Walking with Lions in Mossel Bay

One of the best experiences I had whilst in South Africa was to spend a morning walking with two absolutely beautiful 16 month old lions. Unlike in many Asian countries, these animals are not drugged, caged, tranquilised, collared or mistreated in any way.

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These lions are not bred for tourism, but are taken on by Botlierskop Private Game Reserve from various farms and zoos that are unable to take care of these cubs; if these cubs had not been brought to Zorgfontein, they would have been sold to lion hunters. The female lionesses are all on birth control, which proves that the reserve is not interested in exploiting these beautiful animals. Some may feel that these animals would be better off being released back into the wild, but these animals are unable to hunt, as they did not learn this from their mothers. When the animals are too old to continue safely walking (they become a bit moodier as they age), they are moved to the nearby Botlierskop to live the rest of their lives in peace.

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I was incredibly lucky on the day, I arrived for my 7am walk and found that the other people booked for that slot had cancelled, so I had the lions all to myself! It was a wet and rainy day, which may sound unpleasant, but the lions are naturally more active and playful in the cooler weather, so I was lucky enough to watch them run, leap, climb trees and wrestle with each other.

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The lions I walked with were named Rambo and Gina. They were truly massive but at 16 months old they were still technically cubs. I felt nervous when first approaching the lions, but soon felt quite at ease, even when they got close enough that I could feel their breath on my skin.

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The handlers are all obviously very attached to these lions and are very passionate about their work. An added bonus is that they are all pretty accomplished photographers and they go out of their way to make sure you go home with some pretty spectacular memories.

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The walk costs R590 ($59) which is considered expensive by South African standards, but for that money in Australia I would be lucky if I could buy three movie tickets, so it was definitely money well spent.

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What do you think? Would be brave enough to walk with these big cats?

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

97 thoughts on “Walking with Lions in Mossel Bay

      1. Heading back to Iceland and Greenland and possibly the Faroe Islands in September, then in December I’ll be off to Oman, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Ukraine 😍😎

      2. Ah cool! You sure do love yourself some Iceland (shame you don’t feel the same about poor old London!). We fly to Iceland next Saturday woohoo! As for your second trip, you’re brave!

      3. I can’t wait to hear all about it! WOOHOO
        And I suppose so, my main thought process is that like 2 years ago travel through Syria eg. Damascus was still a relatively safe possibility and now who knows if that will ever be the case again? So I want to go to these places while they are still relatively stable!

      4. How long will that trip be for? I’ll be very interested to read about that, bit different to the average backpacker destinations!

      5. Probably 6-8 weeks! Iran, Oman and Turkey will be the bulk though, Ukraine will only be for 2-4 days as I just want to go to Pripyat to see where Chernobyl happened!

  1. Hello Ellen,
    Great write up about the daring deed. Way to go! No. I probably wouldn’t dare have a walk with lions. Adventurous as it appears, it is one of those wild things where I would rather let my imagination do the work.

  2. Congratulations, I don’t think anyone has ever made me this excited! What a amazing place and magical experience! It’s so warming to see joy and love and fun put back into these incredible animals πŸ˜€ Think this could be the top of my bucket list now!

  3. A lovely experience indeed, Ellen. I cringe at the price of R595 but I’m glad you found it worth it. The money I am sure is going to help the lions.
    I do hope you are planning to go to one of our National Parks – e.g. Kruger or Addo Elephant. That would be truly awesome.

  4. Omg I’d love to do that. I got to stroke some cheetah cubs in what sounds like a similar facility near Stellenbosch but going for a walk with lion cubs would be incredible!

  5. Hi Ellen! I’ve been following your South Africa travels, as I am planning a trip in May! I have Botlierskop on my bucket list, and your post confirmed that I MUST go there. Did you stay there overnight? Also, I was going to ask if you heard of or took the Baz Bus. I was planning on using it to get to Botlierskop but I thought it was located outside of Knysna instead of Mossel Bay. Any advice/clarification would be a tremendous help!! Thanks again!

    1. I didn’t stay overnight as it is quite expensive and I am always on a tight budget when I travel. Botlierskop is way way closer to Mossel Bay (30 minutes) than to Knysna (2-3 hours). I stayed at an amazing hostel called Mile Crunchers Backpackers and they drove/shuttled me to and from Botlierskop and Zorgfontein for only $15 AUD.
      And yup I travelled from place to place with the Baz Bus, I used the return ticket to and from sport Elizabeth as there is so much along the Garden Route that is worth seeing and doing πŸ™‚
      I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks about my trip so hopefully I can be helpful for you πŸ™‚

  6. This is incredible! Big cats are my absolute favorite so this would be an opportunity of a lifetime – especially because they’re not in any danger or are exploited. Wow, this definitely inspired me and melted my heart. It makes me very happy that somewhere in the world it is possible.

  7. Omg what an experience! I was thrilled just reading about it, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live it! So lucky!! I loved your post and really look forward to reading more from you:) Have fun!

  8. Money well spent. Hmmm… hmmm… I am still thinking if I would walk with lions…….
    ………….. I think I would. Yes…I would do it.
    Great post… thank you so much for sharing.

  9. really, really amazing photos. that must have been the most incredible experience, being lucky enough to be so close to these amazing lions.

  10. How incredible! I’ve walked with wolves in the UK but I can’t imagine what your experience was like.
    Thank you for the follow, Travel safe on your journeys πŸ˜€

      1. It’s the UK Wolf Trust, just outside Reading (about 40 mins from London by train) I can let you have their address & telephone number if you’d like it

      2. Awesome! I’ll be back in the UK late 2016 so I shall definitely keep that in mind as something to do! Thankyou so much! I love getting new recommendations πŸ˜€

  11. What an amazing experience! I didn’t even know such a thing was possible. They are truly beautiful animals. I also enjoyed your post about the elephant feeding. The photos were great, especially the one of the giraffes. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Most incredible! I was so shaky next to 5 to 6 months cubs. Those are monsters in comparison. I love your blog. Thanks for finding me. I’m definitely putting some of your experiences on my to-do travel list.

  13. I’ve always been dubious about going to places like this. But thank you for mentioning that they’re not like so many of the places in Asia. Those places are so sad, and horrible. I’m going to save this place in my bookmarks. πŸ™‚

  14. That’s awesome! Your blog is incredible, which will get crazy once you hit Asia! I feel honoured your following my effort.

    Keep having fun!

  15. What an amazing experience! Thank you so much for following my blog! I followed you as well and I am excited to read more of your content πŸ˜€

      1. Thanks you for the reply , Its very kind of you
        Actually I have problems with my language . I’m too bad with English and presentation , so I just click some pictures around me and just post it. Is that enough for a Blog.. ?.
        I’m not serious about blogging.
        But I think It’s important to have advises from a true inspiration like you.

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