It took me many months to find a place that would be authentic and where care for wild animals always comes first. I did not want to go a place where voluntourism is only a business opportunity, and foreign tourists satisfy their need to release their guilty conscience at the expense of animals. Unfortunately, there are many of such places in Africa, therefore you should carefully check the destination before going there.
After a long search I found Andi Rive, an exceptional woman who, away from civilization at the foot of the Drakensberg in South Africa, leads an “unusually usual” life. She is called ‘the queen of lions’, as she has given up the city life to create Love Lions Alive Sanctuary and devoted herself completely to looking after a pride of big cats. The story of each lion is different, but they have a common denominator – human cruelty. Andi’s mission is to guarantee these wonderful animals a shelter in conditions that are as close to the natural ones as possible. Every day she persistently carries on tedious work to make people aware of the threat of extinction of this species. It is a daily struggle to save the greatest number of lions from living in captivity or becoming hunters’ trophies. Anyone who would like to join her in this mission is welcomed with open arms. Just contact Andi, prepare for hard work and embark on the adventure of your life.
A LIFE ON A MISSION
Andi built a house for 15 lions rescued from captivity, while she herself has been living in a tent under a huge rock for three years. As she says: “I live here, because the lions are here. I’m here for them, not the other way around. It is an honour to be here; to be able to commune with nature, hear sounds, notice smells, admire the wildlife that surrounds me, buzzing insects and chirping birds, echoes of roaring rescued lions that bounce back from rocks. I live this life because I cannot imagine a different one.” Thanks to the support of volunteers, she has also built a camp consisting of several military tents, a field kitchen and toilets whose walls are boulders. After a hard day’s work, in the light of the brightest stars I’ve ever seen, everyone prepares dinner at the fire, talks and enjoys the uniqueness of the moment.
QUEEN OF LIONS
At our first meeting, Andi was proudly talking about her heritage, and multiple times underlined that she was not British, but a descendant of historical Boers, while the English language that she uses on a daily basis is practically the only thing that connects her with the British people. Although she has had her own share of struggles in life, she seems to be a strong woman. On the one hand, she is very reserved towards people, on the other – honest and genuine. Over time, during evening conversations over a meal, she becomes more and more open, stealing the hearts of listeners. Apart from Andi there is another resident of the camp, Line, a Norwegian policewomen who after several visits as a volunteer decided to stay there permanently. Together, these exceptional women form an extraordinary duet.
RESCUE ALSO FOR PEOPLE
When coming to LLA, do not expect lounging or partying with a crowd of noisy tourists. The facility is closed to visitors, and during my stay I was the only volunteer and the first Polish woman who arrived there. You will not even be able to pet a “little kitten” – it is not a breeding house, and all the lionesses are sterilized so that they do not give birth to more lions in captivity. You will feel that you really help and learn a lot about lions and Africa. During my stay, I became aware that the sanctuary created by Andi also helps people. Away from everyday life, surrounded by astonishing nature, we enjoy incredible moments and experience unprecedented harmony and peace of mind. It is a place where senses come to life and you realize what the most important things in your lives are. In the lion sanctuary we are sure that our work is needed. The uniqueness of this place lies in its simplicity and authenticity.
If you want to know more about Lion Sanctuary, please visit www.llavolunteer.com