Unleash Your Wild Side: Embark on a Conservation-Focused Journey Walking with Lions! Picture this: strolling shoulder-to-shoulder with the kings of the jungle, an adventure that’s not just breathtaking but downright extraordinary. Ever wondered what goes into a lion walk? Is it possible to share a path with these majestic creatures in their natural habitat? Get ready to unravel the mysteries, discover the vital role of conservation in these encounters, and find out if you can step into this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
Everyone knows the famous pictures of a pack of lions hunting down zebras or wildebeest in Kruger National Park in South Africa. However, those sightings mainly occur from a safe distance, from a car or bus.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of unnatural animal encounters. However, there are decent programs around the globe that are worth exploring and that create a nice environment for human and animal interactions.
We collected everything you need to know about walking with Lions! Read the entire article or skip to the section you want.
Key Points on the Lion Walk
|What is a Lion Walk?
|It’s an adventure experience that allows participants to walk alongside lions in the wild.
|Can you Walk with Lions?
|Yes, it’s possible, though controversial due to potential animal abuse issues and concerns.
|Where Can you Walk with Lions?
|Major places are Mauritius and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
|How does a Lion Walk work?
|Trained guides provide instructions and ensure safety. The lions are accustomed to humans from a young age.
|Are there any restrictions for a Lion Walk?
|Only lions under the age of four are allowed out for walks, and the lions aren’t forced to accompany the group. They should come out voluntarily.
|Is a Lion Walk dangerous?
|There are safety measures in place, including trained guides, observation of the lions’ behaviors, and emergency procedures.
|What does a Lion Walk look like?
|Participants walk with the lions through the bush, observing them in a natural environment. There can also be opportunities for photographs.
|How much time is needed for a Lion Walk?
|About one hour, to ensure the lions aren’t stressed.
|Cost of a Lion Walk
|In Mauritius, it costs about 95 USD. In Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, it’s 150 USD.
Can you walk with Lions?
Yes, it sounds scary when you hear it, but it is possible to walk with Lions. In all places we found, lions are not wild, but of course, they can still cause serious harm if you are not cautious. So it is 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. In the end, it depends on your own decision to support such an encounter or not. If you want to find the perfect lion walk.
Are you looking for a Safari in Africa? Have a look at our Top 10 Safari Parks in Africa Article.
There are two major places 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 starting at approx. 650 Euro.
- Walking with lions: Safari Adventures Mauritius. The walk with the lions takes about one hour and costs about 95 euros.
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.” You highly want to avoid being small and vulnerable when approaching Lions.
The Lion Encounter starts with 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 to avoid transmitting diseases when they come into contact with them. Security is a main priority here.
In the west of Mauritius, between the famous 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 ?).
Various exciting action tours are offered 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. 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 moved 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 toward us. For the first time in my life I meet 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 observe their every step.
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 emergencies, both have pepper spray with 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 human encounters.
“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 color, but also their behaviour resembles more a lazy retriever than a fearsome cat of prey. And guess what, we 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 in the dry grass decoratively. 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 stands out as a premier destination for lion walks, renowned for its exceptional safari and game drive experiences. Venturing into Zimbabwe’s vast savannah, where the heat created mirages before my eyes, I found myself in close proximity to a lion. Overcome with awe, I instinctively reached out to touch it.
What are the conditions and prices?
The so-called “Walk with Lions” will cost you 150 USD at Victoria Falls.
For this, one is brought some kilometers from where an organization called ALERT (African Lion and Environment Research Trust) works 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.
We were informed about the basics during a brief orientation. However, apprehension crept in when the intricacies of the nearly hour-long trek were discussed.
Our group of nine was equipped with rods, a standard safety measure in the event of an unexpected lion encounter, allowing us to divert their attention. It was essential to follow the lions, maintaining a position that wouldn’t be perceived as a threat to their authority, and we were instructed to avoid touching their heads, focusing instead on their hindquarters. That detail caught me off guard.
Armed with our rods, we proceeded to meet two lions, Phezulu and his sister Pendo. They were casually sprawled in the middle of the path, encircled by several rangers, a couple of whom carried firearms. One ranger reassured us that the lions had been recently fed. With some gentle persuasion, the lions began moving through the wild African landscape under a clear blue sky, and we trailed closely behind.
Our guides shared that these lions were raised by humans and thus perceived us as elder members of their pride, enabling us to accompany them on this walk. Although they appeared fully grown, the guides noted that it was unusual for cubs of their age to navigate the wilderness 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! You can take pictures with the lions. The walk takes about 45 minutes.Afterwards snacks and drinks are served (inclusive).
Over the last quarter-century, the African lion population has declined by 50%, prompting conservation organizations to adopt new strategies. These involve rearing lions in protected environments, where they learn essential survival skills like stalking and hunting. Eventually, these lions are transitioned to a secure, natural reserve where they can live independently. The key to reintroducing lions into the wild lies in the next generation: cubs born in these reserves with minimal human interaction are the ones who can truly thrive in their natural habitat.
