Johannesburg | South Africa 2019

We only spent one full day in Johannesburg, but we jammed it full of activities. Animal-related activities. The centers and sanctuaries that we went to in Johannesburg play a large role in the protection and conservation of the animals they housed. While I still have mixed feelings about zoos, there was something about these sanctuaries that made me feel like the animals were really well taken care of and had lots of space to walk around. Some animals, like some of the cheetahs, are even re-released into the wild once they are rehabilitated.

As a lifelong animal lover, the entire day was a dream come true for me (a dream that would only continue on safari). Our first stop early in the morning was The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre. We weren’t able to interact with the cheetahs because . . . they’re cheetahs, but we did get to interact with and touch other animals later on in the day!

At the Cheetah Centre, we saw the cheetahs lounging and eating, and we also watched a Cheetah Run. The Cheetah Run was a run set up by the Centre where some of the ambassador cheetahs (cheetahs who were rejected by their mothers and had to be raised by humans, thus allowing them to participate in more human-oriented activities) were given tons of room to chase a toy and guests could witness their insane speed safely from an enclosed space. Their speed and muscle were absolutely mindblowing.

Cheetah Run
Cheetah Run

The Cheetah Centre also housed wild dogs– not to be confused with hyenas (after our safari, we came to realize how different the two really are). Just like with the cheetahs, we weren’t able to interact with the wild dogs either, but we were able to watch them run around and eat together.

wild dogs

Next, we went to the Bushbaby and Monkey Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort Dam. Two of my favorite animals that we saw there were the lemurs and the capuchin monkeys.

One of the first animals we saw was a mama lemur who was carrying her baby on her back. They were also with another lemur that wrapped its arm around them both! It was so cute, my heart melted!

Then came the capuchins. When we first walked into the sanctuary we were told to remove items from our pockets and put them in bags or backpacks because some of the monkeys are known to be pickpockets. We did as we were told, but that didn’t stop one monkey from trying to find some loose change in J’s pockets!

The capuchins were such social animals and would climb all over us, which I absolutely LOVED! We were instructed to not make any sudden movements or try to pet them when they climbed on us, but to just let them do their thing. I was obviously more than happy to oblige!

I developed a strong connection with one monkey in particular named Bonnie. She climbed onto my shoulder and started tugging on my hat, at which point our guide told me she wanted me to remove it. As soon as I took my hat off she started grooming me– cleaning my ears and combing through my hair! This was by far one of the coolest/cutest moments, at least in my book! Little does Bonnie know she will always have a very special place in my heart.


After the monkey sanctuary, we ended our day with The Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort Dam. This was such an unreal experience. At the sanctuary, we were able to feed the elephants, walk with them, and feel their tusks, ears, and trunk. I even got kissed by one of them! (J missed the photo op for that particular moment, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that it actually happened.) The elephants were so majestic and sweet. Although they are massive animals, something about them (or at least about these elephants in particular, since they are so used to humans) was calming and made everyone who interacted with them feel comfortable.

This was by far one of the most memorable days of my life (second only to my wedding day, probably!) and it was the perfect way to prepare us for what was ahead on safari.

Giulia ♥

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