Join an award winning and internationally acclaimed sanctuary for captive born lions that cannot be rehabilitated into the wild. Drakenstein Lion Park provides these displaced lions with a home for life, where they are treated with compassion and respect and allowed to live out their lives with dignity.

As a genuine sanctuary, they are not involved in breeding or any form of commercial trade. The sanctuary has long campaigned for the abolition of canned lion hunting in South Africa. For more information about canned lion hunting and its links to lion cub petting, please see the Useful Info tab above, or refer to our FAQ.

Volunteers have the unique opportunity to join a team of dedicated animal care givers and experience the day to day running of a lion sanctuary, working for the animals and not with them. You will also have opportunities to work with the smaller chimpanzee sanctuary adjacent to the lions.

To join this project you will need to be in good physical condition and aged 18 years or older by the time you arrive. Good social skills are an advantage and a willingness to help where needed is vital as you will be part of a small team of staff and volunteers. Personal characteristics like commitment, flexibility and the ability to use your initiative will also be key. To ensure effective communication between all team members, a good understanding of the English language is also required.

View photos of the Lion Sanctuary Project near Cape Town

Please note that this is a popular project with room for only 2 or 3 volunteers at a time. Please book as early as you can.

Main activitiesFood preparation for the lions, cleaning lion camps and grounds, monitoring visitors and more.
LocationDrakenstein Lion Park, near Cape Town in South Africa.
Arrival DayYou can arrive in Cape Town on any Friday throughout the year, subject to availability. Your first day with the lions will be on the Monday, so you will have the weekend to settle in and make yourself at home.
Meeting pointOne of our team will meet you when you land at Cape Town Airport.
DurationYou can volunteer with the Lion Sanctuary for 1 week or more.
Working hoursVariable hours. Approximately 08:30 - 17:00, Monday to Friday.
Age limitYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive.
Volunteer FeeVolunteer fees for each duration are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced Cape Town based team are on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa.
Airport TransfersWe provide escorted transfers between Cape Town Airport, your pre-project accommodation and the lion sanctuary.
Welcome briefYou will receive a comprehensive welcome brief shortly after you arrive.
OrientationOn your first day with the Lion Sanctuary Project you will receive a full orientation.
AccommodationBefore you join the project you will stay at one of Cape Town's best backpackers. At Drakenstein Lion Park you will stay in a cabin close to the lion and chimpanzee enclosures.
ClothingYou will receive two project T-Shirts.
In-country supportBeing based in South Africa means that we can give you real support during your stay.
CertificateOn completion of your placement we will send you a special thank you to accompany your CV or resume.
VisasCitizens from most countries can arrive in South Africa and stay for up to 90 days without a Visa. Refer to our FAQ section for more details if you are unsure.
FlightsPlease ask us if you need any recommendations for keeping your flight costs to a minimum.
InsuranceWe have partnered with World Nomads Insurance to give you access to great value insurance for volunteers. Check out our Insurance page under the FAQ tab for more details.

You can expect to be busy from 08:30 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday, with a 1-hour lunch break at around noon. You will have the weekends off to relax.

General volunteer activities will include but not be limited to the following:

  • Monitoring visitors to the sanctuary to ensure our animals well being
  • Food preparation for the lions, tigers, chimpanzees and the smaller animals
  • Cleaning the grounds and facilities
  • Cleaning lion and tiger camps
  • Clearing alien vegetation
  • Assisting with tour groups
  • Clearing fence lines and general fence maintenance
  • Fence construction
  • Firebreak maintenance (and fire fighting in the summer!).

A local taxi service is available for trips out in your spare time. There is a 9pm curfew at the volunteer camp, so you will need to be back by then if you do pop out for a meal, drinks or shopping.

When you first arrive in Cape Town, you will spend the weekend at Ashanti Lodge, one of Cape Town’s best backpackers. During your time with the Lion Sanctuary Project you will stay in shared accommodation not far from the sanctuary’s lion and chimpanzee and lion enclosures. The rooms are equipped with single beds, a small wardrobe and a small drawer unit.

Here are some useful things to know about the volunteer camp:

  • Your rooms are very close to the lions and chimpanzees so you will hear the occasional roar at night.
  • Each bed has a pillow, pillow cases and sheets. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag, and blankets are available for the colder winter nights.
  • A housekeeper will clean the kitchen and lounge area once a week, but you will be expected to keep your own areas tidy and clean up your dishes from day to day.
  • There is no Wi-Fi at the sanctuary, but a shopping trip to a large mall is provided every Monday to enable you to stock up on food, spend time at an internet cafe, and drop off any laundry.
  • There is no safe at the camp, but there is one in the main office if you want to store any valuables.

