Volunteer Testimonials   |  Lion Sanctuary Project Photos

COVID Recovery Note: We are currently not able to accept applications for this project. We recommend the Big Cat Sanctuary as an excellent alternative for ethical volunteering with lions and other big cats.

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.

Please note that this is a popular project with room for only 6 volunteers at a time. Please book as early as you can.

Arrival AirportCape Town (CPT)
Arrival DayFriday recommended - you can arrive earlier or over the weekend
Join Project OnMonday
Minimum Duration1 week – includes 3 nights in Cape Town and 4 nights at the sanctuary
Maximum Duration4 weeks – includes 3 nights in Cape Town and 4 nights at the sanctuary each week
Volunteering HoursApproximately 8:30am - 5pm, from Monday to Friday each week
Main ActivitiesFood preparation for the lions, cleaning lion camps and grounds, monitoring visitors and more
Fly Home OnFriday evening (you can depart at a later date)
Minimum AgeYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive
AvailabilityAvailable dates for each duration are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced team is on hand to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa
Airport WelcomeOne of our team will be at the airport to welcome you and escort you to Ashanti Lodge
AccommodationEach weekend you will stay at Ashanti Lodge in central Cape Town. At the Lion Sanctuary you will stay in a cabin close to the lion and chimpanzee enclosures
FoodBasic breakfasts are included at Ashanti Lodge. All other meals are self-catering
Vodacom Sim CardA free, pre-registered Sim card for your phone
Wi-FiFree Wi-Fi at Ashanti Lodge. There is no Wi-Fi at the Lion Sanctuary
Project TransferWe will take you to the Lion Sanctuary on your first morning
OrientationOn your first day at the Lion Sanctuary you will have a full orientation
T-ShirtsTwo Lion Sanctuary T-Shirts
In-country SupportOur volunteer coordinators are available 24/7 for emergencies, and are on hand to help you make the most of your stay
CertificateOn completion of your placement we will send you a special thank you certificate 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. Please refer to our FAQ section for more details if you are unsure
FlightsPlease refer to our FAQ section for recommendations about keeping your flight costs to a minimum
InsuranceWe have partnered with World Nomads Insurance to give you access to great value insurance for volunteers. Please check out our Insurance page under the FAQ tab for more details.
TransportYou must use the Uber App on your phone to book your remaining Monday/Friday transfers between Ashanti Lodge & the Lion Sanctuary
Transfer back to Cape Town AirportUber works really well in Cape Town and is the best value option for this.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Lion Sanctuary Project Photos

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 explore Cape Town.

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.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Lion Sanctuary Project Photos

Every weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday night), you will stay at Ashanti Lodge, Cape Town’s best backpackers. During the week (Monday to Thursday night) you will stay in basic shared accommodation at the Lion Sanctuary not far from the lion and chimpanzee 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.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Lion Sanctuary Project Photos

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

Your arrival airport is Cape Town (CPT)

  • We have arrival dates for this project on most Fridays throughout the year.
  • You can also arrive earlier or over the weekend if you prefer. We can easily add extra nights to your stay, before and/or after your placement.
  • You can book your arrival flight to land at Cape Town International Airport at any time of day.
  • One of our team will be at the airport to give you a warm welcome. We will also escort you to Ashanti Lodge and help you get settled in.
  • You will have the rest of the weekend to explore Cape Town before joining the project on Monday.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Lion Sanctuary Project Photos

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
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 £30.

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