Our third day in Johannesburg is the best day I have had travelling so far!
Lion and Safari Park
Our couchsurfing hosts suggested that we head to the Lion and Safari Park about an hour away. After visiting the Lion Park we went to Sterkfontein Caves. This may be one of the best days I have ever had in my life!
We woke up early enough to have a nice breakfast with our hosts and get to the Lion and Safari Park just after they opened. After purchasing the self-drive ticket and an additional ticket for the lion cub encounter, we walked to the lion cub encounter right away. Our hosts had told us that the cubs are more active in the morning so to try and visit them in the morning before they start napping for the day.
I figured there would be a speech telling us what to do around the cubs or what not to do. I also assumed there would be a few different gates we would need to go through for safety. Instead the gate opened, they guy inside with the cubs said for us to hang up our bags, sit on the ground, and just wait for the cubs to come to us. It all happened so fast.
We Met Simba!
We sat down holding our phones and cameras waiting for the cubs to come around. It took about ten seconds. At first they were more interested in playing with my bag hanging on the door. When the cub minder shooed the cubs away from my bag one of them came up behind Andrew and literally jumped on his back and shoulders. I could not believe how huge their paws were!
The one that jumped on Andrew’s back left huge dirty paw prints on his shirt. They both began pouncing on him and licking his head. I could not believe how playful they were. They completely ignored me. I was so jealous! But I was able to take an awesome video of the encounter. There was another cub minder in the area with us who took photos that were sold in their shop. Kindly, the photographer took my camera from me, and took some fantastic pictures that we didn’t have to buy!
Me being jealous of Andrew getting all the cub attention didn’t last long. The cubs soon realized there was another person present and they began jumping on me also. It was the best! Their fur was more coarse than I thought it would be. They looked heavier than I remember them being. They didn’t feel too heavy to be on my lap. I got a couple of licks on my face and a few cuddles before they found my ponytail. When they started chewing and pulling on my ponytail it was still awesome, but it was a little rough.
The cub minder distracted them for a minute to help get them to stop pulling my hair. Their distraction worked well enough to get them off of me, but they went directly back to Andrew. They both jumped on him again! They were licking his head and literally trying to climb up to the top of his head. Things got a little rougher and Andrew suffered a couple little nips with their teeth and a claw caught his left ear.
Andrew bleeds really easily and his blood doesn’t clot very well. He began dripping blood on to his already dirty shirt so the guys got him some paper towels. The cubs started getting a little more excited and trying to jump on us more, so the guys ended our play session. As I was getting my bag, I bent down to try and take one last photo and wound up with a bite on my chest!
We left the kennel area and took care of Andrew’s ear in the infirmary. The lady helping us was really nice and said it happens a few times a day. We were sad it caused us to end our session sooner than expected, but really glad it wasn’t worse than it was regarding his ear.
After we both cleaned up we got in our rental car and entered the safari part of the park. The park isn’t huge, but they do seem to have enough room for the animals. There are four lion enclosures, a wild dog enclosure, a few hyena enclosures, and they have two giraffes and a few ostriches and other animals that wander around the park freely.
It was awesome! Since we did the self drive we were able to stay as long as we wanted watching the lions lay about, walk around, lick each other, etc… Lions are seriously magnificent! I have only ever seen them in zoos, usually in small cages, or with only one or two more lions with them. This was entirely different and I felt much happier about the care they were being given. We continued driving and enjoying watching the animals. After a few hours and a trillion photos we headed out of the park.
Lunch at The Lazy Lizard
We left the safari park and enjoyed a nice lunch across the street at a place called the Lazy Lizard. It was a secluded little restaurant and craft brewery. We sat outside and enjoyed our delicious meals and drinks for a while. We finished lunch and headed to Maropeng.
In Maropeng there is a museum and a large cave. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit both the museum and the Sterkfontein Caves. We decided to visit the caves instead of the museum because who would choose a museum over a cave?! They call this area the Cradle of Humankind. The most famous human skeleton was found in these caves. She is known as Mrs. Ples, and is the most complete skeleton from 2.3-2.8 million years ago. Also found here is a skeleton known as Little Foot which is around 3 million years old.
The caves were easy to enter and pretty easy to exit. There were a few areas that were tight squeezes where we had to crawl on our hands and scoot on our butts. It was pretty awesome though. They call the caves dead. Nothing lives in them, and the stalagmites and stalactites are no longer forming. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the caves were very cool inside of them. We really enjoyed ourselves and I’m really happy that we visited. I think it is absolutely fascinating how far back the fossils date back. They are still excavating areas of the cave to this day.
We drove back to our hosts’ house and they had planned to take us to dinner. We went to a place called Moyo and I ordered something completely unexpected of myself! I ordered the meat trio and tried ostrich for the first time. It was a bit gamy for my liking, but it was mostly a tad under-cooked. I had asked for medium rare, but it was more on the very rare side. The restaurant had live music and some face painters who decorated our faces.