Monday, June 9, 2014

Baby on Safari - Johannesburg & the Lion Park

Hey look! A giraffe!
Over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to be brave and take the baby on a little trip to South Africa. We visited Johannesburg for two nights, and then stopped at Pilanesburg Game Reserve for two nights on the way back to Botswana.

Lion Park!!
While it was a tons of fun to expose the baby to tons of new experiences (petting lion cubs! going to an antiques market! getting up close to a giraffe!) the driving portion of the trip wasn't tons of fun. Lesson learned: Do not needlessly subject a baby to a fourteen-hour round trip car ride! That being said, we got some amazing photos out of the trip and got to have The African Experience one last time before we depart Botswana in a couple of months.

We drove down to Joburg the first day of our trip, of course stopping at McDonald's in Rustenburg on the way. Believe it or not, there are no McDonald's in Botswana, which of course makes me crave it all the time, even though I never eat at McDonald's when in the U.S. Fortified by our double cheeseburger meals (and bottle for the baby) we continued on to Johannesburg and arrived at our absolutely lovely hotel, the Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank.

A romantic dinner for three.
I would highly recommend this place to anyone traveling to Johannesburg - it's centrally located in a nice part of town, had lots of charm and character, and the food was AMAZING! The hotel restaurant serves a delicious continental breakfast, plus anything you want made-to-order and it's all included in the quite reasonable room rate. We ate dinner at the hotel our first night, and were truly impressed by the quality of the food and the service. In particular, we appreciated how accommodating they were with the baby. When we had to cut the meal short to soothe the baby back in our room, the waiter didn't even blink an eye at our request to serve the rest of meal in our room. Neither did they put in an extra charge for the impromptu room service. Granted, they were probably relieved to have our (very vocal) baby out of their restaurant!

The morning after our arrival on Johannesburg, we headed to the Lion Park. I had been wanting to visit the park ever since hearing a colleague’s fabulous stories about petting lion cubs there, and thought it would be a really cool experience to take the baby and take some photos of him up close and personal with African wildlife.

We weren’t disappointed!

Did someone say lion cubs?
Visiting the Lion Park is a perfect activity for families with young children (even as young as ours) because guests can self-drive, preferable with kids because you don’t have to worry about them bothering other guests when you’re in your own vehicle. 200 rand (about $20) gets you admission to the park, all the self-driving you want, plus the lion cub interaction activity. The self-drive was pretty cool – we saw several adult lions and cheetahs. In another section of the park, guests can also feed giraffes and ostriches. Lots of fun!

But the best part was hands down the lion cub interaction. Here, you can take turns entering an enclosure where you can pet several cubs and have your photo taken with them! Not many people, and especially not many five-month-olds, can say they’ve pet a real, live baby lion.  I know the baby won’t remember any of the trip, but he (and we) sure will have fun looking at all of the photos when he’s older. "Remember that time you pet a lion cub?!"

More later on our visit to Pilanesburg Game Reserve's lovely Bakubung Bush Lodge.

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