First and foremost, Schrikkloof Reserve is the home of The Lions Foundation, a newly founded sanctuary by Stichting Leeuw in The Netherlands, for rescued lions that have been exploited for various ways of human entertainment. Furthermore, it is the home of many species of game and free-roaming wildlife. Schrikkloof also boasts a magnificent Mountain Lodge with two suites and eight comfortable, private chalets, all game-themed and with a stunning view.

The Stichting Leeuw foundation aims to shelter big cats in need. If at all possible, shelter will be temporary and will prepare the animals for a return to the semi-wild in their natural habitat. The rescued cats come for example from private parties or from circuses, which as a result of new legislation in an increasing number of countries, are no longer allowed wild animal acts. The owners look for a place where these lions and tigers can live in comfort for the rest of their lives. Stichting Leeuw provides such a place. For more information, go to and pledge your support.

The majestic lions in these photographs have had a hard life and travelled long roads before ending where they are now. Their home now, is free from thousands of prying eyes, free from deprivation of dignity, no more tiny cages and scarcity of a decent meal. Now life is all about being a big cat, under the African sun, marking the flora and roaring to charm the lioness in the distance.

The Photography By João team had the honor of visiting these beautiful lions in September 2021. Our exposure was limited and the heavy weather shortened our time with them. Nonetheless, we spent an hour walking amongst the specially erected enclosures snapping a few pictures of ones willing to pose. Tristan was an absolute gentleman, content with the cameras capturing him and even striking a few poses. Nala was rolling on her new patch of lawn at the feeding pen, something foreign to her but oh so soft. Bruno on the other had gave George a bit of a scare. We saw him come down from his platform in a distance and started in our direction through the tall grass. He paused, flicked his hind legs while George was locking focus, and then charged straight at the camera with a natural force that would make a grown man whimper.

Schrikkloof Private Nature Reserve is a hidden gem, tucked between the hills north of Bela-Bela. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city to this peaceful spot to recharge your soul and breathe in that fresh air. Their facilities offer game drives, a swimming pool, restaurant and plenty of opportunity to see some true African beauty. We saw wildebeest, Impala, giraffe and a whole host of other wildlife and even got a front door visit from a family of nyalas. We highly recommend booking a stay at this establishment, bring a good book and unwind with nature. One thing though, a vehicle with good clearance is a must.


Born: 2011
Comes from Serengetipark Hodenhagen, Germany
Family: Tristan is the brother of Isolde,

Tristain was born in a German animal park. Because there was no more room there for the cubs, they were moved to Stichting Leeuw in 2012, when he was about nine months old, together with Nala, Isolde and Simba, who were of the same age. The lions all have the same father and two different mothers. As they grew up, the male lions Simba and Tristan were separated. They each got their own females. This is a perfectly natural situation; lions always live in a pride.

Tristan is a strong animal, in his prime – in the wild lions have a life expectancy of ten to twelve years. Their health and age are well suited for adapting to a life in the semi-wild. Therefore, in May 2016 the moved to Africa, together with Nala, and her sister Asali. We were very sad when Asali passed away in 2017, as a result of wounds from wild. 


Born: 2011
Bruno comes from a private owner in the Czech Republic.

Bruno is from the same litter as Omar (also at Schrikkloof), born in a circus. He was kept in a cage at the home of a mafia boss. When this man was sent to prison and died there, his wife wanted to get rid of the lion and called Stichting Leeuw, who picked him up in April 2015. Bruno was in much better physical condition than Omar when he arrived at the shelter, but he displayed some stressed behavior. At Stichting Leeuw he gradually calmed down, and in 2017 he moved to South Africa. He remains suspicious of people, so his new, large natural enclosure is perfect for him. As living alone is not natural for a lion, we matched him with Ziera.