Mention Africa and one of the first images that appears in one’s mind is the lion pride, lazing on the savanna under the intense sun. Imagine being there and walking along side of them.
Walking with Lions, a Lion Encounter program, allows you to partake in this exceptional experience. Stationed near Victoria Falls, it’s an optional activity that can be arranged through Renedian prior to the Victoria Falls to Cape Town or Waterfalls and Wildlife trips. Arrive a day or so early as John Colyer did, to partake in this once-in-a lifetime experience.
Lion Encounter is an active conservation program, committed to securing a sustainable future for the African lion. With two operations on either side of the Victoria Falls border, they offer the chance to get up close and personal with these magnificent animals.
Cubs are bred from animals in captivity and enrolled in a structured release project. Hand-reared only for the first few months, the organization’s experience has shown that these encounters have not affected the lions’ ability to hunt and kill. The program mimics how a young cub would be acclimatized to the bush in the wild, without eradicating their natural instinct. Lion Encounter’s walks help familiarize cubs with their surroundings, while learning how to be both protective and dominant. The project also raises awareness of the plight of the African Lion.
Lion Encounter outlines their carefully designed release strategy.
“Stage 1 Around 3 months and upwards until 18 months old: the cubs are taken on walks in the bush to help them become familiar with their natural surroundings. At 18 months to 2½ years human contact is removed and they are given the opportunity to hone their hunting skills by taking part in Night and Day Encounters in a safe and secure environment (fenced off, no humans).
Stage 2 The lions are released in a pride into a large enclosure where they can start to live as a wild pride, hunting and fending for themselves. They are closely monitored for research purposes; there is no human contact or intervention.
Stage 3 The pride is relocated to a larger area, where they will spend the rest of their lives. This area is big enough to have many different species in it, including competitive ones.
Stage 4 Cubs born in Stage 3 will be raised by the pride in a totally natural environment, and when old enough, can be relocated into those areas of Africa that need them.”
Walking with Lions focuses on Stage One, giving the young cats the opportunity to explore their natural environment and practice hunting. Each walk has a maximum of 10 guests, and is escorted by scouts, lion handlers, and guides. In the best interests of humans and felines, strict vigilance is paid to personal safety.
Contact Renedian Adventures to make arrangements to Walk with Lions.
Photo credits: John Colyer