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South Africa Tourism Awards

Type: Accommodation – Lodge
Category: Unique Experience

Motivation for award: A photographer’s dream location, an animal lover’s perfect sanctuary, a conservation and earth friendly Free State nature reserve; Tiger Canyon is distinctly different.* Located in one of South Africa’s most unpopulated areas, lies a reserve dedicated to saving endangered big cats. It’s here that captive born tigers have been re-wilded on a 6000ha reserve where they can live dignified natural lives. The Free State big blue skies and vast grasslands photograph exquisitely in the golden hours of the day. Add a wild tiger or cheetah and the experience escalates to one that is unique in the world. There are no white tigers left living wild in Asia. They can only be seen in zoos. Tiger Canyon has the only _wild_ white tigers in the world. This status will remain until Asia realizes that captive tigers can be re-wilded, which Tiger Canyon has proven is possible. A safari experience at Tiger Canyon will appeal to conservationists, wildlife lovers and photographers alike in a remote and peaceful part of South Africa.

Region: Free State / Eastern Free State

Tiger Canyon Private Reserve

A Dinstinctly Different Safari

Tiger Canyon is rather unique, in that we have the only wild population of tigers outside of Asia, A first for South Africa, and indeed the entire world!

Tiger Canyon started as a project in the early 2000’s by a maverick conservationist, John Varty, who happens to also be the founder of world renowned Londolozi Private Game Reserve. In 2013, a gentleman named Rodney Drew, who comes from a corporate mining background, invested in Tiger Canyon. He fell in love with this project where wild tigers roam free in a natural African habitat hunting African prey species; where failed sheep farming land is returned to wildlife and where endangered African species such as the cheetah and rhino are protected alongside the exotic species, all made sustainable by eco-tourism which in turn impacts positively on the economy in a very poor region.

Tiger Canyon, under his new leadership has successfully moved out of project phase and is now an active tourist destination with a unique Eco friendly lodge. The exclusive and luxurious Tigress Julie Lodge nestled in our remote and picturesque namesake canyon, is off-grid, and provides high-end accommodation in the peace and quiet of the Karoo. We offer unparalleled photographic opportunities of wild tigers in a breath-taking landscape. Our highly skilled guides lead our safaris with remarkable, close-range tiger sightings for a truly unforgettable experience of the might and majesty of the wild tiger.

We have 3rd generation wild born, wild raised tigers, who have proven over 15 years that the tiger has adapted and can thrive in Africa. Our primary ambition currently is to ensure dignity and compassion for the tigers we have inherited in this project and provide space for these animals to enjoy a quality of life that approximates natural conditions.

Our cheetah programme demonstrates the success of our Big Cat conservation model. Tiger Canyon was the first game reserve to reintroduce (in 2013) wild cheetah in the Free State after a 100 year absence. Working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, (EWT) we have successfully rewilded hand raised cheetah who have gone on to live natural lives, breed and raise wild cubs. At about 2 years old, when the now sub-adult cheetah are reaching sexual maturity and dispersal age, we offer them to other reserves approved by EWT. The beauty is that while Mom is raising her cubs we can allow safari guests/tourists to view and photograph them in the wild; they are perfect ambassadors for their species. Thus we control our cheetah numbers and release genetically sound, wild, habituated animals into new and existing reserves, and sustain our reserve.

This project is something us South African’s can be proud of.

Vote and request your R1000 travel voucher

* The system only allows you to vote once for an entry. You may however comment multiple times per entry. We thank your playing your part and contributing to the South Africa Tourism Awards though voting and submitting comments.

* As a thank you we will send you a R1000 travel voucher to enjoy. We  ask you to share these awards with your friends and request them to vote too. By voting they too will receive a R1000 travel voucher. 


Tshegofatso Nyalungu – 02.05.2022
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