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Posted on: Monday, 23 May 2011

The Natal Lion Park – A review

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Natal Lion Park

Natal Lion Park

It had been quite a while since I’d been on a game drive, five years in fact, so when some friends and I decided to pay the Natal Lion Park a visit recently, I was looking forward to an exciting excursion into the rugged African bushveld. Situated just 25km from Pietermaritzburg and about 67km from Durban the Natal Lion Park is quickly accessible from either of these major centres, and we certainly enjoyed the drive with the surrounding countryside providing pleasant views all round.

The game drive itself consisted of a seven kilometre loop around the park with entrance fees ranging from R100 per car to R220 for a large bus. Considering that my friends and I were being given the opportunity to potentially view 11 species of mammals, 20 species of birds and 12 species of reptiles our R100 entrance fee seemed more than reasonable.

We began our one hour journey shortly after arriving and were soon scouring our surroundings trying to spot whatever animals we could. However, with the sun positioned almost straight overhead most of the animals had already sought shelter from the heat and were proving difficult to locate.

After about 15 minutes without seeing even a butterfly our luck changed when a couple of African Elephants appeared out of the bush and slowly made their way towards our vehicle. African Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world, with some specimens standing four metres tall and weighing as much as six tons. In the 10 years preceding an international ban in the ivory trade in 1990, an estimated 700,000 of these elephants were killed for their valuable tusks, which they use for stripping the bark off trees and for defence against predators. Since then their numbers have increased considerably although they are still listed as a vulnerable species due to the ever present threat of poaching.

Natal Lion Park

These giants of the bushveld certainly seemed intimidating as they lumbered towards our car and considering they were a mother and her calf, I was more than a little nervous. Female elephants are very protective of their young and have been known to attack humans if they feel their young ones are under threat. Thankfully both mother and child were as calm as could be, lazily grazing next to our vehicle giving us the perfect opportunity to get some really good shots. Viewing these majestic animals up close in their natural surroundings was a great experience. They possess an uncanny combination of strength and grace that is simply awesome to behold and difficult to describe.

After bidding our elephant’s farewell we continued on our journey through the park, constantly scanning our surroundings in the hope of spotting more wildlife, but, with the exception of a lone Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, we weren’t able to locate anything. Although we were a little disappointed, we had the assurance that the park’s main attraction, namely its huge lions, would be unable to escape our attention.

Natal Lion Park

At the Natal Lion Park, the lions at the park are kept in an open air enclosure situated right at the end of the game drive route, and visitors have access to them via a manned gate. We drove our vehicle into the enclosure and began to snap away, catching the lions in a variety of poses. It was quite something to view these huge predators from just a few metres away with only a few centimetres of window glass serving as protection if something was to go awry. Of course the chances of being harmed by these lions are pretty minimal considering they are well fed and very used to humans, but we were warned by park officials never to roll down our windows or to unlock our doors at any time whilst in the lion enclosure. After all, as friendly and tame as these big cats appeared to be, they are still wild animals and need to be treated with the utmost caution.

With nothing more to see we headed towards the exit to conclude what had been a most interesting morning out in the bush. We all agreed that although we had hoped to see more animals, we were more than happy with our findings. Encountering an African Elephant in the wild is something to behold and even if you aren’t lucky enough to come across one, the lions will always be on hand to keep you entertained.

Natal Lion Park

 

Pietermaritzburg Links:

Pietermaritzburg Popular Attractions
Things to Do in Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg Lodges & Hotels
KwaZulu Natal Holiday Accommodation
South Africa Holiday Accommodation

Natal Lion Park Contact Details:

Telephone: +27 (0)31 785-4707 or cell +27 (0)83 640-2641
Address: Umlaas Road, Lynnfieldpark, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal.

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What Others are Saying

6 comments about The Natal Lion Park – A review
  1. May 24th, 2011 at 11:03
    Jane says:

    great review and pics

  2. May 24th, 2011 at 13:25
    Guy Mortimer says:

    Thanks Jane. I promise to keep them coming. Warm regards. Guy.

  3. November 8th, 2011 at 08:40
    Sven says:

    Having just gone through the “park” this last weekend, one can see there is nothing going on other than the elephants being led past the cars, and a handful of lions in an enclosure. The entire park is overrun with Lantana and Euphorbias, making the bush now inpenetrable for any game other than mice ! I understand funding is always an issue, but if not run properly then close the doors.Or alternativley invite the public in to help – either through education programs, camp outs, walking trails or something to that effect.Get the people involved, do some work parties, and start the eradication of the lantana. A few black rhino would be good for opening up the bush, but yes sadly, they would have to be escorted by armed gaurds 24 hrs a day.

  4. December 22nd, 2011 at 21:02
    Thomo says:

    Sven, We are taking our kids to the Lion Park tomorrow and we are all really looking forward to going on a game drive with the hope of seeing some of the extra ordinary wild life that Africa has to offer, I am sorry that your experience was not what you expected and yes there may be a lot to be done to the park to bring it up to what you consider to be of a good standard, but why kill the day for others or even the possibility of further business for the park which will surely bring in much needed funds just because you had a rotten day. If you want to see all africa has to offer then spend the money and go to the Serengetii and don’t be a cheap skate at the Lion park and then slag them off because you had a bad day. What Did you expect for R100 anyway?

  5. May 14th, 2014 at 00:18
    Kristina says:

    We visited this park recently and it was nothing like you suggest. we drove the long route around and did not see one animal, the bush was so overgrown i wouldn’t even know animals were there.
    It was also the most stressful journey. That road is NOT suitable for normal cars, we were frequently hearing the bottom of the car scraping against the gravel and had to manouvre the car as best we could. The smell of the clutch burning at the end was so strong it made you sick. If you drive a 4×4 then by all means drive it as it is beautiful but do not listen to the people in the shop telling you that it is suitable for normal cars. Just take the short route.

  6. May 14th, 2014 at 11:36
    Sven says:

    In response to Thomo’s comment.Firstly I have no intention of ruining anyones day, and yes it was a sad rotten day. I happen to be a qualified wilderness guide who does trails in big 5 territories. I have travelled extensively through all of southern Africa, camping in the wilderness. So I to, really enjoy wilderness and animals ( lot more than ill-informed consuming human species ! ) My argument is, if you do not have the funds to run a park correctly then don’t do it.It is false advertising, the only thing in that park is tame elephants and a handful of lions in an enclosure. The bush is completely overgrown, and as mentioned above the roads are not even suitable for a normal car ( I have a 4×4 obviously since I am in the wilderness ) . Yes, I will spend my R100 somewhere else. If you really want to get depressed then visit the zoo next door. Those animals should be euthainased ( nothing else for them )and the zoo closed.I would recommend you go to the Serengeti, even though vastly overcrowded, there the animals still manage to roam free !