How to Pet a South African Lion and Not Get Eaten Alive

 Just petting my man-eating friend. NBD.

Just petting my man-eating friend. NBD.

Taking a walk on the wild side in South Africa

Lions fearlessly attack elephants, crocodiles and hippos. They eat an average of 40 pounds of meat in just one meal, and their prey is often killed by strangulation before its ripped to shreds. With that said, why not take your life into your own hands and roam South Africa’s wide-open grasslands with a pack of lions?

 Forget chihuahuas. Baby white lions are the must-have accessory this season.

Forget chihuahuas. Baby white lions are the must-have accessory this season.

Well, I did just that. I know it sounds like a death wish, but walking with lions near Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo, South Africa, was one of the coolest experiences I've had on my world travels.

But don't think that you can just jump out of your Jeep and start cuddling with 500-pound predators. My lion experience at Limpopo's four-star Protea Hotel Ranch Resort was highly supervised and relatively safe. The ranch is home to more than 30 lions and offers guests the opportunity to interact with the creatures during a mile-long stroll. 

During the walk, a number of lion trainers marched by my side and regaled me with stories about their unlikely friends. Under the watchful eye of the trainers, I was also allowed to pet the animals and hold onto the end of their tails as they led me on an adventure I’ll never forget.

The lions, many of whom are a rare breed of white lion, are raised in captivity and, despite their formidable sizes, they range in age from about 6 to 10 months old.

 Cuter than a LOLcat.

Cuter than a LOLcat.

Walking side-by-side with one of the wild's most dangerous animals is a frightening and exhilarating experience. You can find some comfort in knowing that the lions on this tour have never hunted before (lions typically realize their hunting instincts at age 3) and have only been fed dead meat as to not develop a taste for live flesh. And, with names like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, it’s difficult to be scared of them for too long.

My walking with lions experience was made possible by South African Toursim, the Protea Hotel Ranch Resort and South African Airways. Views expressed are my own.