#Travel: Encountering White Lions for the first time

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Experience a loving cuddle or feel the breadth of a playful African Lion cub or see prides of white Lions at a 600 hectare wilderness reserve located in Hartebeespoort, Magaliesburg in the Cradle of Humankind area of South Africa.

Wildlife is often misunderstood and underestimated by humans. Close encounters with animals often are humbling experiences and what better way to understand wildlife than to connect with them. As a city dweller, whatever the species and no matter how many books and documentaries you have watched, connecting with wildlife through close encounters or interactions is truly awe-inspiring – building a sense of respect and appreciation for wildlife.

However it is important to note that tourists should be careful when it comes to interactions with wildlife – some scientific studies have documented that close encounters with wild animals can have lasting consequences such as stress to the animals, and of course personal safety should always be considered.

Encountering White Lions For The First Time

The warm and golden afternoon sun is dipping quickly behind the hills, a steely, grey and blue gaze shoots back at you – hypnotized, the abrupt stop of our caged game viewing truck suddenly reminds you that this is our first close encounter with White Lions, a genetic rarity of Panthera Leo and is believed to be native to the Timbavati and Kruger regions in South Africa.

According to The White Lion Trust, after decades of forced removals from their endemic habitat, most White Lions are held in captivity – in fact, there are less than 13 that live in the wild. The critically endangered sub-species of the African Lion has significant cultural value to the Tsonga and Sepedi communities and were first discovered in 1938, but African elders indicate that White Lions have survived in this region for many centuries.

Just metres away from our vehicle, a stoic White Lion lifts his head confidently and rolls its jaw in a long and lazy yawn, revealing its large incisors. Such strength and beauty. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to hunt or forcibly remove them from their home.

Next time you’re in Johannesburg and environs, take an afternoon and head up to Lion & Safari Park for some unforgettable wild experiences and to learn more about the majestic and beautiful White Lions.

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SUSAN WONG

Susan Wong is the Editor of Capital Lifestyle, a resident photographer, an award-winning journalist, radio presenter, full-time adventurer, long-time admirer of anything edible, and a spicy food athlete at Capital FM.

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