read more about this site.