If you're in Johannesburg for a limited amount of time, but still want to have a great safari style experience, look no further than a day at The Lion & Safari Park.
The Lion and Safari Park is a 600 hectare wilderness reserve situated in the Hartbeespoort, Magaliesburg and Cradle of Humankind area that offers guests an incredible opportunity to get up close to many of South Africa’s most iconic animals. It's also important to note that while all the animals are in large open spaces, the park can sometimes still feel like a zoo because they are kept in captivity (animals are fed and cared for by the park's staff/volunteers, so they aren't 100% wild). Though the trade off is that you are almost guaranteed a shot as seeing all the animals in a short amount of time.
To get my tips on how to get there, what to expect, and the best time to go, read about my experience put together in partnership with Uber.
A FEW THINGS TO KNOW
Getting there: Since the park is about 45 minutes outside of the city, I took an uberX (coming in from Sandton) as it is the most convenient and cost effective.
Which tour to choose: You have the option to do a self-drive in your own car, river rafting, or any one of the animal encounters (though cub and cheetah interaction can only be done in combination with a tour). To get the most of the experience, I did a combination of the 3 hour Safari tour and the cheetah walk. To have a more personalized experience, I also highly recommend you book a private tour. This made a huge difference in the quality of my experience (and photo taking!) because the guide accommodated what I wanted to see more or less of.
Use common sense + follow the rules! While you will be in a somewhat controlled and curated environment, be sure to listen to your guide and follow the rules they give you - especially when it comes to the big cats. You may be tempted to roll down your windows to get a closer look since they are truly majestic creatures - but don't forget they are still wild animals with unpredictable instincts. There has been an unfortunate mauling case in the past because a tourist ignored the rules; please don't do that. As a disclaimer, please be aware that all the image of me standing outside of the safari truck were either in areas where there were no threats or in heavily controlled environments with trained professionals by my side.
best time to go
Mornings or late afternoon. If you’re hoping to see the animals active (particularly the cats), visit in the mornings or late afternoon when it's not super hot. All animals tend to sit under the shaded trees and get a bit lazy when it's the hottest time of day. Ww also got very lucky and managed to visit during one of the lion feedings (beef during my visit). It was fascinating to watch the lions during this time and I highly recommend you try to time your visit if possible. Each pride is fed once every 3 days.
what to expect
Expect loads of animal interaction. I have been on a real safari before and still thoroughly enjoyed this experience. At one point during our safari drive, we saw one of the giraffe's eating in the distance before our guide asked us if we had any nuts or berries to feed her. Luckily my friend had some trail mix with her (lesson - always travel with snacks!), so we were able to feed her directly from our truck , which was insanely cool. We also got to interact with the cutest 3 month old lion cubs and go on an hour long cheetah walk (tbh I was TERRIFIED the entire time, but so happy I did it). Being able to interact with some of the animals was a huge highlight.
The lion cubs are typically also rescued from their mothers if they get rejected (for not being strong enough, etc). Instead of being eaten, they are kept in separate quarters for guest interaction until their instincts fully kick in. Don't be fooled though, they are still very strong animals that can have a very different undrstanding of what being "playful" is.
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
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