Budgeting: Depending on your appetite and lifestyle, we suggest that you allow about £60 / U$100 per week for food, entertainment and other personal daily needs. If you like to eat out a lot or enjoy more than a few drinks you should allow for this too.

The Lion Sanctuary Project is located near Paarl, about a 40 minute drive from Cape Town in South Africa.

We have arrival dates for this project every Friday throughout the year.

  • You should aim to arrive in Cape Town on or before your chosen Friday arrival date
  • You can arrive at any time of day and one of our team will be there to welcome you with a big ‘Via Volunteers’ sign when you land at Cape Town International Airport
  • We will then escort you to your pre-project accommodation, one of Cape Town's best backpackers close to the city centre
  • On Monday morning we will transfer you to Drakenstein Lion Park and introduce you to the team.
  • At the end of your placement, you will depart on the Saturday morning. We will transfer you to the airport, or to Cape Town if you are planning to explore for a while.

It’s easy to add extra nights to your stay, so if you find a cheaper flight that arrives earlier than your Friday arrival date just let us know. You can also add extra nights after your placement for the same reason. Any extra time you have in Cape Town will not be wasted as there are so many things to do.

If you want to add another project, a Scuba Diving Course, a Surfing Week, or even a longer tour, we can help you with that too. Please ask one of our friendly team at any time before you arrive in Cape Town.

Canned Lion Hunting explained

Every year thousands of people visit facilities where they can interact with lion cubs. Every day, a captive bred lion is killed in a canned hunt. A canned hunt is one where a captive bred animal is shot in an enclosed area. Trophy hunters pay huge sums of money to shoot these defenceless animals. The animals are often drugged, and have no avenue of escape, providing for an easy shot at close range.

The truth is that these lions are the product of factory farming. The cubs are taken from their mothers so that they can produce another litter in six months' time, as opposed to the two years it would take if she had the opportunity to raise her own offspring.

These factory farmed cubs are often kept in unsuitable cages with little regard for their social requirements. For a fee you can play with them and have your photograph taken with them. Some of these facilities even attract volunteers with a seemingly plausible 'conservation' cover story. These volunteers spend time feeding the cubs and playing with them, completely unaware of the real fate awaiting these lions.

What happens to these human imprinted animals when they have outgrown their usefulness?

  • Because they are human imprinted and have been deprived of growing up in a natural social group they cannot be rehabilitated or sold to game reserves.

Do these lion cubs benefit from this forced interaction?

  • No.

What possible enjoyment can they derive from being pawed, picked up and being posed with all day long, day after day, until they have grown too big?

  • None.

Are these animals part of breeding programmes that will save lions from extinction?

  • No, definitely not.

These inbred, human imprinted and psychologically damaged animals have absolutely no conservation value.

  • They cannot be rehabilitated into the wild.
  • They cannot be used to supplement dwindling wild populations.
  • They can be used as cannon fodder in the canned hunting industry.
  • Every reputable animal welfare organization in the world considers the practice of using lion cubs for human playthings as cruelty.
  • Lion cubs are by their very nature not gentle animals.
  • Lion cubs used for petting opportunities are normally trained not to scratch or bite.
  • How do you think a naturally boisterous animal is trained not to behave naturally?
  • These cubs are sometimes even drugged.

What about your safety?

  • Every year many people are badly injured while interacting with wild animals in petting parks.

If you are presented with the opportunity of playing with a lion cub, first ask:

  • Where are the cub's mothers?
  • Why aren't they being raised by their mother?
  • Where do the cubs come from? (Often, operators rent lion cubs from bigger breeding farms)
  • What happens to them when they grow too big?
  • If they are rehabilitated, where have they been rehabilitated and is there supporting documentation?
  • Once they have been rehabilitated, do they have the opportunity to live out their natural lives, or is their rehabilitation just to facilitate their death at the hands of hunters?
  • If they are sold to game reserves, which game reserves (by name)?
  • If they are part of a breeding programme, for what purpose?
  • What happens to surplus animals?

The operators of facilities with lion cubs often have all the answers, but if you start asking these questions you will at some point be faced with a hostile response.

If you are are given an opportunity to play with a lion cub, we urge you to practice responsible tourism and respond with a resounding NO!

Durations & Pricing

Change your currency
1 week - £ 350
2 weeks - £ 510
3 weeks - £ 670
4 weeks - £ 830
You do not pay anything when you book. We will provide you with a detailed itinerary and quote for you to check. When you are happy with the details, you will be able to confirm your placement with a deposit of £90.

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