A visit to Johannesburg's Lion & Safari Park is almost like a visit to the Kruger National Park, only without the four-hour drive from Lanseria Airport. Compare this with the 12 minutes it takes to reach the Lion & Safari Park (from the same departure point) along the R512 Pelindaba Road, and you'll agree that for Johannesburgers, there's just no contest.
At the Lion & Safari Park, guests have a choice of guided game drives and self-drives, starting at ZAR195 per adult in your vehicle. On guided tours, visitors may hand-feed the giraffes, ostriches and various antelope species roaming the 600-hectare property. Children aged 12 and under enter free, paying only for activities.
Besides a lion population of more than 80 individuals – including examples of the white sub-species – the Park is home to cheetah, three varieties of hyena (brown, spotted and striped), leopard and African wild dogs. Of course, there’s a choice of guided tours, with plenty of interesting facts from the guides. The tours can take as little as an hour, and up to 3 hours for the Safari. This is billed as the flagship tour, ending with drinks and snacks on the banks of the Crocodile River.
You might think that another advantage of the Lion Park over Kruger, is that the Gauteng lions are quite used to interacting with humans. They are, but this is not to say they are all tame. Lions in enclosures endure stress and boredom. As a result, they sometimes exhibit behaviour not seen back in the bundus, like trying to open car doors. This is because their meals arrive in vehicles, and the juveniles in particular assume that each passing vehicle is a potential meal ticket.
If you or any of your party should fancy a meal during your visit, repair to the Wetlands Restaurant and Bar. Kids will love the choice of sandwiches, samoosas, grilled chicken, milkshakes and other items on the menu. For a less casual experience, the Bull 'n Buck Grill tempts you with venison, veal, seafood and steaks with a wine list to match.
The Park offers the 5 Dome Shopping Experience for the spenders. Here you can browse a wide range of locally sourced arts and crafts, jewellery, clothing and homeware. In case you're wondering what to do with the dozens of pics you'll have on your smartphone by the time you're done, the Park's photographic centre has got you covered. Pop in to have your snaps printed onto key-rings, mugs, puzzles and more.
The Lion & Safari Park is open all-year round, including Sundays and public holidays. But call in advance to confirm closing times, as they vary.