Walk with lions? Walking with lions is certainly one of the craziest encounters you can imagine. But what exactly it’s all about, and whether you can actually walk next to a lion in the wild, we explain here.
We have collected everything you need to know about walking with Lions!
- Best tour operators for walking with lions
Everyone knows the famous pictures of a pride of lions hunting zebras or wildebeests in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. However, these sightings are usually from a safe distance, from a car or bus.
The encounter we are addressing will bring you closer to the lion than you can imagine.
Want to learn more about big animals? Check out the best places to Tiger , or Lions , To see .
Can you really walk with lions?
Yes, it sounds crazy when you hear it, but it’s actually possible to walk with lions. In all the places we found, the lions are not ferocious, but of course still capable of doing some serious damage if you’re not careful. So it’s quite possible to walk with lions if you want to.
However, the issue itself is very controversial. There are several reported cases of animal abuse in so-called "zoos" or "animal parks" throughout Africa, where lion cubs are displayed to attract tourists and sold to wildlife hunters when they are fully grown.
Nonetheless, many argue that the money that comes from tourists also contributes to conservation in a big way. In the end, it depends on your own decision whether you like to support such an encounter or not.
Where to walk with lions?
There are two key places in the world where you can meet and walk with lions. Take a look at these two ways to walk with lions.
Quick guide to the best places to walk with lions
- Travel to Mauritius: flights from all major airports to Mauritius/Port Louis in the Indian Ocean with early booking from ca. 650 euros realistic.
- Tour Provider: Safari Adventures Mauritius. The walk with the lions lasts about an hour and costs about 95 euros.
What do the best places look like to walk with Lions? The safari guide wears khaki pants, a green fleece sweater and a matching cape. He gestures passionately with a wooden stick: "Make sure to stay with the group and always keep the stick between you and the lions. Never bend over because it makes you look small and vulnerable. And in any case do not run away! This could trigger the hunting reflex." Being small and vulnerable is something you definitely want to avoid when approaching lions.
The lion encounter starts with a good preparation . Here at the forested Casela amusement park in Mauritius, it is possible to fulfill your dream of walking next to a real lion without a fence or cage.
Are you a fan of the African continent? Take a look at the Top Safari Parks In Africa, where we have collected everything about the best places to watch wildlife like Wildebeest , Hippos , Elephants , Giraffes or Rhinos to see.
How it begins
We listen carefully to the guide’s instructions. The lions in the park are used to humans from an early age, but in the end they remain unpredictable wild animals following their instincts. And walking with a lion in the forest is not something you do every day.
We take off our sunglasses because the reflection of the lenses irritates the animals. It is also forbidden to carry handbags or photo bags. The lions might suspect food in it and harass us. We disinfect our slightly shaking hands to avoid transmitting diseases when they come in contact with them. Safety is definitely the first 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 hectares, there are 150 different species of birds to admire, impressive giant tortoises, monkeys and also a petting zoo (u.a. Lions ?).
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 hectares, there are 1In the other part of the park, a variety of exciting action tours are offered, from ziplining and gorge climbing to exploring the savannah on a two-wheeled Segway with a quad bike or safari jeep.
In single file we follow the guide from the log cabin, where we left our stuff, through the bush to the gate near the lion enclosure. The safari guide gives us a sign to wait. Our lion’s march begins.
More about the family that runs the "Walking with Lion" operation in Mauritius
Zimbabwean-born Graeme Bristow is part of a family that has been in the wildlife business for 3 generations. The story began in the 1950s, when Graeme’s grandfather began rescuing injured and rejected animals to treat at the first game park in Rhodesia, called Le Rhone Game Park.
Since then, the Bristows’ lives took a new turn as their love for animals grew and their purpose became focused on preserving and protecting nature and its animals.
Faced with Zimbabwe’s alarming political state in 2006, 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 with his family in May 2007.
In April 2007 they opened Safari Adventures in Casela NatureParks. Today, Safari Adventures is partnered with Medine Group, and Graeme and Julie are parents to 34 lions, 10 tigers, and 4 cheetahs, among other animals that can be encountered through big cat encounters.
