Day 5- Lions and cheetahs and springboks, oh my! LION PARK!

imageI didn’t exactly know what to expect from the  Lion Park because I have been to zoos and some rookie safaris, so to be honest I was more concerned with my safari outfit in the morning.

My expectations for going to the Lion Park were completely exceeded and I barely have the words to describe how awesome the day was. The whole experience didn’t necessarily feel real to me. We dropped our luggage off at the tents. I was very “tent”ative about the tents because I have never been camping before and I am not considered to be an outdoorsy person. When we walked in to the tent I was pleasantly surprised how nice everything was and not only how cozy it was but also how authentic everything seemed.

We went on the safari first where we could see and capture pictures of all of the animals that reside in the Lion Park. Let me just start this off by saying it is nothing like the safari at Disney World. These animals were more majestic than I could even imagine. I remember mentioning to Lauren that I knew my face was going to hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much.

When we settled down we went to lunch but tried to eat as fast as possible because the moment we had been waiting for was right about to happen, playing with lion cubs!! That was the first thing on the itinerary that I was bragging about to all of my family and friends and was most excited about. How many people can say that they have played with cubs before?

We went inside where the cubs were and we were able to interact with them. I wasn’t scared at all because I thought they were the cutest and most innocent creatures I have ever seen! I walked up the rock where they played on and right away a cub started clawing and scratching me. Surprisingly it didn’t bother me at all because of how adorable and fluffy they were.

imageOnce we were satisfied with the hundred or so pictures we took, we went to go feed the giraffes. Walking in to the park there were signs warning us to be aware of the giraffes, but I thought that was one of the most incredible experiences ever. Their tongues were fuzzy and slimy but it was so fun to go out of my comfort zone and get a little sloppy to experience something I might not ever be able to do again. Although toward the end, the giraffe bit my hand, I still couldn’t resist going back for more.

The funniest part of this day was when Libby, Kristyn, Lacey, and I were trying to take a picture with an ostrich. All of a sudden the ostrich starting flailing his wings and running after us. I think I was more afraid in that moment than I did when we were walking a cheetah.

imageWalking the cheetah, Felix, was the most surreal moment yet. He was so beautiful and we all were overcome with a mix of fearfulness and excitement.

Normally at home I am very reserved and wouldn’t take risks but before coming on the trip instead of using “yolo” (you only live once) as my motto, I decided to go with “difts” (do it for the story). It sounds silly but I know I would end up regretting anything that I didn’t at least try, remember forever, and tell/brag to all of my family and friends when I got home! I knew this trip might be a once in a lifetime experience, but I didn’t understand how the things we were doing at the Lion Park would probably not be allowed in the States, where we could actually interact with the animals and learn about their life at the Lion Park.

When the day started to come to an end we went to a braai with our whole class to try some traditional South African dishes. Usually I am pretty up for trying new foods so I was very ready for some boerewors and pap. It was interesting and I liked it, but happy we were all together eating an authentic South African meal in such a comfortable atmosphere.

imageThe last event of the night was seeing the feeding of the lions. To be completely honest, it wasn’t my favorite part of the day just because of the gross meat hanging on a stump, but it was so cool to see the interactions between the lionesses and the lions fighting over their dinner.

Overall, the day was remarkable and as each day goes on everything just keeps getting better and better, not only because we are in South Africa doing amazing things but because we are all becoming so close and experiencing all of this together as a group. I can confidently say everyone on this trip are becoming my close friends rather than just my classmates and it makes me really excited and grateful for this opportunity.

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