The king of the jungle is one of the world’s most magnificent — and ferocious — animals. These majestic beasts are loved and feared in equal measure (with good reason), so an opportunity to get within a cat’s whisker (sorry) of not just one lion, but a pride of them, is not to be missed.
You might be picturing the African bush, but this experience — the first of its kind in the world — is offered by Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve in Kent, England, roughly an hour outside of central London. The reserve’s 600 acres of countryside is home to Rothschild’s giraffes, Chapman’s zebras, lions, tigers, black rhinos, wildebeest and the world’s largest gorillarium, where a family of Western lowland gorillas resides.
While you can go on safaris to see these animals, the new Lion Lodge is an immersive stay that lets you sleep with the lions (and, if you go there soon, three adorable cubs). There are only two Lion Lodges, Kikuyu and Jibana, and each has chic, loft-style interiors clad with dark timber — think an eclectic mix of safari-lodge-meets-ski-chalet-meets-country-house decor with a working fireplace and fluffy blankets.
The lodges are within the lion enclosure, and the floor-to-ceiling windows mean you have unfettered views of the curious cats. You might be enjoying a bath and a glass of bubbly and a lion will come up to say hello, or one of the playful cubs will come to the living room window and see what you’re up to.
The entire reserve is owned by the John Aspinall Foundation, a charity that has been tirelessly committed to the conservation and protection of endangered and vulnerable species for the past 35 years. You can be sure that while you have the most thrilling sleepover of your life, you won’t be causing any harm to the lions or their habitat, and that your dollars are contributing to the charity’s valiant efforts.