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Live with lion cubs in South Africa


Price above is guide only. Choose start date for your price.



Want to spend your days looking after and playing with lion cubs?

At this wildlife reserve and lion breeding centre in South Africa you will be spending your days looking after incredibly cute lion cubs as well as helping out on a whole range of duties throughout the reserve. Set in a stunning location the reserve is home to a number of lion cubs - and their older brothers and sisters, mums and dads! - and after spending time here we're certain you won't want to go home. What we can guarantee is that you'll fall in love with these incredible animals. 

Trip highlights

  • Feeding and caring for lion cubs
  • Helping to look after other the animals at the reserve 
  • Living in and enjoying life an incredible wildlife reserve 
  • Participating in game drives on the reserve

Fast facts

Project duration: 
2 weeks
Location of project: 
Near Johannesburg, South Africa
Arrival airport: 
Johannesburg (JNB) arrive by 4.15pm at the latest
Playing, bathing, feeding and caring for the cubs, preparing food for the bigger cubs, raking and cleaning enclosures, mending and painting fences
Working hours: 
Approximately 7am to 4pm daily with occasional work until 7pm - time off arranged in country
Getting to the project: 
Working with the lions and general maintenance around the reserve
Minimum age 17, under 18 year olds need to have an indemnity form from the project signed by parents

What's included

Shared room in chalet on-site at the project
All meals are included and prepared for you
Airport pickup: 
Included on arrival date and transfer back to Pretoria Backpackers in Johannesburg on final day - flights should be booked to depart after 5pm
In-country orientation and briefing on arrival at the project
Pre-departure helpdesk, Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support

What's not included

Flights, Insurance, Visas


Day 1 (Monday) – Arrive into Johannesburg Airport (airport code JNB)

Today you will be met at the airport and taken straight to our backpacker’s hostel in Pretoria. You’ll need to arrive in before 4.15pm so that you’re all ready for the orientation which kicks off at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Pretoria should take around 45 minutes. The orientation is a crucial part of settling in to life in South Africa and will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, do’s and don’ts, how to stay safe and it’s your prime opportunity to ask any burning questions that you haven’t yet had answered. After the orientation you’ll have dinner prepared for you and have some time to relax and prepare before your first day at the project tomorrow.

If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Johannesburg before 4.15pm then we’d recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night’s accommodation, please give us a call for more information.

Day 2 (Tuesday) – Introductions at your project

The following morning you will be taken from Pretoria to Brits where you will be based. The project is 1-2 hours drive away, around 70km north of Johannesburg. The project and accommodation are on the same site so you won’t be late for work! Take time to get to know everyone and settle in, because this is your home for the rest of your stay.

Your first full day will be all about settling in at the reserve and getting to know how things operate, but it’s fairly laid back overall. The staff at the reserve are always happy to answer any questions that you might have.

You will have an amazing experience here including hands on feeding and caring for the lion cubs. However, don't forget that the animal enclosures will also need to be kept in good order, so expect to get dirty! General maintenance of the enclosures and facilities will also be one of your roles around the park.

Days 3 to 7 (Wednesday to Sunday) – Keep up the good work

Now you’re a fully fledged member of the team, you can aim to be on duty from around 7am to 4pm daily. You’ll be up with the birds in the morning but the afternoons are normally yours to relax by the pool on the reserve. You will sometimes be asked to work until 7pm as the cubs need constant attentiion…it’s hard work, but someone has to do it.

This project is quite laid back and structured with you in mind. Part of this experience is what you put in, but it’s also about what you want to get out of it.

Time off is arranged in country and is flexible. You will be able to take 1/2 days off on the weekends after the cubs have been fed. These days are your valuable time off to rest and explore. You probably won’t want to move away from the swimming pool at your accommodation but if you can tear yourself away, take time to explore the surrounding area. Around Brits there is a cheetah centre, crocodile farm, cultural village and plenty of curio shops to browse, so you won’t be bored! 

Following weeks

  • Caring for the small cubs: stimulating, bathing and feeding the cubs, as well as extensive interacting with guests and tourists on 'cub team' day.
  • Larger cubs: meat allocation, weighing and cubing meat and keeping record of all milk/meat consumed daily. 
  • Ranger team: Collecting vegetables, chickens, carcasses from local farmers and feeding the large and   mature lions. 
  • Mending and painting fences.
  • Raking and cleaning lion enclosures.
  • Clearing and maintenance of farm needs
  • Preparing food for the animals (handling meat).

Your remaining weeks will be filled with caring for the cubs, cutting up meat for the bigger cats and any other activities needed by the project. Days off will be arranged according to the needs of the project but you can just ask if you want to take specific time off.

Your Last Day (Monday)

At the end of your project a member of the team will transfer you back to Pretoria Backpackers, the team can also arrange for you to be transfered onwards to Johannesburg airport for a local fee so please arrange this with them in country. Please ensure that you allow sufficient time for checking in when booking your onward flight, usually we advise to make sure that your flight departs after 5pm.


What does the project do?

The centre currently has over 100 lions including some cubs as well as other predators and game that you will be helping to look after. It’s involved in lion research, breeding and conservation and has been featured in documentaries by National Geographic and Aquavision among others. The centre is also involved in educating young people and is also open to members of the public wanting to learn more about wildlife and spend time in this stunning location.

The main source of income for this project is through eco-tourism which in turn helps the ongoing research to be carried out. The project works directly with the Univerity of Pretoria and together they are at the forefront of white lion research; they are the only facility worldwide that practices principles of ethical breeding as part of their white lion breeding programme. They have also participated in research on Lion AIDS and TB in lions and have hosted several film crews for documentaries from around the world. More recently the project has also launched a cheetah breeding programme with particular emphasis on ethical breeding. An exciting fertility research project on big cats is presently being undertaken at the project, with several prominent researchers and professors from South Africa and Europe involved. This project is working to strengthen the gene pool, as inbreeding within the lion population is becoming a big problem, making lions susceptible to disease and viruses. Crossbreeding white lions with brown lions creates a much stronger gene pool and increases the lions chances of survival. 

The project is endorsed by the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort, the Zodiac Animal Clinic and Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic in Pretoria. There are also site inspections carried out by the Department of Nature Conservation at least twice a year to ensure that all animals are well looked after.

When the big cats grow up many of them will remain as part of the ongoing research projects; some are kept for breeding and others are released into enclosures. Any animals that are passed on will be to reputable reserves where checks have been carried out the make sure they have a good new home.

What’s the project like?

This is the perfect environment for anyone with a love of lions and other stunning African wildlife. The centre is home to around 100 lions plus cheetah, tigers, hyena, caracal, serval, civets as well as many impala, blesbuck, kudu, zebra, eland, giraffe, waterbuck, ostrich, warthog, gnu, red hartebeest the list just goes on! This results in a wonderful opportunity for hands-on experience with the lion cubs as well as a huge range of other activities on the reserve, this trip really is a once in a lifetime experience. As well as the work at the reserve, there are also great opportunities for horse-back safaris and visits to other reserves nearby at weekends and days off. All told this is a fantastic South African wildlife experience that will stay with you forever.

Why does the project need volunteers?

This project is based on a stunning wildlife reserve and is involved in white lion research and conservation. One of its main aims is to learn more about the endangered white lions and to participate in the preservation of these stunning animals. The lions, cubs and other animals all need a huge amount of care and attention and this is where you come in!

During your time at the reserve you will be working hand in hand with the rangers to ensure that all the wildlife in the reserve are fed and looked after and that the reserve itself is well maintained. Everyone at the reserve is committed not only to the welfare and research of these wonderful animals but also to ensuring that you have the opportunity to learn more about the lions, the challenges facing them and how the reserve operates - an incredible opportunity for everyone.

Activities and schedule

Your working hours are flexible but will typically be from 7am to 4pm with occasional work until 7pm looking after the cubs. Time off can be arranged with the project and you will not be made to do something you do not want to do so please let the team know. There will also be the possibility to take 1/2 days on the weekends after the cubs have been fed. You will generally get 1.5 days off per week.

You will be helping to raise the cubs - feeding them and caring for them – along with making sure that all the other wildlife and facilities at the reserve are well looked after and maintained (including cutting up meat for the larger cats). Don’t forget that you may also be involved in cleaning out the enclosures and will probably get dirty in the process! The rangers are keen to pass on their knowledge and experience and you will have the opportunity to learn as much as you want. The way in which the centre runs is to work with you to find out where your interests lie!

Project resources and advice

You will find all resources that you need at this project so there’s no need to bring anything along from home. If you do have a specific interest in a field that you’d like to get involved in at the project please let us know.

Make sure you bring some gloves with you and you will need to wear durable clothes such as jeans, khakis or combats that you do not mind getting dirty. The same goes for footwear!

Please note that the weather can become quite cold during the months of May to September, please remember to bring some warm clothes with you.


What type of accommodation will I be in?

You will be staying in ‘rondavel’ style huts on site at the centre which are on a shared two or three person basis. The rondavels are well equipped and have modern amenities such as hot running water, showers and Western style toilets. There are two swimming pools on site along with a lounge with television and a beautiful garden for you to relax in during the afternoons.

Accommodation facilities

Whilst staying on the reserve in Brits, all meals are included and prepared for you - it’s all good hearty South African fare. You will need to make sure you work hard to burn off all the great food you'll be eating!

The bathroom facilities include hot water, shower and western style toilets. Valuables can be locked up in your room or in the office safe. You don’t need to bring bedding with you as this is provided and a mosquito net is optional. You will need to bring a towel for the pool! Don’t worry about packing weeks and weeks worth of clothing as there are laundry facilities available.

There is a local town around 30 minutes away so if you need to stay in touch with family or friends from home, then telephone and internet facilities are nearby. There is WIFI available after 16H30 from the office, at request.

Things to bring from home

  • A strong pair of gloves (such as gardening gloves, or rubber gloves) for handling chickens etc when working with the ranger team.
  • If you are travelling to the project between May and September please ensure that you bring some warm clothes (i.e. a fleece and a sweater). Although the days are usually bright and sunny, nights and early mornings can get very cold
  • Please bring your own swimming towel
  • Finally don't forget some books, board games and cards for relaxing in the evenings
  • A good quality torch to be utlised in the evenings when walking to and from your rooms. 

Where is the accommodation?

You’ll be leaving your daily commute behind as the project and accommodation are both on the same reserve. The reserve is based about 20km from Brits in the North West Province

How far is it from my project?

On site! You’ll be able to hear the roaring of the lions from your accommodation or as you relax in the pool – bliss!

What you get

Next steps

Flights & insurance

Country information

I've done this trip. Write review >
Margaret Raber gives this project
Here is what Margaret had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Playing-feeding, caring for the lions and cubs. Close interactions with the unique animals ranger duty where we fed large animals to the lions-getting the one week old cubs for a night.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Bring extra clothing-you will get dirty Bring spare shoe laces Bring something heavy to wear at night.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
The most incredible and hands on experience of my life. Thank you
Rachel Bramham gives this project
Here is what Rachel had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Working with the lion cubs from 2 days old to 6 months. Babysitting a lion cub(overnight stay) Feeding the big lions Preparing the food for the big lions. i think everything was fantastic, well organised so much fun.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
A once in a lifetime experience, just incredible.
Blair Raber gives this project
Here is what Blair had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Working closely with the lions, getting to know the volunteers and staff.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
nice to unplug from the world and commence with nature. getting to know the lions makes us want to come back to see them grow up.
Lucy Stewart gives this project
Here is what Lucy had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Hands on experience with lions Living in such close proximity to them.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Bring layers of clothing it gets cold in winter.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
An amazing experience-Loved every minute.
mark pearce gives this project
Here is what mark had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
the lions the people staff + volunteers sun city trip
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
don't party too hard, but enjoy it sun block
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
once in a liftime, that will hopefully become twice.
trevor kennedy gives this project
Here is what trevor had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
bring sunscreen bring gloves
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
had a great time, really enjoyed it
jason kennedy gives this project
Here is what jason had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
living with lions
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
bring gloves get to know people
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
a very enjoyable experience that I hope to do again
jessica lloyd gives this project
Here is what jessica had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
being at the park in general, brilliant experience + staff. Like a big family
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
be open minded work the east of hips don't be afraid to travel alone.
Cara Mackenzie gives this project
Here is what Cara had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
wonderful experience at the park wonderful staff variety of experiences
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Gloves Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone don't be afraid of travelling alone
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
an unfotgettable experience that was so much more than expected.
Naomi Brown gives this project
Here is what Naomi had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
All of it
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Bring gloves check how much money transport is to the trips that are offered before going on them throw yourself in to it.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:

We work in partnership with hundreds of established projects that are run by local communities. The information on our website comes directly from the projects and we work with them to ensure this information is as accurate as possible. However, due to the very nature of the projects themselves the exact details of what happens on a daily basis can change with little or no notice. If you have travelled with us and have any updates to this information, please let us know.