Are you looking for a lion walk? Walking with lions definitely belongs to one of the craziest encounters you can imagine. But what exactly is it all about and can your really walk next to a Lion in the wild?
Are you looking for a Safari in Africa? Have a look at our Top 10 Safari Parks in Africa Article.
We collected everything you need to know about walking with Lions! Read the entire article or skip to the section you want.
Everyone knows the famous pictures of a pack of lion hunting down zebras or wildebees in Kruger National Park in South Africa. However, those sightings mostly occur form a safe distance, from a car or bus.
Yes, it sounds crazy when you hear it, but it is actually possible to walk with Lions. In all places we found, the lions are not wild, but of course, still able to cause a serious harm if you are not cautious. So it is definitely possible to walk with Lions if you want.
The topic itself is very controversial however. There are several reported cases of animal abuse in so called “zoos” or “animal parks” all over Africa, in which baby lions are displayed to attract tourists and sold to bounty hunters when they are fully grown.
Nevertheless, many argue that the money coming from tourists also contributes to conservation in a big way. At the end it depends on your own decision to support such an encounter or not. If you want to find the perfect lion walk.
There are two major places in the world where you can encounter Lions and walk with them. Have a look at the two options to walk with Lions.
Quick Guide to the best Places to walk with Lions
- Traveling to Mauritius: Flights from all major airports to Mauritius/Port Louis in the Indian Ocean with early booking realistic starting at approx. 650 Euro.
- Walking with lions: Safari Adventures Mauritius. The walk with lions takes about one hour and costs about 95 Euro.
How does the best Places to walk with Lions looks like? Safari guide Jorge wears khaki pants, a green fleece sweater and a matching cape. He gestures passionately with a wooden stick: “Be sure to stay with the group and always hold the stick between you and the lions. Never crouch down, because then you seem small and vulnerable. And don’t run away at all! That could trigger the hunting reflex.” Being small and vulnerable is something you highly want to avoid when approaching Lions.
The Lion Encounter starts with a good preparing . Here in the wooded Casela amusement park on Mauritius it is possible to fulfill the dream of walking next to a real Lion without a fence or cage.
How it starts
We listen carefully to the Guides instructions. The lions in the park are used to humans from an early age, but in the end they remain unpredictable wild animals who follow their instincts. And walking with a lion in the forest is not something you do every day.
We take off our sunglasses, because the mirroring of the lenses irritates the animals. It is also forbidden to carry handbags or photo bags. The lions could suspect food in it and press us.
We disinfect our slightly trembling hands in order to avoid the transmission of diseases when they come into contact with them. Security is definitely a main priority here.
In the west of Mauritius between the popular dream beaches Tamarin and Flic en Flac lies the bird and leisure park Casela. On its 14 hectare area there are 150 different bird species to admire, impressive giant turtles, monkeys and also a petting zoo (including Lions ?).
In the other part of the park, from ziplining and ravine climbing to exploring the two-wheeled Segway by quad bike or safari jeep through the savannah, various exciting action tours are offered. A unique experience and thrill of a special kind is the walk and the encounter with lions in the wild.
In the goose march we follow Jorge from the log cabin, where we left our things behind, through the bush to the gate near the lion enclosure. The safari guide gives us a sign to wait. Our Lion walk starts.
More about the family running the walking with lion’s operation in Mauritius
Born in Zimbabwe, Graeme Bristow is part of a family who was been working in the wildlife sector for 3 generations. The story began in the 1950s when Graeme’s grandfather started rescuing injured and rejected animals to treat at the first wildlife park in Rhodesia called, Le Rhone Game Park.
Since then, the Bristow’s’ lives took a new turn as their love for animals grew and their purpose was geared towards conserving and preserving nature and its animals.
In 2006 with the alarming political state of Zimbabwe, Graeme decided to leave the country to protect his family. He heard from his friend that Mauritius was a great country and he made his move here, along with his family in May 2007.
Introduced to Casela NatureParks they went on to open Safari Adventures in April 2007. Today, Safari Adventures is in partnership with the Medine Group and Graeme and Julie are parents to 34 lions, 10 tigers and 4 cheetah and more animals who can be met through the big cat encounters.
The Bristow’s goal is to educate as many people as possible but if they manage to teach 1 person out of 100 about preserving animals, they believe that they have done their job well.
What are the requirements to walk with Lions?
Two lions per day are allowed to accompany the group. Only animals that come out voluntarily are chosen. No lion is forced to go for a walk with guests. Today two handsome lion ladies sit close to the fence and wait for the excursion with a human companion. Matala is a stately brown lioness, Matata is light beige and looks like a Labrador in large format. Jorge opens the gate.
The giant cats gracefully walk out of the enclosure into freedom and directly towards us. For the first time in my life I meet the dangerous predators without a fence in between. It takes my breath away for a moment. What was it like with the hunting reflex? But the two lion ladies only give us a bored look and walk past us.
