Just 15 minutes from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, on the old Seaview Road lies a unique game and lion park ideally situated right on the coast which boasts some 60 lions including 7 very rare white lions of which there are only some 400 in existence throughout the world.
The owners, Rusty and Janice Gibb, have spent ten hard years building the park up and expanding it so that the public can enjoy a feast of game viewing. Once inside the park, one can cruise the sand roads that meander through the Eastern Cape bush to enjoy the sights of giraffe grazing, zebra and wildebeest and impala cantering in the fields, monkeys jumping from tree to tree teasing the animals below. Watch out for those shy animals such as duiker, grysbok and Bushbuck peeking at you from the pristine coastal bush.
Rusty explains, “In 1997 we bought the 30 hectare lion park in a very run down state with just 6 lionesses, a giraffe, a dying zebra, a wildebeest, a single Kudu and a bushbuck. The reputation that we inherited was shocking but we set ourselves the task of changing all that. We saw the potential of building something worthwhile for the city of Port Elizabeth. We immediately started to increase the size of the Park by purchasing 3 adjoining farms comprising another 90 hectares. We re-thatched and restored the buildings and constructed workshops and garages and have brought in new stocks of wild animals.
You could say that we were at the forefront of a new trend in the 1990’s of private game ventures. We saw that the economic wave from Cape Town would spread eastwards towards Port Elizabeth and that the climate of the Eastern Cape was ideal for game parks and farms.”
“Sometimes,“ smiles Janice Gibb, “when the sun shines on the dew on the trees with the impala grazing beneath the branches, it is so incredibly beautiful that it takes your breath away. We offer the public a “close-up game viewing experience,”
The opportunity of interacting with lion cubs and for children the chance of hugging a lion cub.”
Rusty continues, “In 1997 there were only 30 white lions in the world and it took several generations before we successfully bred our first white lions. Since those days, with selective breeding, we now have three separate bloodlines in our white lions.”
Janice reminisces, “At one time there were six females enclosed in a separate enclosure from the male. They broke down the gate to get to the one male, Jady, and this hastened our breeding plans somewhat because we suddenly had 18 cubs on hand in the space of two months! When Jady was getting old and rather sickly, we decided to put two of his ex wives with him to keep him company in his last days. Much to our amazement, Jady fathered two cubs from each of the wives!
Then there was Nebby whom we acquired in 1999 and he became the father of our two first white lions born at the Park. That was a very exciting event for us.”
Rusty explains, “Just to give you an idea of their value. If you had to sell a breeding adult male in those days you would have expected to realize some R450,000. Because there are many more white lions these days, you would expect to realize some R250,000 today.”
Every lion is purpose bred for their lineage and at the age of 2 all the lions are separated by gender to avoid any in breeding.”
There is a restaurant and a curio shop and a large, “Things of Interest,” area, situated on top of the hill with a stunning view of the sea and the bush.
Janice says, “We encourage schools to come for educational visits because so many children in South Africa have not seen their wildlife heritage. We have guides who speak fluent English, Afrikaans and Xhosa and school groups come from as far afield as Cape Town, Pretoria and the Transkei.
It has been with the help of our dedicated staff, volunteers around the world and the Port Elizabeth public, that we have been able to take the Game Park from strength to strength. Rusty and I would like to say a big Thank You!”
TEXT: R Hift
PHOTOGRAPHS: Seaview Game Park
Port Elizabeth founded the first Amateur Cycling Club in 1880.
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3 October 2012 7:51