hanging out with giraffes, rhinos, lions and hippos, oh my!

it’s quite funny to sort through my pictures from our trip because there will be a few of us with mosques in istanbul and then bam! there we are feeding a giraffe in africa. i always got so maxed out taking photos in different places that i didn’t take photos of the traveling in between. but we had some good times on those planes and in those airports and entering new countries. i am always excited to approach an entirely new place.

after we got our rental car and dropped off our luggage where we were staying in johannesburg, we headed straight for the rhino and lion nature preserve, just a bit outside the city. this place was so awesome and we were so glad we went there! it’s like a hybrid between the wild bush and a zoo – the animals are fed and fenced off, but their “cages” are really big (like a mile by a mile, and bigger in some cases) and they roam freely. visitors drive in and around on a few roads. there is also an “animal creche” where baby and elderly or injured animals are cared for. we were headed on a kruger park safari the next day, so visiting the rhino and lion nature preserve gave us a fantastic introduction to african wildlife and helped us ensure that we saw all the iconic animals that are sometimes hard to find in the wild!

our first stop was the “neck deck” where we were able to feed some friendly giraffes!

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^^ look at those tongues! ^^

then, we headed out into the semi-wild :) to spot other animals. it was amazing!!!

^^ rhino crossing!! ^^
^^ we were so close to these rhinos and we were totally in awe. they are so huge and dinosaur-ish! ^^

at the animal creche, we were greeted by this purring cheetah…and then we went on to play with lion cubs! it was one of the neatest experiences ever.

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^^ as we waited for the attendant to take us in the lion cub’s den, this awesome bird hung out with us. ^^
^^ are they the cutest or what?! ^^
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^^ the cubs were very playful and would swipe and nip at us while we were petting them. the attendant assured us that they couldn’t really hurt us, and they just like being a bit frisky :) ^^
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we also got to go in the cheetah cage. this was beyond the wildest dreams of ian when he was a little boy and obsessed with cheetahs. it was pretty dang cool.

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^^ we also saw baby hippos and warthogs (hi, pumba!) in the animal creche, along with some tigers and leopards! ^^

we went to the yellow lion area and drove around for a while, scanning scanning, trying to see some big cats…and we saw nothing! just as we were thinking we might not see lions at the preserve, we entered the white lion area, and there were three huge, majestic, gorgeous creatures right inside the fence! we sat in the car watching them for at least half an hour, sometimes just completely silent and totally in awe.

^^ ahhh! i just wanted to climb on his back and dig my fingers into his luscious mane! i’m sure these guys are just as kind and gentle as aslan :) ^^

totally incredible. we left the lion area and saw more cape buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, and finally some hippos in the pond! hippos are very elusive so we didn’t see much of them, but were delighted when the peeked up out of the water!


on our way back to joburg, we stopped at a mall to get some food. we found this gummy wall of goodness as well as a nando’s! (i looooved that chain when i was a missionary in england, and when we went to london in january, ian also got hooked on their yummy piri piri chicken … we were excited to learn nando’s is actually a south african chain!)


it is truly awe-inspiring to see and interact with diverse wildlife. i love how it reminds me of god’s love and creativity!


  1. Those lion cubs are heart-meltingly adorable.

  2. What a fantastic experience! Awesome that you could play with lion cubs and even be right there with a cheetah. You are much more trusting than I am! L.A. in WA

  3. OHMYGOODNESS currently freaking out because I wish I could have pet all those animals. It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!

  4. Those baby lions are way too cute! Somehow, I don't remember seeing photos on instagram of your time in Africa. How did I miss that one! Love all these post! Truly inspiring! I now have a few places on my bucket list; especially, the hot air balloon ride in Turkey!

  5. Cutest giraffes ever! Can't believe that you got that close to a leopard OR especially a rhino! They are hard to find! Those cubs didn't look as though they were drugged. That's kind of scary. Were the mamas around? Great stuff!

  6. I'm in love with the baby hippos! Also, I'm emailing you tomorrow morning. I hate not seeing you weekly to catch up!

  7. <3 I love so much about this post and pictures. Those giraffes though! And baby lion cubs---swoooooon!