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April 2014

The Natal Lion Park


Two weeks ago, the locals decided to take a drive to the Natal Lion Park, about 50kms from Durban, as this is the closest place to Durban where one can see lions.

Upon arrival, the place looked very run down, and neglected. The reception office was stark with little chance of buying any food for the game drive ahead. Toilets appear to be non-existant. The entrance fee is per car, rather than per person, and a sign on the wall boasting that 15 passengers had been crammed into a Toyota Cressida, and 12 into a BMW, should have told us something! We were asked whether we would like to drive through the game reserve, or take the short-cut to the lion enclosure. We opted for the game drive, and were asked what vehicle we were in. When we replied that we had a Jeep, we were told that it would be fine!

We realised the need for the question once we started our drive. The dirt road was badly eroded, had potholes, and had not been maintained for what seemed to be years. How a BMW with 12 passengers traversed this road I have no idea! I can only presume they took the short-cut.  The bush encroached on the road so much that in places, it scraped both sides of the vehicle. But we pushed on. In the thicket we saw two female kudus, and when we reached a clearing, there were two elephants on the side of the road. But wait a bit…. these are Indian elephants. Aren’t we in Africa? Then from the bush appeared a keeper who proceeded to get the elephants to do various tricks, such as raising their trunks, lifting one foot, etc., while he smilingly posed for photographs with them. As we drove off, his hand was out for a tip. Do they not realise that when one goes to a game reserve, one wants to see wild animals, not circus elephants? We saw no other animals at all on this drive.

We drove on until we reached the enclosure where there were about 12 lions. They appeared to be well fed, and in good condition. There are two gates, which are opened in sequence so that you are able to get in, but the lions can’t get out. Inside, there is a loop of about 500 metres that you can drive, and there is plenty of opportunity to take pictures of the lions, although you need to take care not to get the fences in the pictures. Just outside the enclosure, but still in the reserve, there was a herd of cattle grazing (?). Why cattle were in the reserve, I don’t know. The lions were pacing up and down the fence with an hungry eye on the beef! As we left the enclosure, the gate keeper, with his hand out, asked us to “sponsor” him.

If you are visited Durban and want to see wildlife, rather drive a little further to reserves like Tala, or Gwahumbe, although neither have lions, or take the three hour trip to Umfolozi/Hluhluwe reserves to see everything. Don’t waste your time at the Natal Lion Park.

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