Rescue Princes Reth & Leo. Picture: Glen Garriff Conservation/Facebook

IF YOU are looking for a crime-free holiday home, you are likely to find one in Harrismith this festive season.

But be warned. The roaring of 77 lions prowling close to your sleeping quarters at night could send shivers down the spine when you live less than a metre away from Africa's big cats.

The lion sanctuary belongs to Glen Garriff Conservation, a non-profit organisation which provides guests with the chance to rent a three-bedroomed house at R1500 per night.

The money collected is donated to help conserve lions.

Suzanne Scott, 50, the conservation director, said there was nothing to be frightened about when checking into the Airbnb facility as the area was fully fenced with firm electric wires.

“The lions are not wandering around, but they are enclosed behind fences.

"But people do get overwhelming noise. They get very enchanted but not scared. When the lions roar, it gets into your body, you can feel it inside you,” said Scott.

Lion lady Suzanne Scott posing next to a pair of lions at the Glen Garriff Conservation sanctuary at Harrismith.

The sanctuary is more than a century old, but the idea of turning it into a Lion House and a tourist destination took root about 12 months ago. Scott, originally from the city of Leeds in England, said they often get bookings from America, Australia and England.

She said that they had had to increase the booking fees because keeping lions was an expensive yet delightful adventure.

“We get donations from cattle farmers, but the fuel is expensive to fetch them home.

“We also have to pay our staff of seven, and the maintenance of the fence is also not cheap,” she said.

A guest can have a barbecue on the patio while a lion is salivating just a few metres away.

The sanctuary keeps both female and male lions.

An excited Scott told the Sunday Tribune that they were expecting a cub to be born early in the new year.

The reserve is also home to wild antelope, zebras, elands (ox-like African antelope), ostriches, impalas, wildebeest and bontebok, a special kind of antelope found in South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia.

Game drives can be arranged at an extra cost and “magnificent walks” are also possible in the neighbouring nature reserve.

According to statistics, said Scott, lions were at a severe risk of extinction owing to a combination of hunting, poaching, habitat loss and disease, and there were only 20 000 left worldwide.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE