As filming locations go, Glen Afric Country Lodge, covering 750 sunkissed hectares in South Africa's Gauteng province, is not a bad spot.
It's here that the cast and crew of ITV’s Wild at Heart have returned for the past six years and where the actors share the spotlight with scene-stealing hippos, lions, elephants, giraffes and hyenas.
The lodge is situated in the Cradle of Humankind Wild Heritage Site, where scientists believe the first humans evolved and the resident animals provide plenty of inspiration.
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"Lots of the weird things that happen on the farm end up in the script, because they are so unique," reveals Vicky Brooker, Glen Afric’s animal wrangler.
"We had a hippo who was in love with a water buffalo, for example, and used to break into his enclosure every night. There is no history of hippos and water buffalos ever liking each other."
Fans of the show can meet these wild animals for themselves, as Glen Afric is a year-round resort. Visitors can stay at the lodge, which has doubled as safari guesthouse Mari in Wild at Heart.
During filming, the stars of the show use the lodge’s stable block as their dressing rooms. These airy en suite rooms are available to paying guests for the rest of the year.
Holidaymakers can also see the animal stars up close on a game drive around the land. Vicky, who explains that most of the animals have been rescued, says that these wild creatures enjoy the attention and work.
"Elephants are much brighter than the lions, but the lions are always so enthusiastic," she says.
"They love the contact, the hugging and patting and being taught new tricks, and they will love you unconditionally," she says.
"And I don’t think any animal comes on to set that doesn’t want to."
For more information on Glen Afric, visit glenafric.co.za
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