Walking with lions day tour adventure – one of the best South African adventures
The “Walking with lions day tour’ has to be one of the best South African adventures out there! As we all know, South Africa is a safari and wildlife haven bursting with the most incredible and awe inspiring places. I am one of those lucky travellers that have been on amazing day tours and countless safaris. But one of the most memorable experiences for me by far was the interaction and walking with lions in a research and breeding center close to Johannesburg.
I must admit that leading up to the tour I was a little apprehensive in terms of my safety. I mean who wouldn’t? Walking with lions? What? Are you crazy? Although getting eaten by an African lion will make me a legend back home I wasn’t quite ready to meet my Maker just yet. And I had a feeling that if this day tour from Johannesburg could sprout chest hair and a beard it would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had visions that this tour was designed for big burly men with arms as big as bears who cheat death on a daily basis. But I was soon to be proven wrong is the best possible way. I was introduced into the most incredible world of lions. I learnt about their behaviors, their breeding habits, their social structure and the stark reality that they may even become extinct in the very near future. I not only got to experience the interaction and walking with lions but came away with an overpowering love and appreciation for them. This day tour taught me so much and I wish to share my insights with my fellow travellers.
Walking with lions day tour adventures are also educational
The fate of the African lion
According to the latest statistics, between 60-80% of South African Lions have Tuberculosis or Feline aids. Who would have ever thought that? Now this is obviously a massive problem as the gene pool is getting shallower and shallower and will eventually lead to the extinction of lions. The research centre I had the privilege of visiting through South Africa Adventures is dedicated to the prevention of just that. The owner and crew have an absolute passion for lions. They have created a research facility that is endorsed by the veterinary council and Pretoria University as well as the world famous ‘lion man’-Kevin Richardson. Now I am no vet or scientist but from I learnt on my day tour there is that they are creating a vaccine for the lions. They then allow the lions to breed disease free and thereafter release them back into the wild.
Is lion breeding ethical?
I must admit, I also had my apprehensions around the controversial lion ‘breeding’ farms that are a cover for ‘can hunting’ in South Africa. And I definitely did not want to support any organization that was remotely involved with it. That’s where South Africa Adventures first put my mind at ease. They also had their company reputation to protect and had done some pretty intensive research into the various ‘breeding’ centers. As it turned out, I was also highly impressed with the input and openness of the research facilities staff. Every single lion is micro chipped and there is an extensive audit trail into where each and every lion goes. This eliminated the chances of the lions being sold to dodgy ‘can’ hunting syndicates.
What the Walking with lions day tour was all about
Okay so enough scientific and ethical stuff. Let me tell you about the tour!! The first hour or so we are taken around the facility where we get to meet the breeding lions. There are two lucky male lions called ‘Maximus’ and ‘ Rummstein’. Their job is to spread their seed among the abundance of females, sleep and eat. What a terrible life.
The second part of the tour is the interaction. We first spent about 20 minutes interacting with the 2 month old cubs. They are so cute!!!! Although it is against the law in South Africa to pick them up, we were allowed to let them lie on our laps and stroke them. Before entering the crèche area we had to first disinfect our hands as their immune systems were not fully developed yet and we did not want to give them our ‘human’ germs. I had to be literally dragged away from them when it was time to go.
The next part of the Walking with lions day tour was about getting my African tattoo. What was that? “Did you say tattoo?” was my quivering plea to the tour guide. He just smiled and said ‘follow me’. Bring on the tattoo artists. We were taken into an enclosure with 8 of the 4 month old cubs. I could not believe how big they were compared to the 2 month old cubs. They were like 10 times the size. And they were very frisky and playful. And yes, I got my first African tattoo!!! I got into a little wrestling match with one of the lions and got a little scratch and few bite marks from the tussle. Don’t worry. There was no blood and gore. It was such fun. And although they were still small I still had a lot of respect for the power and instincts of these incredible felines.
And then….the finale of the tour. We were taken on a hour walk in the African bush with 3 lions. They were only 2 years old so were still regarded as ‘teenagers’. Lions are highly sociable creatures and being young they were not interested in fighting for dominance. So we were basically ‘accepted’ into their pride for the duration of the walk. The head lion walker is seen as the ‘alpha male’ by the lions so as long as we stuck together and did not stray from the ‘pride’ we were perfectly safe. In fact, not once did the lions even seem to notice us. They were more concerned with playing and scanning the area for potential prey.
I was absolutely stoked!!!! What an incredible day tour and only 1.5 hours from Johannesburg. And the best part was that my money was being utilized for something worthwhile.