South Africa has a colourful culture, history and vibrant life – Renown for Nelson Mandela, the Zulu nation, safari, the love of sport and dramatic landscapes. On the outskirts of Johannesburg, the Lion Park allows a chance to be up close to and appreciate the animals normally seen only in the wild. Shandor Larenty introduces The Lion Park to MICExchange and explains that the facility offers not only an opportunity for animal viewing and interaction, but is also an inspirational venue where corporate guests can dine in a unique environment. An added thrill is when trainers walk through the guests with tame cheetahs.
South Africa and safari go hand in hand and without the experience of being in the presence of the Big 5 in the bush, you miss a whole swathe of just what the mystery and intrigue of the African continent. Sitting safely in your safari vehicle with your trackers and gaze into the proud eyes of a lioness in the bush, and you appreciate just what our ancestors faced in ages past. The Lion Park is a 500 acre “open zoo” on the outskirts of Johannesburg and brings you up-close to these huge proud animals. The Lionpark also offers a “boma” experience and function facility suitable for corporate or private functions.
The Johannesburg Lion Park has separate large open enclosures and is home to over 80 lions including the rare white lions and many other carnivores such as cheetah, wild dog, brown and spotted hyena and black backed jackal. There are a wide variety of antelope with gnu, impala, gemsbok, and zebra, which roam freely in the bushveld like grassland antelope area in a separate park. Apart from the “big cat” experience, the park offers a chance to touch and interact with baby lion cubs, cheetahs, leopard and hyenas.
The highlight was meeting the stunningly beautify cheetahs as they allowed us to run our hands along their sleek silky bodies. The big cats “purr” and chirp as they pose with us and we feel quite privileged to meet eye to eye one of these magnificent creatures.
Shandor Larenty, a young animal trainer following in the footsteps of his world renown father (Alex Larenty), was our guide as we went from feeding giraffes, petting baby lion cubs to driving through the open lion park.
Cruising in a small caged, silent electric car, Shandor sharply told the huge lioness trying to bite the tires – “NO! …“ Then with a series of coughs and grunts, called her to the window and gave her a kiss through the bars to make up. Shandor explains that the lions and cheetahs are well trained and many celebrities such as Celine Dion, Will Smith, Rihanna, Eminem and many more have experienced the cheetahs and lions at the Lion Park.
There are few that can resist “petting” the baby lion cubs. These energetic wire furred balls of energy try to playfully chew in a game of friendly attention seeking. Shandor and his fellow trainers often take one of their favourite lions or hyenas home to feed and care of during their baby years.
Shandor Larenty said that The Johannesburg Lion Park offers a range of different activities and the boma and conference tent for conferences, team building and corporate functions.
Video Interview with Shandor Larenty.