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Citybreak: Ukutula Game Reserve & Lion Sanctuary


With Valentine’s Day around the corner: whisking away the lady in your life for weekend in the “country” is going to score you some serious points, and also make for a much needed weekend getaway. Not to mention, showing her that you’re still that spontaneous, fun-loving, adventurous fellow she fell in love with all those years/months/weeks ago.

For those of you rocking it in the 011: Ukutula is fantastic little spot not more than 1.5 hours drive from the northern suburbs and although is not aimed and the luxury seeking couple, it does boast some amazing experiences, food and hospitality.

I’m sure you could probably rattle off a list of places just outside of Gauteng that are worth visiting – so what makes Ukutula so different?  Well, not only is it close enough to nip away at a moment’s notice, Ukutula allows you to interact one-on-one with the wildlife, most notably baby (and young) lions and cheetahs. (Something not advisable at the likes of Kruger Park or Mabula, etc.)

Ukutula essentially is a rehabilitation centre for lions and cheetahs which also hosts a decent sized game reserve with antelope such as zebra, impala, red hartebeest, giraffe etc, along with abundant bird life as well as that real bush experience. They offer game drives, night drives, horseback trails, guided walks pretty much everything you’d find at any other tip-top game reserve.

I digress from the main attraction though: the lion cubs. Included in your stay is a bottle feeding and interaction with the cubs.  You can choose when you’d like to do this during your stay as they are fed in the mornings as well as the afternoons. At any one time they will have approximately 5-8 cubs all vying for your attention (and food of course). These little guys although small, can be very boisterous and such an experience might not be too suitable for kids younger than 4-5.

Ukutula has lions and cheetahs of all ages. There is an enclosure you visit which houses the bigger, teenage cubs. Now these guys are bigger, stronger and more playful – but just spending a little time in there gives you an idea of the sheer strength these amazing cats have and what manner of poo you would be in had you to meet one of these full grown fellas out in the wild.

The fully grown adults lions, cheetahs and tigers (would you believe) are kept in huge enclosures in a separate area of the compound – which is about a 5 min walk. You may know that a male lion’s call can be heard for kilometres at night, so another amazing experience is hearing these hefty beasts roaring, powerfully, during the dead of night. This is truly an amazing (yet slightly terrifying) experience to hear – thankfully – from the confines of your snuggly bed though.

You are taken on a tour of these enclosures, where you get within centimeters of these hulking brutes. There is something inherently spooky about looking directly into the piercing pale eyes of Africa’s greatest predator, where the only thing separating you from a savage mauling and  bloody end: is a flimsy bit of fencing.

On the hospitality side of things: the food is amazingly good! Set dinner and breakfast is an extra R250 odd with booze and vino being extra as well. Grub wise, we were treated to a perfectly cooked sirloin with pan fried potatoes and blanched julienne veg – which was washed down with a Nedeburg Baronne. (dessert and starter was equally tasty)

Ukutula is the kind of quick-fix bush experience with a twist. While it could stand alone as a private reserve within spitting distance from Jo’burg’s northern suburbs, it’s the interacting with the big cats that’s the huge appeal and something you won’t find very often elsewhere.

Ukutula Lion Park and Lodge


TEL: 0027 ( 0 ) 12 254 1777
FAX: 0027 ( 0 ) 12 254 0324
CEL: 0027 (0 ) 84 510 1046


About Author

Lover of gadgets, men's culture, cool stuff, Earl Grey tea and all things manly. An optimist in his prime. When he's not keeping the wheels turning at Mantality HQ you'll find him trawling the web, and visiting trade shows to find the newest and coolest gadgets. During his down time he's usually with his 2 dogs, on the golf course, cycling or basking in the literary company of Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis or Martin Amis whilst drinking espresso strong enough to strip paint.

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