Sunday was Jacob’s first full day here, and we had an excellent day planned. First thing on the agenda was the Lion Park, which is like a mini game reserve with an emphasis on…lions. To begin with, we picked Keri up (I was so glad to finally be able to give her a lift rather than the other way around), and had my first experience with Wimpy for breakfast. Wimpy is mostly about burgers, but Jacob and I had breakfast sandwiches and wraps to start our day off right.
The Lion Park is about 30-40 minutes out of town, and it was nice to get to drive out and see a bit more of Johannesburg and the actual province of Gauteng. Once you get farther out of the city the landscape gets much drier, more brown than green with low, rolling hills. It reminded me again of the American Southwest.
Once we got to the park, the first thing that we did was head straight to the lion cubs. Included in the price of your ticket is the opportunity to get up close and personal with some baby lions, and that is exactly what we did. They were unbearably adorable, but they weren’t exactly cuddly. It was clear that they were just putting up with the hundreds of people that came to pet them on a daily basis. However, they certainly didn’t mind being touched, as long as you stayed away from their head, paws and tail. Their fur was a bit rougher than I expected, but I have no idea why I thought a lion’s coat would be downy and soft. The most amazing thing about them is their eyes. They’re this light beige color, almost matching their coats, and it’s pretty disarming. This little experience has definitely been one of the highlights so far, and I would have stayed with the cubs all day if I could.
Next activity was giraffe feeding! You buy a bag of food, and they have a platform set up so you are at the height of the giraffe’s head, and he just eats right out of your hand. Let me get the obvious out of the way: giraffes are huge. I know you know giraffes are huge, but you don’t really realize it until you are standing face to face with one and you realize that it’s head is pretty much the size of your torso. However, the giraffe we were feeding was amazingly chill and gentle. The way it eats out of your hand is totally weird. Generally they’re using their tongues to grab leaves of off trees, so they’re used to wrapping it around things, and that’s exactly what it does to your hand. It wraps its looooong, slimy tongue around your hand to get the feed, which is gross and awesome at the same time. I would definitely enjoy having a pet giraffe. There were also ostriches in the enclosure that were looking for some food. Ostriches, like most other birds, are awkward, aggressive and obnoxious. They are pretty funny to watch though, and Jacob was the most intrepid out of all of us and fed a few of the ostriches.
We took a short break after feeding to watch a bit of rugby. The rugby world cup has just started in New Zealand, which is HUGE in South Africa. It was South Africa’s first game against Wales, and it was pretty tight throughout. I’m hoping that Jacob and I get a chance to see a whole proper game in Cape Town, because the atmosphere is really fun.
After our break we headed out to the game drive. There is a mini reserve that you drive through first that has zebra, wildebeest, and all kinds of bok…blesbok, springbok…there are a lot. After that we headed over to the drive through lion camps, and we were in luck because on Sundays they do public feedings. We drove through the first lion camp, and to our amazement, there were giant lions right at the entrance as we drove through. They have no qualms about being close to cars, and as I drove in there was a full grown male lion about 1 foot from my car door. Seriously amazing. After that we headed to the White Lion camp, and got a good parking spot for the feeding. The way that this works is there’s a bakkie (pickup truck) that has a cage built onto the back of it. There is a guy in the cage, and he’s driven around while occasionally throwing a hunk of meat out of a small opening. Each lion gets their own piece and they go to town. It wasn’t nearly as gross or visceral as I thought it was going to be, which was good, because we needed a large appetite for where we were heading next.
Before we left, we also got to see some wild dogs and cheetahs. Cheetahs have always kind of terrified me. They are breathtakingly beautiful, especially up close, but they always look like they’re ready to attack. By this time we were starving so we headed for lunch, which I’ll tell you about in my next post.