Is it dangerous to walk with Lions?
To be on the safe side, every walk includes Jorge, trainee Anthony and two wildlife guides. They don’t let the predators out of their sight for a second and watch their every step attentively.
Everyone really puts an effort on keeping the tourists safe on their best Places to walk with Lions Adventure. “We have studied their body language and can see their mood very clearly,” explains Jorge. “Should a lion seem stressed despite the preparation of the animals and their habituation to humans, we immediately call for reinforcements by radio.”
And for the emergency both have pepper spray with them, weapons or even Stromschocker they don’t carry for the Lion Walk.
The friendly coexistence between humans and lion functions only, if the wild cats are accustomed from small on to humans. Most of the 22 cats of prey were born here, many came to Casela Park as babies. In order to prepare the animals for a walk with foreign guests, the guides work with the predators for many years. Seven days a week, carers and trainers spend time in the enclosure, stroking, playing and feeding the lions. Truly one of the best Places to walk with Lions.
Not a cub any more
Only lions under the age of four are allowed out. Older animals are often too dominant and therefore too unpredictable for encounters with humans.
“We know the lions don’t live in their natural environment,” Jorge explains. “But we try to do everything we can to make them feel at home.” And indeed, the two young lionesses seem quite satisfied. Matala lolls in the dry savannah grass and stretches her speckled legs into the air, while Matata strolls calmly through the bushes.
Not only their colour, but also their behaviour resembles more a lazy retriever than a fearsome cat of prey. And guess what, we really walked with lions!
What are the best places to walk with Lions like?
What makes Mauritius one of the best Places to walk with Lions is the environment. Our walk takes us along narrow sandy paths through a forest of thorn bushes, buffalo berries and acacia trees. It smells of eucalyptus. Matala is not interested in this scent. It has picked up a different weather. The lions are fed and are full – thank God! But a small meat treat is always possible
Especially when it’s presented so appetizingly. One of the guides takes a piece of meat out of the bag, attaches it to a hook and throws it onto a branch fork high up in the tree. Matala watches him from the corner of her eye, jumps up and climbs up the tree in a few seconds. “The animals are not trained like in the circus,” Jorge had explained in the morning, “only used to people. But small gimmicks are still part of it.
How much time do you need for Walking with Lions?
We walk with the lions through the bush for about an hour. Watch them climbing and playing. Then it’s time to say goodbye so as not to stress the animals. One last time a guide lures Matala with a small piece of meat.
This time on a stone – for a photo shoot! While Matala presents herself in front of the cameras, Matata lies down decoratively in the dry grass. I dare to stroke the lioness. The smooth fur feels dense, firm and a little tallowy.
White lions used to be worshipped. They said, “If you touch a white lion, you’ll have luck in life.” At least for today that’s true. 10/10 for this best Place to walk with Lions!
2.Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Quick Guide to the best Places to walk with Lions
- Traveling to Zimbabwe: Flights from most major airports to Victoria Falls in Central Africa with early booking realistic starting at approx. 650 Euro.
- Walk with lions: There are several tour companies to book it with. Operator Option A or Operator Option B.
Another spot for lion encounter and “best Places to walk with Lions” are the famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The falls itself are already a famous tourist attraction, but there are even other attractions which are not on every travellers list: Walking with Lions!
Zimbabwe truly is one of the best Places to walk with Lions as it is one of the main Safari and Game Drive country in Africa. We were out on Zimbabwe’s open savannah, my eyes swimming in the heat, and the lion was right in front of me. So I stretched out my hand to stroke it.
What are the conditions and prices?
At Victoria Falls, the so-called “Walk with Lions” will cost you 150 USD.
For this, one is brought some kilometers from the place where an organization called ALERT (African Lion and Environment Research Trust) is working to reintroduce lions into their native territory. First you will be informed about the program and the appropriate safety measures – then you will commence your lion walk.
All this was explained to us at a short briefing. But it was when our guides got into the dynamics of the 45-minute walk that I became nervous.
The nine of us were given sticks so that if a lion did turn on us, we could distract it. A typical procedure for the best Places to walk with Lions. We had to walk behind them, so as not to challenge their dominance, and shouldn’t touch their heads, only their rear quarters. Did I hear that right?
So, sticks in hand, we were led to meet Phezulu and his sister Pendo, who were lying nonchalantly in the road, surrounded by five or six rangers, two of whom had rifles. Yes, one assured us, the lions had been fed. And, with a little coaxing, they set off into the African bush under a solidly blue sky, with all of us right behind.
Having been brought up by humans – our guides explained – the lions viewed us as older members of their pride, which was why we could walk with them. Indeed, though they looked the size of adults to me, it would be unnatural for cubs this age to be in the bush alone.
