GG Conservation in Harrismith, South Africa, has listed a three-bedroom house, named Lion House, within its lion sanctuary on Airbnb starting at £82 a night. Though guests will be near 77 lions, which freely roam the grounds, they will be surrounded by an electric fence that protects the home.
According to Suzanne Scott, the conservation director, guests can listen to the roar of the large cats while barbecuing on the outdoor patio. Scott, a native of Leeds, Yorkshire, says visitors are able to enjoy an up-close and personal relationship with the lions and learn more about their behavior.
“You are very close, less than one meter from a lion when stood at the fence. From the step, porch or patio of the house you are two meters away,” she says. “It makes you feel that you are almost living among them, as part of the pride. The best part is being able to hear the nightly roars of 77 lions in surround sound, it is truly awe-inspiring to listen to. The properties where we live are surrounded 360 degrees by lion camps hence the surround sound."
GG Conservation, a non-profit sanctuary, benefits from the Lion House booking fees which go to help with lion conservation. According to statistics, lions are at risk of extinction due to hunting, poaching and loss of habitat. In the past 50 years, the lion population has gone from half a million to 20,000 today.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), lions, which are considered top predators in their environment, play a vital role in maintaining a healthy balance of numbers among other animals, particularly herbivores like zebra and wildebeest. This balance in turns helps conserve the condition of grasslands and forests. The protection of a lion’s landscape not only allows the environment to thrive but also benefits people who depend on the natural resources in the area.
The lions at GG Conservation are in lion enclosures, which are safeguarded by strong fencing. There is also electric fencing on the inside and at the top of all enclosures. These measures are to keep the lions safe from each other, as well as to protect human guests.
The reserve also provides a home to wild antelope, zebras, elands, ostriches, impalas, wildebeests and bontebok, a type of antelope found in South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia. Guests can arrange game drives and guided walks in the adjacent nature reserve.
Aside from three bedrooms, the Lion House also includes a fireplace, a fully-equipped kitchen, a master bathroom, a barbecue grill and Wi-Fi. The home offers guests the possibility to live among the lions and observe their rituals. The reserve is an ethical lion sanctuary that does not allow breeding or public interaction. “People can watch lions being lions very close up, whilst also knowing their booking fees to our non-profit organization are helping to keep the lions safe and protected. It's a win-win!” Scott says. “One can also witness beautiful African sunrises and sunsets."