Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rhino and Lion Park 10/7

This morning, we left the house at 8:30 and headed to Johannesburg to visit the Rhino and Lion Park. We had heard great things about this nature reserve from Scott and Lia Leenstra, so we had to check it out. We got to the reserve around 9:30. As soon as we entered the gate we saw all kinds of game. There were loads of ostriches, wildebeest, different types of bok, zebra and warthogs. We were also very excited to see Cape Buffalo. This is the first time that either Darin or I have seen the buffalo, and I've now been here three times, and he's been here at least twice as many times. There was a whole heard of them just lounging by the road. They are HUGE, way bigger than I thought they would be.

After a quick stop for a bathroom break, we decided to check out the baby animal area. This area was set up like Predator World, where you can walk past different animal enclosures. The animals here looked a lot healthier than the ones from Predator World. I even thought the cheetah looked pretty majestic, where as I previously thought they were kind of scrawny and mangy looking. (Is “where as” even proper grammar? As I was writing that sentence, I kind of felt like that Miss America contestant “...such as the Iraq...” Do you all know what I am talking about?) Anyways, we saw a big cheetah, some little toddler cheetahs, and a young leopard in one section. The leopard was beautiful. It came right up next to the fence and if you squatted down (or are 2 years old) it was eye to eye with you.

We were kind of getting in the way of a large group of people that was trying to make a video of the animals, so we decided to head to a different section of enclosures. So we headed to a gate only to be stopped by the most ugly bird I have ever seen. I am not kidding. Just take a look for yourself.

See, I told you. The thing kept poking its beak through the holes in the fence. Not only did we have to make sure we didn't get bit, but we had to keep the crane from leaving its area, so we couldn't swing the gate open wide and walk around it. Oh no, we were going to have to try and squeeze past it. Well, then two more cranes joined their friend. They looked like a bunch of old grizzled men, with balding heads and frizzy little tufts of hair. At one point, Tyson reached his hand out to point something out to Darin and one of the cranes bit him! Not terribly hard, but it grabbed his hand. Poor Tyson. I wasn't there to witness this abuse to my child because I had gone to ask one of the people working there how we were supposed to safely get past the cranes. The guy I found was totally not helpful. He said “You know they don't have teeth.” Ok, sir, teeth or no teeth, I do not want that thing to bite or peck or do anything to me or my children, who are well over a foot shorter than these toothless birds. At this point, I didn't even know that Tyson had already become a victim of the cranes long, pointy beak. While I was over talking to Mr. Sensitivity, a FEMALE worker noticed the rest of my family standing at the gate and came and shooed the cranes away. Hooray!

After the whole crane debacle, we were ready for something a little more warm and fuzzy. So we decided to venture into a cage of lions. Seriously, we were in a cage with real, live lions. Take a look.

These were three month old white lion cubs. They were so cute and soft. They loved chasing after the basketball. Unfortunately, Jori was once again the perfect sized prey. There were several times when she would crouch down and a lion would “stalk” her. The worker who was in the cage with us had to keep stepping in and pushing the cubs away. She also got nipped at a few times, but thankfully no teeth to skin contact was made. Jori was a little less sure of being with the lions after one jumped at her, but she was a trooper. She kept laughing and “talking” to them. There were also a few times when the cubs went after Tyson, but that was mostly because he would take the basketball and then not throw it to the cubs, so they'd start walking towards him trying to get the ball. It really was an awesome experience. I mean, how often do you get to play with baby lions??

After playing with the cubs, we walked around a few more enclosures. There were some huge tigers at this reserve (and no, tigers are not native to Africa) that were pretty scary looking. They are just so big. There was a reptile area right next to the creche, so we made a quick walk through there. Then we saw some crocodiles, monkeys, and meerkats. Then it was time to head back to the car.

We were now ready to drive through the “Lion and Predator Camp”. These are separately fenced in areas that house different kinds of predators. They are not only kept separate from each other, but also from any possible prey. We drove through the lion area first, and after searching all over for the lions, we finally found the whole pride laying in the grass next to the road. Not as exciting as seeing them walk through the tall grass and onto the road, but still pretty cool. There was a massive male, 3 smaller males, and 4 females. We took some pictures, then headed to see the wild dogs. Once again, we searched and searched only to find the whole group of them laying under a tree. The cheetahs were our last hope at some excitement. Maybe we'd see one race across the open field, or at least walk across the road. Nope. The only cheetah actually in the open area was laying under a tree. There were also some enclosures just outside the fence that each held one cheetah. I'm not saying it wasn't cool seeing all these animals, but the kids were more excited about the juice boxes Darin got them than they were in looking at the animals.

It was getting close to noon, and we had plans to meet some people Darin knew for lunch. So we left the predator area, intending to drive by the rhinos, took a wrong turn and ended up just leaving the park. It was a lot of fun and I would definitely go back. We missed a whole area across the road with hippos, hyenas and more, but we did need to get moving for our lunch date. We met up with Anton and Carolyn Hol at their house near Joburg. The Hol's are originally from Pella, IA. They are currently missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene in southern Africa. They travel all over, to Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, but they keep a residence in SA because it is the only country where they can get all the supplies they need. Darin first met Anton a few years ago because he was using a block making machine that Innotec was interested in learning more about.

We had a great time visiting with them. They are grandparents, so of course our kids loved them and they were so patient with our kids. They even had play tools, which totally thrilled Tyson. We had an all-American meal, hotdogs, hamburgers and baked beans. It was all so good and familiar. We even had chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The chocolate chips had come from the states, as they are not available in SA. I even had the opportunity to meet a young, American mom. Seriously, I almost wanted to just start crying because it has been so long since I have been able to talk to someone LIKE me, who is dealing with young kids, and who understood everything I was saying, even if it was “slang”. She had a five year old son that came over to play with Tyson after he got home from school. The Hol's were great too. It was fun talking with them about all sorts of topics. We even found out that Carolyn is related to the pastor who previously served at Bethel CRC in Lynden, WA, where my dad is currently the pastor.
The whole day was lots of fun. The kids did great considering they were stuck in a car for much of the day and didn't have naps. We drove through a lot of rush hour traffic, and finally made it home after 5:30. We reheated some pizza for dinner, washed the kids feet with wipes (we are out of water, AGAIN), and then put them in bed. Another wonderful day in SA is done.


Lia Leenstra said...

WASN'T IT AWESOME!! Yes Laura goes to our church - I hope you get a chance to meet them. We have no internet at home so I am quickly writing you! Can't wait to catch up when you get back - THe house you are staying in is GREAT!

Talk soon

Sarah said...

Isn't that park so much fun. I went there with Lia and the kids last trip to SA. Those birds totally freaked me out. They do look like bald men with comb overs.