South Africa Travel Blog: The Lion Park

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
One of the rare white lions roaming around the Lion Park outside Johannesburg.
Zebras grazing in the grasslands at the Lion Park.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Zebras grazing in the grasslands at the Lion Park.

LANSERIA, South Africa - If you don't have the opportunity to make it to the Pilanesburg National Reserve to see the "Big Five" animals in their natural habitat, the Lion Park outside Johannesburg can offer a convenient alternative.
Just up the road from the Lanseria Airport, the Lion Park sits on a large swath of rolling grasslands. Neither a game reserve nor a zoo, it features two distinctive areas where visitors can drive among the animals at close range.
The largest area is for the herbivores, allowing giraffe, zebra, kudu and various other range antelope to roam freely.
Adjacent to that are separate enclosed "camps" for the carnivores - cheetah, hyena and lions including the rare white lions that were featured in the recent movie "White Lion." You get so close to the big cats you have to be careful not to run them over as they lay across the road.
Go early enough in the morning and the lions are more active. You might even catch them getting a little frisky (which we did), explaining the vitality of one of the park's most engaging features - the Cub Park.
The Cub Park is much cooler than any petting zoo you've ever been to before. In small groups you get to go inside the enclosure with some of the smaller lion cubs, getting the chance to pet them and possibly hold them (if they are so inclined). As adorable as the cubs are, the park volunteers warn you to not put your hands in their mouths, to approach them from behind and to pet them firmly so they don't get confused with play which could lead to an intended bite.
Despite signs entering the park that ask visitors not to "approach, touch or feed the giraffes," visitors carrying small bags of feed attracted the 18-foot giraffe right up to the fence. The massive creature could not have been sweeter, leaning his head down to scoop feed out of your hands with his long tongue and sometimes nuzzling you to get more handouts.
The park has attracted celebrity visitors including Natalie Portman, Shakira, John Legend and Chris Daughtry. For 130 Rand (about $16) it's a nice an convenient value for an "urban safari."

    • Syndicate content
Comments (2) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Connor Threlkeld
Connor Threlkeld 10/09/11 - 06:35 pm
I guess Rob Pavey's

I guess Rob Pavey's negotiations to score a flight to South Africa with y'all didn't work out? I'm sure he would've been happy to write this week's Outdoors column from an African animal park.

bdouglas 10/11/11 - 11:53 am
Loving these stories, Scott!

Loving these stories, Scott! I visited Johannesburg and the surrounding areas in '03 for two weeks and saw a lot of the same places you've been mentioning, so this brings back a lot of great memories. Was the game reserver you went to called Krugersdorp? That's the one I visited there, and from your description it sounds like the same one. Would love to go back someday!

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs