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The South Africa Lion Sanctuary

With so many lions being bred in captivity and then neglected in South Africa, this project was established to rescue and care for the "forgotten" lions and also to rescue lions from breeding centres and Canned Hunting Centres. 

The lions are then relocated and given veterinary care as well as good nutrition to get them up to a healthy weight.  The Lions then have an enriched environment in a natural African habitat at the sanctuary. Because they were bred in captivity they can never be released but they will always have a home for life  at the sanctuary. 

Lion Sanctuary 1.png

At a glance:

 Volunteering with a Lion sanctuary in South Africa

 Accommodation: Shared safari tents or chalet rooms

 Meals: 3 meals a day included

 Dates: Starts on a Tuesday every week

 Minimum stay: 2 weeks - stay up to 12 weeks


 What animals will I look after? 

The Lion Sanctuary's aim is mainly the rehabilitation and protection of lions that have been rescued from canned hunting farms and lion petting centres. The Lion Sanctuary has an absolutely "no petting or breeding" policy. The project aims to provide a safe and secure environment for the rescued and future rescued lions. All lions are sterilised when arriving to ensure that they do not further contribute to the alarming number of lions that are being bread into captivity. It is LionWatch’s view that there is no conservation value in breeding lions into captivity.

They have built large, semi natural enclosures for the lions. These enclosures are in a natural state and have dry river beds, rocky areas and plenty of bush. They are trying to provide the lions with an as natural environment as possible which is both stimulating and safe.


 About the Lion Sanctuary

The project started in 2016 in the effort to save 100 lions form a canned hunting and breeding centre. After months of negotiation they have managed to take over the centre and run it as a lion sanctuary.

The project was a huge success and after months of hard work they have managed to bring the malnutrition lions and other animals in the centre to their proper weight and health. They have improved the lives of each lion by doubling the surface area available to the lions, installing proper water facilities and enrichment jungle gyms.

They soon gained the support of the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) as well as local and National Government. In May of 2019 their contract ended with the centre the Lion Sanctuary moved to their new sanctuary 40 Minutes from the Botswana Border to continue their good work with lions and other animals.

The Lion Sanctuary also has premises located just north of the South African border in Botswana. As a volunteer you will travel with them to assist in different duties on the Botswana side when needed.

The organisation also has a social project in the community and has established a small primary school where volunteers will also be assisting with ground keeping, maintenance and interacting with the kids.

Lion Sanctuary 0.png

What a typical day might look like:

06:30 - Meet, Breakfast

07:00 - Check all lion enclosures and lions to ensure all in and safe.

  • Check Fences are good.
  • Travel to source food for lions, prepare food for lions
  • Clean up food prep area and fridges.
  • Work on Enclosures and the daily enrichment activity for the different lions
  • Clean lion enclosures and water troughs

12:00 - Lunch
13:30 - Begin Enrichment Activities (hide food in enclosures, hide ice blocks with food in the ice

  • Hide novel objects, hide antelope droppings and foreign smells in camp etc)
  • Do main fence check (30km)
  • Check and ensure water on whole reserve
  • Anti-poaching and walking sniffer dog on fence
  • Feed Lions

17:30 - End Day
18:30 - Dinner help with preparation and eat - Saturday night is a Braii

  • Lion checks (late check)
  • Night drive (2 a week)

Tasks and Duties

  • Animal food procurement
  • Preparing the food for the Lions and other animals
  • Assisting in the feeding of the Lions
  • Planning and creation of enrichment activities
  • Assisting with building and upgrading of enclosures and enrichment facilities i.e. Jungle gym’s
  • Lion watching duties for security purposes
  • Outer fence patrols
  • The checking of water holes
  • General reserve maintenance
  • Assisting at the primary school in the little farm town.


Accommodation is provided within the grounds of the sanctuary and there is a couple of different accommodation layouts available.

  • Safari style tents with unsuited bathrooms.
  • Lodge rooms
  • Student House
  • Chalets

You will be allocated to your accommodation upon arrival. You are required to bring your own sleeping bag. Beds will have pillow and fitted sheets. 

Volunteers can make use of hand wash laundry facilities or the project offers a laundry washing service at an additional cost of Rand 50 per standard Laundry bag.