The Bristow’s goal is to educate as many people as possible, but if they manage to educate 1 in 100 people about conservation, they think they’ve done their job well.
What are the requirements to walk with Lions?
Two lions per day may accompany the group. Only animals that come out voluntarily are selected. No lion is forced to walk with guests. Today two pretty lionesses are sitting close to the fence waiting to go out with a human companion. Matala is a stately brown lioness, Matata is light beige and looks like a Labrador in large size. 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 encounter the dangerous predators without a fence between them. It takes my breath away for a moment. How was the hunting reflex? But the two lionesses just look at us bored and pass us by.
Is it dangerous to run with Lions?
To be on the safe side, Jorge, apprentice Anthony and two game wardens are with us on every hike. They don’t take their eyes off the predators for a second and watch their every move carefully. Everyone really goes out of their way to keep tourists safe in the best places to walk with Lions Adventure. "We have studied their body language and we can tell their mood very well," explains our guide. "If a lion appears stressed despite the animals being prepared and acclimated to humans, we immediately radio for reinforcements".
And in case of emergency, they both carry pepper spray, weapons or even stun guns, which they do not carry for the Lion Walk.
No more cubs
Only lions under four years old are allowed to come along. Older animals are often too dominant and therefore too unpredictable for encounters with humans.
"We know that lions do not live in their natural environment," our guide explains. "But we do everything we can to make them feel at home." And indeed, the two young lionesses seem quite content. Matala lolls in the dry savanna grass and stretches her speckled legs in the air, while Matata strolls quietly through the bushes.
Not only her color, but also her behavior resembles a lazy retriever rather than a fearsome feline predator. And guess what, we really walked with lions!
What makes Mauritius one of the best places to walk with Lions is the environment. Our walk takes us on narrow sandy paths through a forest of thorn bushes, buffalo berries and acacia trees. It smells like eucalyptus. Matala is not interested in this fragrance. It has taken a different weather. The lions are fed and are full – thank God! But a little taste of meat is always possible
Especially when it is presented so appetizingly. One of the guides takes a piece of meat from the bag, attaches it to a hook and throws it on a branch high up in the tree. Matala watches him from the corner of her eye, jumps up and climbs the tree in a few seconds. "The animals are not trained as in the circus," Jorge had explained that morning, "only used to people. But little gimmicks are still part of it.
How much time do you need to walk with Lions?
We walk with the lions through the bush for about an hour. Watch them climb and play. Then it is time to say goodbye so as not to stress the animals. One last time a guide tempts Matala with a small piece of meat.
This time on a stone – for a photo shoot! While Matala presents herself to the cameras, Matata decoratively lies down in the dry grass. I dare to pet the lioness. The smooth coat feels dense, firm and a bit sebaceous.
White lions used to be worshipped. They said: "If you touch a white lion, you are lucky in life"." At least for today this is true. 10/10 for this best place to go with lions!
2.Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Quick guide to the best places to walk with lions
- Travel to Zimbabwe: Flights from most major airports to Victoria Falls in Central Africa with early booking realistic from ca. 650 euros.
- Walk with lions: there are several tour operators you can book with.Operator Option A or Operator Option B.
Another place to meet lions and "best places to walk with lions" are the famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The waterfalls themselves are already a famous tourist attraction, but there are other attractions that are not on every travel list: Walking with Lions!
Zimbabwe is really one of the best places to walk with Lions, as it is one of the main safari and game drive countries in Africa. We were out in Zimbabwe’s open savannah, my eyes swimming in the heat and the lion was right in front of me. So I reached out my hand to pet them.
What are the conditions and prices?
At Victoria Falls the so called "Walk with Lions" costs 150 USD.
For this, you are taken a few kilometers from where an organization called ALERT (African Lion and Environment Research Trust) is working to reintroduce lions to their native range. First you will be informed about the program and the appropriate safety measures – then you will start your lion walk.
All this was explained to us in a short briefing. But as our guides got into the dynamics of the 45-minute walk, I started to get nervous. Nine of us were given sticks so we could distract him when a lion came at us. A typical process for the best places to walk with Lions. We had to walk behind them so as not to challenge their dominance, and were not supposed to touch their heads, only their back quarters. Did I hear that correctly?
