Home on the ranch

2012-04-20 08:10

There’s a getaway oasis just two hours out of Johannesburg. Work had been crazy, and it was time to get away from the city and the stress.

So I jammed my kids into the car early one Friday morning and hit the N1 to Polokwane. The Ranch was the destination – a sprawling multi-entertainment venue just south of Polokwane. It has several attractions – superb conferencing facilities, a golf academy and, arguably, the biggest calling card: visitors can go walking with lions. Yup, LIONS.

We got to the venue early – a bit too early for the rooms to be ready. But no worries, we trundled off to hang out around what is the bluest swimming pool I’d ever seen, sparkling in the steadily heating day. As we settled into a relaxing morning at the pool, Paul Shearer, part owner and revenue manager, arrived and revealed a jam-packed two-day schedule.

First up was a visit to the golf academy for a quick lesson in how to smack the white ball around and then a bit of putting – just enough to get us interested. So be it.

I put my best foot forward and the swing wasn’t too bad, but the putting was poor. My kids and I decided to give the six-hole course a go. Bad move. I’m no Big Easy, that’s for sure. I shot a round in 19 over, an experience best left to memoirs before you die. Hmmm.

After a tasty lunch, the pool beckoned. We put on our swimming gear and hung out for the afternoon. It was spectacular. The sun was up, the pool was gorgeous and the food was delicious.

We were picked up later on for sundowners and were taken down to an amazing, huge wooden structure overlooking a feeding area for the lions. The drinks went down smoothly in the dipping sun and watching the lions so close was a real treat.

Dinner in the evening was a traditional buffet. We left the fine dining for the following night. By the time we’d eaten, my kids and I were bushed, so we retreated to our comfortable rooms. Saturday morning we were to be up early to go walking with the lions.

At 7am, we were piled on to the back of a UniMog and headed to the lion enclosure to walk with three white lions and two tawnies. The lions may have looked cuddly and cute, but when they were gunning for food and emitting their guttural growls we knew that these were no pushover pussy cats.

They’re the savannah kings for good reason. Being able to touch their tails and walk side by side with them was an awesome and humbling experience.

The two-day stay was great and relaxing, and the hosts were always interested in our wellbeing. It’s a busy place on weekends – people know it’s well worth the trip.

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