Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)
  • A lion sanctuary in the Free State allows visitors to get up close with Africa's most well-known apex predators.
  • Visitors to Glen Garriff Conservation can be caged in a structure made of plexiglass and steel bars, allowing free-roaming lions to come within arm's reach.
  • This unique cage is especially popular with wildlife enthusiasts and was originally pitched by a German photographer during his visit to the sanctuary in 2018.
  • For R2,000, a visitor can spend up to 45 minutes in the cage.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A lion sanctuary near Harrismith in the eastern Free State allows people to get up close and personal with its pride of apex predators, by locking visitors in a plexiglass cage for up to 45 minutes at a time.

Glen Garriff (GG) Conservation is a 1,000-hectare lion sanctuary located roughly 6 kilometres outside the Free State town of Harrismith. Founded in 2002, the sanctuary's pride has grown to include more than 70 lions and has proven to be especially popular with international tourists.

Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)
Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)

GG Conservation's fame is attributed to its unique "human cage experience" which reverses the traditional zoo dynamic of visitors watching captive animals. At this sanctuary, the lions roam free and visitors can choose to be caged in a structure made of plexiglass and tightly packed steel bars. It's the land equivalent of shark cage diving.

The cage is a favourite among wildlife photographers, who can focus their long lenses through the gated windows for long range shots of Africa's most well-known carnivores.

Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)
Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)

The concept was pitched by German wildlife photographer Lars Beusker during his visit to the sanctuary in 2018.

"Lars suggested a photography cage and that's how the concept started. He gave us his design ideas from a pro photographer point of view and also the initial donation to get it made which we did. This was the initial cage and it was all metal," Suzanne Scott of GG Conservation told Business Insider South Africa, adding that the cage's current form – with plexiglass – was finalised in 2019.

For visitors looking to experience being within pawing distance of a pride of lions – and living to tell the tale with photos as proof – a series of 'breathing holes' in the plexiglass are suitable for phone cameras.

Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)
Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)

A maximum of two people are allowed in the cage at any single time, which costs R3,000. Going solo costs R2,000. Only visitors over the age of 14 are allowed in the cage and there's a 45-minute time limit for the experience.

Priority is given to guests who are staying overnight as the cage can only be used once a day.

Accommodation at GG Conservation, which includes the Lion House and Lion Lodge, incorporates the caged experience. Both houses are surrounded by fences which allow lions to wander within 5 metres of the guests.

Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)
Lion cage South Africa
(Image: GG Conservation)

Zebra, ostrich, springbok, gemsbok, bontebok, waterbuck, black wildebeest, and impala also roam freely on the land.

The cost of maintaining all the enclosures and feed and veterinary bills for the lions runs in excess of R200,000 per month, according to GG Conservation, which, as a non-profit company (NPC), relies heavily on donations. 

All images supplied by GG Conservation. Instagram: @ggconservation

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