Multiple operators offer to walk with Lions. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):
- Victoria Falls Guide (Victoria Falls)
- Volunteer Encounter (Antelope Park or Victoria Falls)
- Lion Encounter (Victoria Falls)
- Wildlife Encounter (Victoria Falls)
- Mauritius Attractions (Mauritius)
- Safari Adventures (Mauritius)
What is a best places to walk with lions tour like?
The walk is conducted with young lions, starting at around 6 months. They continue walking with humans until maximum 2 years old. You can walk next to the lions, even touch them – crazy! You can take pictures with the lions. The walk takes about 45 minutes.Afterwards snacks and drinks are served (inclusive).
The number of African lions has halved in the past 25 years, so charities are breeding them in captivity, introducing the cubs to stalking and hunting, before they are released into an enclosed reserve to hunt and fend for themselves. And it is only the cubs they give birth to here, who have had no human contact, that can go wild.
A Lions Age
Lions can live for up to 20 years, making this a costly process. So Lion Encounters, based near the Victoria Falls, uses the brief period when the human-reared lions are introduced to the bush to give tourists a chance to walk with them, subsidising the greater part of their lives.
Being a tad nervous, I hung to the back of the pack, hiding behind my status as a senior member of the pride. But clearly Phezulu, with his adolescent beginnings of a mane, was tiring of hanging around these old-timers, and set off on his own into the grasslands.
The rangers don’t discourage this, and two followed him. On these daily constitutionals some lions have killed impala, giraffe, even wildebeest in front of tourists. But on this day their prey remained hidden in the buzzing bushveld, with the cry of ibises warning of our coming. Its best to keep the lions as closely to their natural environment as possible.
The Lions does not sleep tonight
Lions are also rather lazy – sleeping up to 20 hours a day. And once Phezulu had gone off, Pendo decided on a lie-down.
Being right behind her at this point, I plucked up my courage. I find that our neighbour’s cat will scratch me if I stroke its head, but likes a back rub. Assuming Pendo was similar, I stretched out to stroke her hindquarters.
Immediately her mouth opened showing off an array of impressively white teeth… and she let out a languorous yawn. Clearly big cats and little cats aren’t that different.
The sun beat down as we continued along red dirt paths through the low scrub. Lions struggle in the heat just like us, so Pendo paused at a water hole, giving us the perfect photo op beside her.
Soon Phezulu rejoined us and, when both lions stopped, panting, under a camel thorn tree, we were all relieved to be in the shade.
Finally, they led us the short distance back to the lodge – where they knew their ready-made dinner was waiting. And it was at the lodge that we could see the other cubs, some of whom at less than three months old were too young for a trek through the savannah.
Their turn will come. The walks take place every day of the year, even if no guests show up. Of course, if guests do come, the $150 each pays helps the conservation effort.
What about Safety at the Lion walk?
All clients will be given equipment for their Walk with lions (stick). On a walk with lions safari there are three lion handlers plus a Trip leader. All Trip Leaders carry a .458 rifle, and a communication radio plus a first aid kit.
The lions were just one experience in Zimbabwe that took me far closer to big game than I’d ever imagined. The others also had a focus on conservation and not one involved being cooped up in a minibus.
On an open-air dinner cruise up the Zambezi, close to where the river cascades into the Victoria Falls, we sailed worryingly close to some rocks… or so I thought until one opened its mouth in a languid hippo’s yawn.
There are several places in the world where lion walking is possible. However, it is a very controversial topic, so you should decide on your own if your really want to encounter this way.
Do you want to see the best places to see lions in the wild? Have a look at our other article.
Of course, programmes that offer tourists the chance to walk with lions or ride on elephants have come in for criticism. Nobody is suggesting that those lions that walk with humans could ever be released into the wild; only their cubs.
And this is a slow process, so the results have yet to be seen. Is this one of those ill-fated conservation schemes, spurred on by good intentions? Or is a legitimate endeavour given the fact that the number of African lions has dropped by 42 per cent in the past 21 years?
Much of this is due to loss of habitat, as well as poaching and hunting – and it is seriously concerning to hear allegations that some of the older lions in such schemes are released for canned hunts.
On balance, I am reminded of the arguments for keeping animals in zoos. Perhaps the most compelling one is that, by exposing people to the plight of wild species – people who would otherwise not know anything about it – we are doing the best we can to halt nature’s continued demise. Ignorance is almost always our greatest enemy.
An amazing experience! Walking with Lions truly can be an amazing experience, and when done properly shouldn’t cause harm to the animals or humans involved.
We choose the best places to walk with lions due to visitor ratings, sustainability aspects and quality of the tours.
If you want to read more about about big cats like tiger, have a look at our tiger safari article.
At the end everyone has to decide for themselves if they really want to approach a Lion this close, or if a Game Drive in a Safari Park is enough (or even better).