A Lions Age
The life of a lion can span two decades, a fact that adds considerable weight to their care. Situated near the iconic Victoria Falls, Lion Encounters takes advantage of a unique window when lions raised by humans first explore their natural surroundings, creating a special moment for visitors to safely walk with these magnificent cats. This interaction plays a crucial role in supporting the long-term wellbeing of these lions.
Back to my experience: “With a touch of nervousness, I lingered at the back of our group, comforted slightly by my perceived role as a venerable member of the lion’s community. Phezulu, proudly sporting a nascent mane, appeared restless among us older folks, eagerly striding off into the open savannah.
Our guides, keen on encouraging such instinctual activities, promptly followed him. In these excursions, witnessing lions actively hunting their traditional quarry like impala or wildebeest is a common, yet awe-inspiring sight for visitors. However, during our trek, potential prey stayed hidden amidst the lively wilderness, their presence subtly announced by the distant cries of ibises, signaling our presence. The goal here is to foster an environment that closely mirrors the lions’ natural habitat, intertwining the essence of wildlife conservation with a memorable safari journey.”
The Lions does not sleep tonight
Lions are known for their extensive resting periods, often dozing for up to 20 hours. When Phezulu wandered off, Pendo decided it was time for a nap.
At this moment, as I was directly behind her, I mustered some bravery. I recalled how my neighbor’s cat reacts negatively to head pats but enjoys a gentle rub on the back. With this in mind, I cautiously reached out to caress Pendo’s rear.
Her reaction was immediate: her jaws parted, revealing a set of strikingly white teeth, followed by a leisurely yawn. It appeared there wasn’t much difference between large and small felines.
As we walked under the hot sun on the ochre trails weaving through the sparse vegetation, I noticed that lions, like humans, find the heat challenging. Pendo stopped at a watering hole, providing us an ideal chance for photos next to her.
Before long, Phezulu returned, and both lions took a break under a camel thorn tree, to our collective relief, as we all sought refuge in the shade.
Eventually, they guided us back to the lodge, knowing a meal awaited them there. At the lodge, we saw the younger cubs, some barely three months old, not yet ready for savannah walks.
Their time would come. These walks occur daily, regardless of guest presence. When visitors do participate, their contribution of $150 each aids in the conservation efforts.
What about Safety at the Lion walk?
Every participant in the lion walking adventure will be equipped with essential tools (including a guiding staff). Each expedition is led by a team comprising three expert lion guides and a chief expedition leader. The leader is equipped with a high-caliber hunting rifle for safety, a two-way communication device, and a medical emergency kit.
This lion encounter was just one part of my Zimbabwe adventure that brought me unexpectedly close to the wilderness. All these activities were aligned with wildlife preservation principles, offering experiences far beyond the confines of a typical vehicle-based safari.
During a scenic river dinner cruise along the Zambezi, just upstream from the thundering Victoria Falls, our vessel seemed to navigate perilously near some stones. That was until one of these ‘stones’ revealed itself with a slow, gaping yawn, unmistakably that of a relaxed hippopotamus.
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 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.
Certainly, initiatives allowing tourists to interact closely with wildlife, such as lion walks or elephant rides, have faced scrutiny. It’s understood that lions accustomed to human interaction won’t return to the wild; only their offspring might.
The effectiveness of such programs is still to be determined. Are they well-meaning yet ultimately flawed attempts at conservation? Or do they represent a valid effort, especially considering the 42% decline in African lion populations over the last two decades?
Factors like habitat loss, illegal hunting, and poaching are major concerns. There are also troubling reports about some older lions from these programs being used in controlled hunting scenarios.
This brings to mind the debate around zoological parks. One of the strongest arguments in their favor is their role in educating people about wildlife conservation. For many, this is their only exposure to these issues, playing a vital role in combating the destruction of natural habitats and species. After all, unawareness is often the root of many environmental problems.
Pros and Cons of Lions Walking Tours
|1. Unique Experience – It provides a rare, thrilling experience to walk with one of the most majestic animals on Earth.
|1. Potential Animal Exploitation – Some businesses offering these experiences may not treat the lions ethically or provide adequate living conditions.
|2. Educational – Participants can learn about lion behaviors, conservation efforts, and the importance of wildlife preservation.
|2. Unnatural for Lions – Lions are wild animals, and such interactions can be seen as interfering with their natural behaviors and lifestyle.
|3. Economic Contribution – These programs can contribute to the local economy and provide jobs for local communities.
|3. Safety Risks – Despite safety measures, walking with a wild animal can always present potential dangers to humans.
|4. Supports Conservation – Some organizations use part of their revenue to fund conservation efforts for wild lions.
|4. Encourages Captivity – Such activities may indirectly support the practice of keeping wild animals in captivity.
|5. Photo Opportunities – It provides a unique opportunity for memorable photographs.
|5. Possible Stress for the Lions – Regular interactions with humans can cause animal stress, impacting their well-being.
Summary of Walking with Lions
An amazing experience! Walking with Lions can be a fantastic experience, and when done correctly 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 the quality of the tours.
Ultimately, everyone has to decide if they want to approach a Lion this close or if a Game Drive in a Safari Park is enough (or even better).