With sticks in hand, we were led to Phezulu and his sister Pendo who were casually lying in the road surrounded by five or six rangers, two of whom had rifles. Yes, we were assured, the lions were fed. And with a little persuasion, they set off into the African bush under a bright blue sky, with all of us right behind them.
The lions were raised by humans – our guides explained – and considered us senior members of their pride, which is why we could walk with them. Although they looked as big as adults to me, it would be unnatural for boys that age to be alone in the bush.
Best tour operators for the lion walk
Several operators offer to go with Lions. Here are the most reliable ones (rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):
(Victoria Falls) (Antelope Park or Victoria Falls) (Victoria Falls) (Victoria Falls) (Mauritius) (Mauritius)
How does the lion walk work?
The walk is done with young lions from approx. 6 months. They continue to walk with people until they are at most 2 years old. They can walk next to the lions, even touch them – crazy! You can take pictures with the lions. The walk lasts approx. 45 minutes. Then snacks and drinks (included) are served.
The number of African lions has halved in the last 25 years. Charities breed them in captivity and introduce the young to stalking and hunting before releasing them into a closed reserve to hunt and fend for themselves. And only the cubs they give birth to here, which have not had human contact, can become wild.
An age of lions
Lions can live up to 20 years, making this a costly process. Lion Encounters near Victoria Falls takes advantage of the short time that human-reared lions are introduced to the bush to give tourists the opportunity to walk with them and subsidize most of their lives.
The Lions do not sleep tonight
Lions are also quite lazy – they sleep up to 20 hours a day. And after Phezulu left, Pendo opted for a recliner.
At this point I was right behind her and mustered up my courage. I find that our neighbor’s cat will scratch me if I pet her head, but likes a back massage. Assuming Pendo was similar, I reached out to pet her hindquarters.
Immediately her mouth opened to reveal a row of impressively white teeth… and she let out a soft yawn. Obviously big and small cats are not so different.
The sun was setting as we continued on red dirt roads through the low brush. Lions struggle in the heat just like us, so Pendo stopped at a waterhole and gave us the perfect photo next to 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 finished dinner was waiting for them. And at the lodge we could see the other boys, some of whom were too young to hike through the savanna at less than three months old.
Your turn will come. Walks take place every day of the year, even when no guests show up. When guests come, the $150 each will help with conservation, of course.
Safety during the lion walk?
All clients receive equipment for their walk with lions (stick). On a lion safari walk, there are three lion guides and one tour guide. All guides carry a 458 rifle, a communication radio, and a first aid kit.
The lions were just one experience in Zimbabwe that brought me much closer to big game than I had ever imagined. The others were also focused on conservation and not being crammed into a minibus.
On an open-air dinner cruise on the Zambezi, near where the river empties into Victoria Falls, we sailed worryingly close to some rocks … or so I thought, until one opened its mouth in a yawn of a lazy hippo.
What are the alternatives to walking with lions?
There are several places in the world where lion walks are possible. However, it is a very controversial topic, so you should decide for yourself if this is really how you want to encounter them.
Of course, programs that offer tourists the opportunity to walk with lions or ride elephants have been criticized. No one is suggesting that these lions, who 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 unfortunate conservation programs driven by good intentions? Or is a legitimate venture given that the number of African lions has dropped 42 percent in the last 21 years?
Much of this is due to habitat loss as well as poaching and hunting – and it’s seriously concerning to hear allegations that some of the older lions in such programs have been released for canned hunting.
All in all, I remember the arguments for keeping animals in zoos. Perhaps most compelling is that by exposing people to the plight of wild species – people who would otherwise know nothing about them – we are doing our best to stop the further demise of nature. Ignorance is almost always our biggest enemy.
An amazing experience! Walking with Lions can truly be an amazing experience, and if done properly, it should not cause any harm to the animals or people involved.
We choose the best places to walk with lions based on visitor reviews, sustainability issues and quality of tours.
In the end, everyone has to decide for themselves if they really want to get that close to a lion, or if a game drive in a safari park will suffice (or even better).
Interested in traveling to Africa, also check out our Top 10 Safari Parks in Africa article.