I was about seven or eight years old the first time I visited African Lion Safari. We owned a grey Cutlass, or something equally domestic, and the one and only recollection I have of that day is of the baboons.
One yanked the antenna off of our car, while two of his little friends cheekily worked on the trim. And the rascals made off with several strips, too.
Fast forward more than 30 years, and my family was invited to African Lion Safari. It’s a bit of a trek for us to get there, so we didn’t agree right away. As soon as I read that you no longer have to take your own vehicle into the game park anymore, though, we agreed to do the two-hour drive to visit. (Check out some of our amazing photos below, most of which we took from inside the tour bus!)
There is a LOT to do at African Lion Safari. Heaps more than there was when I was a child. So much, in fact, that despite arriving at 10:30 a.m. and not leaving until after 5 p.m., we still didn’t do or see everything. We did the game reserves, lunch, boat tour, train ride, birds of prey show and water park. We feel confident that if we went back again, we could have a completely different day with very little overlap. That makes spending about $100-120 for a family of four to get in and eat lunch a bit more palatable.
Trust me when I tell you, take the Safari Tour Bus into the game reserves! Leave your car in the parking lot, go in and purchase the very reasonable tickets for the bus and get the first available tour. Start your day here. And have your camera at the ready. I had no trouble whatsoever taking beautiful photos from behind the large windows. They’re tinted and I thought that might pose a problem, but it didn’t; it actually seemed to prevent any glare. We saw rhinos and lions (of course), a baby giraffe cantering along, zebras big and small, antelope, deer, bison, oryx, watusi and even wallabies. And the famous baboons who were gleefully hopping on all of the cars that braved their path.
Everything we did – everything! – was fantastic. The kids enjoyed every second. Even when we had to drag them onto the Nature Boy scenic railway tour, not five minutes into the ride, both kids quickly did their mea culpas and absolutely loved it. The K Man even turned around and said to me, “Mommy, I’m sorry I said I wouldn’t like this without even trying it. This is actually my favourite part of today!”
Although I had read that there was a splash pad, I didn’t bother packing swimwear for any of us. I mean, how good could it really be? Ummm…it was amazing and put the splash pad at the Toronto Zoo to shame. It was like an outdoor mini-version of Great Wolf Lodge, with waterslides and play structures galore. Luckily, there was a little hut right beside the Misumu Bay Wet Play area that sold towels ($20) and swimsuits ($15-30), so we just bought the kids stuff onsite. It was a really warm day and they ended up running around in there for about two hours. I personally found the water FRIGID, but they didn’t seem to mind at all.
One of the highlights for me was the birds of prey show, where numerous birds make their way to and from different points in the open-air arena. If you want to get up close and personal with one of these birds, sit over in the top-right corner of the second-last set of bleachers on the right-hand side when you enter the arena. It’s one of the markers, and the bird really swoops right up there. It would have freaked the hell out of my kids, but if you have adventurous ones (or someone you’d like to punish and instill a lifelong fear of birds), you should go for it.
It’s definitely not inexpensive. Especially if you’re coming from far away and factor in the gas. But with all there is to occupy your day, it’s money well spent. Especially if you have kids who do that whole “I’m boooored…” whiny thing.
Lunch was just OK. Aside from the very cute lunch boxes that came with the kids’ meals, next time we will bring our own lunch from home in a cooler. There are miles of picnic tables, and then you won’t even have to worry about standing in line if you don’t manage to beat the lunch rush.
Try to go on a day that doesn’t have school trips, or at least be sure you get on a tour bus that isn’t accommodating a class. As much as I love children, hundreds of them together isn’t exactly my cup of tea. And the day we went, the place was littered with class trips.
The African Queen boat cruise is really more of a leisurely ride than an animal sightseeing expedition. We saw a couple of monkeys and a flock of Canada Geese, but that was about it.