Just a short 10-minute drive from Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg, the Lion and Safari Park which covers over 1 000 hectares, is a perfect quick sojourn in nature with a twist…
The Lion and Safari Park is well-known establishment for offering the opportunity to view animals up-close. And with its latest activities it has opened the field for an awesome nature experience.
A walk to remember
The adventure starts with a mid-morning bush walk. Two experienced guides accompany guests, one in the lead and one bringing up the rear. As there are no large predatory animals roaming about, there is ample time to walk at a leisurely pace while the guides provide interesting titbits on the surrounding flora, fauna and geological formations that speak to a bygone era. Expect to encounter a variety of animals such as Springbok, Gemsbok, Wildebeest and Zebra on the walk. Experiencing a bush walk feels more exhilarating than a drive – it’s more personal and up-close.
The terrain is very do-able for most fitness levels – there are no major climbs but for the most part it is relatively flat with a couple of short hills here and there.
Lion encounters: Alex Tour
There are several lion enclosures that guests can visit, either by self-drive or a guided tour. To learn more about these majestic big cats, a guided tour is recommended.
The Alex Tour, named after Alex Larenty, who is an animal behaviourist, gets you possibly as close as you will ever get to a lion.
While seated in a secure vehicle, Larenty jumps out and engages first-hand with the lions. It can be a bit nerve-wracking for guests as the lions trot towards him – being this close to lions makes you realise that they are much bigger in real life than. Larenty’s interaction with the lions almost makes the lions seem friendly, but he highlights that this is because he works with them on every day, and they are used to him. That being said, he was careful not to turn his back on them.
Going Western: horse trails
A new offering are the horse trails. This is a joint venture between Ride Jozi and the park. Most of the horses at the stable can be considered ‘rescue’ horses – they have either been mistreated or given up, but luckily they now have a massive space to explore. When they are not at the stables the horses are given free reign to explore certain parts of the park to graze or take a dip in the nearby lake.
The horses are well-cared for and riders with no prior experience should have no issues. First up is a quick lesson in how to handle a horse. For the most part the horses merely follow each other, and it is a gentle walk with amazing viewing opportunities – a novel way to experience the natural beauty of the surrounds.
Get chauffeured: game drive
The Lion and Safari Park is teeming with a variety of non-predatory wildlife including Zebras, many type of antelope, and so much more! While driving around it is not unexpected for a Giraffe to pop its head into the game driving vehicle for a quick greeting – a memorable experience for all ages.
What fun! The quad biking experience is definitely a highlight. Qualified instructors give visitors a crash course on how to operate the bike, get you geared up and then off you go! A guide leads and another brings up the rear. The terrain is gravel and relatively flat so there are no major hurdles to navigate. Guests can also signal to stop for photo ops.
More biking: MTB trails
Scenery, adrenaline and fitness! The MTB trails are open to public at set times (refer to the website for more info). There are three main routes accommodating varying levels of experience:
- Blue Route, 8km: This is aimed at novice riders with 90% gravel roads and 10% on jeep-tracks.
- Yellow Route, 15km: Aimed at intermediate level riders, 50% on gravel roads, 30% on jeep-tracks and 20% single-tracks.
- Red Route, 20km: Advanced riders will get to experience 50% single-track, 25% jeep-track and 25% gravel roads. Parts of this trail have some tricky bits, but the scenery is worth it!
Good to know
- There may be some confusion as to whether the Lion & Safari Park is in North West or Gauteng province – it’s in both technically.
- Be sure to try out the Wetlands Restaurant. This restaurant serves up tasteful cuisine, with happy yet professional service, chilled background music and is a good viewpoint for some nearby grazing animals. The Buck n’ Bull is also located on the property.
- Play time: Moms and dads will enjoy the kiddies being entertained by the playground set up for kids to explore. There is also the Little Rangers Adventure Club for kids to join.
- The 5 Dome offers a variety of locally produced arts and crafts for sale.