Ukutula, about an hour's drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, offers an exciting opportunity to play with lion cubs and interact with fully grown lions. Many of the cats here have a recessive gene that sometimes results in white lions. They are the subject of an ongoing veterinary and scientific study.

Did you know?

Ukutula also has antelope, giraffe and zebra, as well as more than 130 bird species.

There is nothing quite as mesmerising as looking into a lion’s eyes. And nothing as memorably cute as a playful lion cub.

Conveniently close to Johannesburg and Pretoria, Ukutula Lion Park and Lodge offers the opportunity to do both.

A visitor may even be lucky enough to find white lion cubs. White lions were first noticed in the Timbavati area close to the Kruger National Park in 1975, and have been a source of fascination ever since – in large part because they are not albinos and because they don’t seem particularly compromised by being noticeably paler than their tawnier counterparts.

Lion cubs may be sweet, cute and kitten-like, but even from an early age they develop a boldness and that endearing swagger that is so characteristic of adult lions.

At Ukutula a visitor is able to hold and bottle-feed young cubs – if there are any recently born babies. Visitors can also walk in the bushveld with lions (between the ages of nine and 18 months).

Once adults, lions' wild instincts become re-established. Their boisterous behaviour, outsized claws and growing teeth make them too rough to play with. At Ukutula, these lions are then put into large camps – very large enclosures – and will one day hopefully be released into game reserves.

Ukutula also welcomes volunteers, who stay in-house and get to interact with cubs and care for them on an ongoing basis. These visitors also learn how to help care for the adult lions.

Ukutula hosts day visitors, but also has accommodation for anyone wanting to stay overnight.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Ukutula Lion Park and Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)12 254 4780
Fax: +27 (0)12 254 0324

How to get here

Take the N1 north, past Pretoria, and take the Zambezi turn-off onto the N4 westwards to Rustenburg. After the second toll gate, take the Brits/Sandton off-ramp towards Brits and Thabazimbi. After 10km, turn left onto the Bethanie Road. After 8km, you’ll see the Ukutula gate.

Best time to visit

It is possible to see cubs most of the year, but call ahead to confirm.

Tours to do

Feeding of and encounters with lion cubs take place each day at 10am and 2pm. You can also take guided walks with older lions at 8am and 4pm.

What will it cost

A walk with young lions will cost around R400 for adults (children under 12 not allowed). This includes light refreshments. For an encounter with the lions, which may include bottle-feeding of babies and meeting the older lions, the charge is about R300 for adults and R150 for children. The two experiences can be combined for a fee of about R550 for adults.

Length of stay

This trip is a great day drive on which you can spend a morning or afternoon at the park. Alternately, you can stay overnight.

What to pack

Bring comfortable walking shoes and a hat.

Where to stay

Ukutula has options for overnight stays.