Wi-Fi is available in the Main lodge for Rand 100 It must be understood that the project is far from normal service and therefore internet and other services are hard to get. The Wi-Fi is usually reliable but can be disrupted due to storms and or power failures and surges.



All meals are provided, you will assist in the preparation of meals and the cleanup of the kitchen. The meals are home style family cooking and can cater to a wide spectrum of taste, diet requirements and cultures. Saturday night is Braai nights (BBQ Nights) under the stars of the African sky.


Extra activities

Some Saturday nights volunteers will be taken to the local pub for a pub meal and a beverage.

Additional activities available - subject to change

  • Night Drives
  • Town Day (Volunteers will be able to go do some personal shopping etc)
  • Bush Picnics on weekends
  • Botswana Trips
  • Day Trips to the Mapungubwe National Park


The area of the wildlife sanctuary has a semi-desert climate, with very hot summers and very cold winters and temperatures tending to drop at night. On average, the wildlife sanctuary area receives about 300 days of sunshine per year.

  • Summer is from October to April, where temperatures can reach 45C and plummet at night to below 0 degrees so bring a fleece or extra clothing. 
  • Average daily temperatures range from 20C to 34C. 
  • Rainfall usually occurs between April and August.
  • Winter is from May to August with wonderful warm days which are contrasted by very cold nights, when temperatures often drop to below freezing, so please bring warm clothing and a sleeping bag. 
  • Average temperatures range from -2°C to 25°C.


What's Included?

  • Transfer from Johannesburg airport on the first or third Tuesday of each month
  • Transfer to the local airport on your departure day
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Tea and coffee
  • Arrival orientation
  • Full support and assistance from your programme coordinator


What you need to budget for
  • Flights and Insurance (we can help arrange these)
  • Visa application costs (we can help you with this)
  • Any souvenirs, gifts, clothing, merchandise etc
  • Drinks and snacks
  • Optional extra activities


What to bring

  • Work pants [must cover knees]
  • Work shirts [ T-Shirts, short sleeve shirts]
  • Clothing for personal time off. Please be respectful of the multicultural environment.
  • Closed work shoes
  • Personal First Aid Kit and any medication for illness – the project does have a first aid kit but you can bring medication you are taking and this needs to be specified on your booking form so we know.
  • Hat, towel, sun cream and water bottle
  • Insect repellent
  • Towels X 2
  • Binoculars, Camera for enthusiasts
  • Sleeping bag


Good to know

  • There is a strict No smoking policy around accommodation and animal enclosures. Smoking is only allowed on the veranda and outside communal area at main lodge. No smoking on back of game drive vehicles etc.
  • Strictly NO Narcotics or Illegal substances is allowed at any time. Alcohol is permitted during off duty periods. Alcohol consumption must be moderate and responsible only during off duty periods. Absolutely no alcohol consumption will be permitted when working with wildlife, any animals or during work periods. No driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics..
  • Volunteers may not work with lions or other wildlife unless they are with a co-ordinator or under instruction. All volunteers must read and sign the safety protocol before being allowed to work at the project and with the lions.
  • The Lion Sanctuary are dedicated to rescuing lions and providing lions with a safe , decent environment with enrichment and proper nutrition. They are also dedicated to stopping the canned hunting industry as well as its other spin off industries which further harm and exploit lions in captivity. They do not breed lions and they do not allow handling of lions unless as part of a relocation and under sedation with a qualified vet. Even though we believe we are an ethical sanctuary we do not encourage any form of lion handling self photography (selfies). This only assist in driving a huge international market for people to search out handling experiences which ultimately ends in canned hunting and the bone trade. All responsible sanctuaries have similar policies. The value the “awareness" that this type of experience (handling, raising and walking with lions) is not acceptable if compared to the damage it does to efforts to stop this very cruel and unethical canned lion hunting and breeding industry.
  • Volunteers will assist at their little primary school locally once a week to do informal environment and conservation lessons and to allow their learners to better understand where each volunteer comes from and why they have come to South Africa. This is usually combined with the Town Day (shopping day for volunteers)
  • The area is home to many types of snakes and scorpions – please ensure closed shoes and be vigilant at all times, use flash light when walking around camp at night..
  • Low risk malaria zone. Please see our vaccination page for guidelines. 

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