Slumber Party with Lions: Visiting South Africa’s Drakenstein Lion Park

Cabins & Camping, South Africa, Tours & Attractions, Wildlife & Animals — By on May 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By: Laura Malandra

Seeing lions, one of South Africa’s Big Five wild animals, is a necessity while visiting the country. But why visit the lions for just a few hours and stay in a hotel when you can sleep surrounded by them?

Drakenstein Lion Park, located 30 minutes outside Cape Town, specializes in “sleepovers” with lions. The sanctuary focuses on saving abused lions from circuses, the illegal trade market and other unsuitable living environments. Drakenstein is home to a range of full-grown lions and white lion cubs, most of which previously suffered from malnutrition, inadequate living space and beatings. Since the lions would not survive if released into the wild, Drakenstein rehabilitates them and provides a humane home with proper nutrition, wide-open green spaces and medical care.

You can spend an afternoon at the park, but staying the night in the comfortable camp is ideal because lions are nocturnal. From the time you arrive around 5 p.m. to when you leave in the morning, the roars of the park’s 32 lions can be heard from every direction.

When I spent the night, I was able to hear the lions constantly. A few times I woke up and it sounded as if they were right outside my tent. They are fed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so if you pick a night in between feedings, such as Saturday, they will be even louder since they are hungry. If you go at feeding time (4 p.m.), however, you will be sure to see every lion in the park since they must come up to the fences to get their meat. Unlike safari, the animals are not in the wild. The positive side of this is you are guaranteed to see the lions close up since they are in fenced in areas.

Tents include beds with linens and private bathrooms with heated showers. Three layers of fencing separates you from the lions, but with tents just ten feet away, the animals can be seen even from inside. Also, the knowledgeable staff is around the entire night to answer questions and provide information about these majestic animals.

A night at Drakenstein will make any hotel seem boring, so make sure to plan a sleepover with the lions when visiting Cape Town!

Cost: R600 (about $90) per person sharing a tent. Tents sleep two to four people. This fee includes admission to the park, a braii (bbq) dinner and continental breakfast.

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