Johannesburg - Lion Park

cheetah, ostrich, jiraffe and cub interaction at Lion Park, Johannesburg

Game parks are a lot of fun, but probably Lion Park stands out in the crowd for providing one of the most varied experiences among all the places we visited. In one day, you get to walk with a Cheetah, feed ostriches and giraffes, watch zebras pass by and lions eat the main meal on their week. All this packed in one Sunday morning, before lunchtime. So let's get started! If you can, try to visit the park on Sunday as it is the day when lions get fed, so it's pretty exciting to watch them walk in circles waiting impatiently for their horse legs.
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Johannesburg - Elephant Sanctuary

elephant sanctuary

Elephants are one of the 5 species called "the big 5" which appear featured in the different South African notes. With a weight of up to 7000kg, they are the largest and probably the most intelligent. Elephants are known to show empathy for dying or dead individuals of their species as well as self-awareness, with an intelligence comparable to primates and cetaceans. Besides using their trunk, ears and noises to communicate,they also rely on infrasound and seismic waves created by stomping their feet - then propagated through the leg and into the ear bones. This may alert elephants up to 30km away of an individual rushing away from a predator. They are native from Asia and Africa, but the largest species is based in Africa.

While ivory trade and habitat destruction poses a significant risk to these amazing animals, parks like the Elephant Sanctuary we visit today make a significant impact when it comes to creating consciousness and derailing crazy expectations over ivory. It shall however be noted that wild elephants with cubs can be extremely violent and should never be approached during game drives. Actually, Enrique had some scary experience in Kruger when mom elephant chased their car while they drove for 5min on reverse. Turn back if you see the babies...

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Johannesburg - Walk with Lions, play with cubs

cub interaction at Ukutula Lion Reserach Center in Johannesburg, South Africa

Our first post about Ukutula Lion Research Center provides directions and a comprehensive overview of their activities, vision and research against bovine tuberculosis that causes a huge amount of lion casualties in the wild. This post is about the cub interaction and an activity that Enrique didn't try during his first visit, the walk with lions.

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Cape Town - Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach

African penguin colony in Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

Boulders Beach is located half an hour ride away from Cape Town. Its pristine waters and amazing granite boulders are home to a colony of thousand endangered African Penguins that established a nesting colony there, back in 1982. 

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Top 10 Wildlife Encounters in South Africa

cheetah close-up

South Africa offers a unique opportunity for first hand wildlife interaction. Most of the game parks have interaction activities where you can pet cheetahs, lions, tigers, hyenas, elephants, ostriches, jiraffes, while having a unique opportunity to learn more about their behavior, society, treats and challenges. In addition, you have the National Parks, beaches and dives, where you get to observe the big 5 as well as some cool marine fauna (penguins, seals and white sharks) in their natural environment.

Therefore, it strikes me how few of the people in my circle decide to visit South Africa, as a majority favour the pack Tanzania and Zanzibar. Sure, it might be an awesome place but when one of the most seasoned travellers I ever met chose SA as safari destination, it got me thinking... Maybe is it just that SA remains like a hidden pearl? 

To raise some awareness, here comes our summary of the top wildlife encounters in South Africa. The list combines experiences from Enrique, who has spent so far a total of 5 months in Joburg and my own during the 2 week Easter visit.

Detailed posts on each one, to be linked from the list when ready.

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