Walking With Lions in Zambia

Before heading out on today’s adventure, we are advised to wear long trousers, closed shoes, neutral bush colors, and not have any dangly items such as belts or scarves hanging from us. Skirts and bright colors were not to be worn. Why you ask? Well, today we were going walking with lions in Zambia!

LION ENCOUNTER

Walking with lions is one of the optional activities that G Adventures offers on their Southern Africa Encompassed tour. It’s available on both sides of the Zambia and Zimbabwe border.
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Lion Encounter is an active conservation program that is passionate about ensuring a secure future for the African lion. The species has seen an 80-90% decline in the past 20-30 years and the Lion Encounter program is Africa’s first genuine program to ethically re-introduce the offspring of captive-bred African lions back into the world.
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The handlers at the Lion Encounter walk the lion cubs as part of the first stage of their conservation program. This required the young lions being exposed to their natural environment early on in their lives and provided with as many opportunities to learn and develop as close to that of a wild lion as possible. This means that they often come across wildlife and game whilst on their walks, and the walks allow them the opportunities to practice hunting and stalking. Occasionally the cubs will be successful and our guides said they have witnessed the cubs hunt and kill giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo, and impala while out walking.
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Walking With Lions in Zambia
After learning about the conservation program we are given a safety briefing and bused out into the bush. We are each handed a wooden stick; the stick acts as a distraction in case any of the lion cubs make eye contact with you and direct their full attention your way. Our guide refers to this act as a ‘naughty look’.
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We walk up a dirt path, and as we turn the corner, there they are. Two beautiful, female cubs waiting to get their morning walk started!
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WALKING WITH LIONS

During our safety briefing, we are told that we are not guaranteed any contact between us and the lion cubs. The lions are hand raised and born in captivity so they are use to people, however they are trained only to the point that it is safe for them to be in the presence of us. Every effort is made to keep their upbringing (and their walks) as natural as possible.
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Throughout this hour-long experience, we are accompanied by guides and handlers to ensure everything runs smoothly. Our guide tells us that the young cubs view the accompanying people as older members of their pride which allows us to walk with them safely and naturally with no leads or chains. This is basically as close to the real deal as you can get!!!
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Walking With Lions in Zambia
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The lion cubs were adorably playful. I couldn’t help but notice how they had the exact same mannerisms and movements as Cookie (my cat back home in Australia)! I wanted to run up to them and *squishhhhh* them the way I do to him when I grab hold of him, only I probably definitely would have ended up as breakfast given this scenario.
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While walking behind the lion cubs, we each had the opportunity to go up and have a pat. As I increased my pace to catch up to one of them, I felt a sense of nervousness come over me. My hand slightly trembled as I leaned forward to pat the cubs back. Their bodies were so sleek and muscular, but so soft and inviting. I wanted to keep patting her, but at the same time, didn’t want to overstay my invite.

Both cubs seemed almost oblivious to us being there; as though they didn’t care that they had ten different sets of hands wanting to touch them. I guess this made approaching them somewhat less terrifying – if they were on edge from each move that we made, I’d definitely be less inclined to want to pat them in fear that they’d strike out at any given second.

Walking with Lions in Zambia

Watching the two cubs interact with one another was simply too cute – they are such beautiful creatures and it’s a damn shame that some disgusting people in this world feel the need to trophy hunt them.

Walking with lions in Zambia

After a bout of playfulness, the cubs settle down. This can only mean one thing – photo opp time!

<insert jaws music here>

Walking with Lions in Zambia

Look how beautiful she is! Seriously, I will say this many times throughout my Africa blog posts, but this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’m glad I forked out the money to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity and help support the Lion Encounter conservation program at the same time.

Before bidding the two cubs farewell, I take a few more photos of them being adorable. The open-mouth shot has quickly become my favorite photo I’ve ever taken!

Walking with lions in Zambia

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