Spend a night with lions in London

ZSL London Zoo’s Gir Lion Lodge overnight experience might just be the ultimate escape for animal lovers, offering exclusive access to some of the capital’s most fearsome residents.

It’s not every day that you wake up in the small hours to hear lions roaring outside. And certainly not in NW1.

But that’s exactly what could lie in store at the capital’s latest wild night out: an overnight stay at ZSL London Zoo’s Gir Lion Lodge.

Guests stay in colourful lodges at the heart of the zoo, not much more than a whisker away from the magnificent Asiatic lions, and enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience.

As the rest of the day’s zoo visitors head for home, your night as a Gir Lion Lodge guest is just beginning. Once you’ve checked in, the evening kicks off with a sunset tour – naturally beginning with your neighbours for the night at Land of the Lions.

The zoo’s newest exhibit, Land of the Lions is home to male Asiatic lion Bhanu and females Rubi, Heidi and Indi.

Hang out with the pride

Lions sleep for up to 20 hours a day, and are often more active at dawn, dusk and night. So a stay at Gir Lion Lodge is your chance to get up close to the pride as you’ve never seen them before.

If you’re lucky, you may hear the lions ‘chuffing’ to each other (a breathy snorting noise that acts as a greeting), as well as roaring, to make their presence felt.

Every detail of Land of the Lions is inspired by the Sasan Gir national park in India, where ZSL (the Zoological Society of London) is working in partnership with the government and rangers to help protect the world’s only surviving population of wild Asiatic lions.

You’ll find the sights and sounds of south Asia all around you, as well as learning about how these endangered big cats are faring in the wild.

Feeding times

After hanging out with the pride, guests continue their after-hours tour of the zoo, and get the chance to help feed some of its other resident animals. Then it’s their turn to enjoy some tasty dinner, with a two-course buffet in the Terrace Restaurant.

Your hosts for the evening are extremely knowledgeable, so be sure to ask them for all the latest inside gossip on all the animals.

After dinner, there’s a chance to head out on a nighttime walk to meet (and feed) some rather special nocturnal residents. Don’t miss the chance to get a closer look at the animals through the night-vision goggles provided!

After the final tour of the night, it’s time to turn into your comfortable lodge for the night. The fun continues the next day with a tasty breakfast in the restaurant and an early-morning tour before the zoo opens up to the public. It’s an opportunity to get a good look at some of the zoo’s most popular animals, such as the penguins, before the crowds arrive.

The practical stuff

The Gir Lion Lodge experience is available six nights a week from February to December, and guests can choose between grownups-only nights or family-friendly evenings for those with children (aged five to 13 only). The experience also includes two full days’ entry to the Zoo the day before and after your stay.

With 2017 prices from £219 per person for two adults sharing, or £134.50 per person for a family of four (based on two adults and two children sharing one double lodge with a pull-out sofa bed), it’s not the cheapest bed in the capital. But for the price, you’d be hard pushed to find a more unique stay in central London – or a better treat for animal-mad kids (and grownups!).

And despite (or because of) a bit of roaring from your noisy neighbours, it’s sure to be a night to remember. After all, how often do you go on a nighttime safari in the heart of London?

Visit zsl.org/girlionlodge to find out more.