I’m probably one of very few people who can claim to having breakfast with fifteen lions. I didn’t have to take a long fight to Africa – in fact I went to a most unlikely destination. Far North Queensland!
The Wildlife Safari Reserve is in Koah, a 40 minute drive west of Cairns. It’s home to lions, tigers, cheetahs, alpacas, a white rhinoceros, ostriches, bears, lemurs, antelopes, several species of monkey and two of hippopotamus, including four of just eight pygmy hippos in Australia.
The experience is thanks to owner Jenny Jattke who had no background in zoos or animals, but bought the park out of liquidation five years ago and has restored it. Her focus is on exotic species and she is proud to give up-close and personal visits with her animals.
Of course you can just go to the zoo and take a break in the café or enjoy a picnic in the grounds, but for something totally different, do as I did and have breakfast with the lions. (You can also have dinner with them and enjoy a first class meal and drinks).
It’s not for the faint-hearted. You will be on the edge of your seat as the King of the Jungle follows its natural feeding instincts and mealtime is frenzied, quite the opposite of their laid-back behaviour for most of the day.
There are Keeper Talks throughout the day. Choose the animal you would like to know more about and attend one of the spread-out feed and talk experiences. It’s quite amazing to learn just how much food and water the animals consume.
A highlight for me was meeting Zeke, a 12 year old cheetah. Cheetahs are some of the park’s more feared animals and I was very surprised to hear the large, ferocious-looking animal purring like the family cat. My absolute favourite was meeting Pie, a little baby with big attitude. He weighed in at just 5 kilograms when I held him, but in time will be over 100 kilograms.
Cairns in the north of Queensland.
Wear practical clothing that’s easy to move around in.