Lion excursion in Zimbabwe

This item appears on page 64 of the May 2008 issue.

During a month-long Africa trip, I wanted to get up close to lions. It wasn’t until I got to Zambia and the Waterfront Hotel & Campground aka The Zambezi Waterfront, Victoria Falls aka The Waterfront (P.O. Box 60407, Livingstone, Zambia; phone +260 213 320606 or 07 or 08, fax 213 320609, e-mail [for accommodation] or [for activities] or visit that I was able to book, in their activity center, an adventure called “Lion Encounter.”

Right on the banks of the Zambezi, the hotel and campground are located on Sichango Road at Livingstone, Zambia, halfway to Victoria Falls. We were camping there, but several of us “upgraded” to the fixed tents for $15 per person. A 2-man tent is small, so you’re better off booking a single tent; it’s cheap enough!

They had pretty good chow at the hotel, and the tour-booking office was just upstairs, over the restaurant.

For our lion encounter, on Dec. 23, 2007, we were driven over the border into Zimbabwe, then picked up for a short drive to the lion compound.

After an introductory talk on how lions are being reintroduced to the wild (a 4-step rehab program) and an explanation of the rules of encounter, the 25 of us were split into smaller groups. My group of six set off to explore the premises with a guide and his friend with a Winchester.

In the smaller of two enclosures were two big, almost-grown males getting ready to be sent elsewhere soon. None are kept in small cages.

We were able to spend as much time as we wanted with two other half-grown lions, petting them in specified places (i.e., not on their heads!) and getting lots of photos. Then we all did a short walk. I was actually able to hold onto one of the lion’s tails as we strolled!

Breakfast was served before we were driven back to the border.

This lion excursion cost $100 plus $40 for a DVD of our experience plus $30 for the one-day Zimbabwe visa. Also, we all opted for a stop at the Zimbabwe side of the falls; this cost $20, but it was more scenic and less wet than the Zambia side.

It was an absolutely brilliant tour.


Colorado Springs, CO