Best Vic Falls activities: 8. Have an up-close animal encounter in Victoria Falls

In Victoria Falls, you have the opportunity to get face-to-face with the majestic creatures that call Africa their home.

Ethical note: It is imperative that you fully research all animal experiences to ensure that the animals are not being exploited. I have given details of specific animal activities below, but feel free to contact the operators to request more information. Make an informed decision before promoting or supporting any animal interaction.

Read on for more details on the animal activities in Victoria Falls …

An animal encounter is our Number 8 of Things to do in Victoria Falls

Vulture experienceVictoria Falls Vulture Restaurant-1-3

  • Where: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.
  • When: Daily at 1pm.
  • See huge numbers of wild vultures descend from the sky and eat in true predator style. There is no contact with the vultures as they are completely wild and free.
  • Cost: Free, but it’s a good idea to have a drink or lunch at the lodge before or after the feeding, to support the lodge.
  • Suitable for all ages but children should be accompanied by an adult so that they stay keep clear of the vulture feeding area.
  • Booking required? No.
  • Read about my vulture experience and watch the video here.

Elephant safariWild Horizons elephant safari-1-7

  • Ride through the African bush on the back of an elephant.
  • Note: The elephants at the Zimbabwean sanctuaries have not been taken from their mothers or herds for the purposes of tourism. They have been rescued from abusive/captive/cull/orphaned situations. The elephants in these sanctuaries are not sold to other countries – in fact, many have been adopted in order to prevent them from being sold to other countries. They are not bred. They are not chained. The income generated supports the elephants’ veterinary bills, the large area of land that they need, and to aid in the efforts to release some of them back into the wild. You can read more here. It is my hope that the ‘elephant experience’ will wind down and the sanctuary will be able to raise funds to care for elephants in other ways, following the example of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
  • Elephant rides cost approximately US $140 per person.
  • You will be transferred from your lodge to the private game reserve where the elephants live.
  • Trained elephant handlers (Indunas) will give you a full safety briefing before you go.
  • The elephants have special seats with backrests and stirrups fitted on their backs, which you’ll climb onto from a wooden staircase.
  • A handler will ride on the elephant with you, taking you through the bush, pointing out interesting flora and fauna, and telling you about the elephants themselves.
  • There are 2 walks per day: 6 am and 3 pm, lasting 3.5 to 4 hours. The ride itself takes about 45 minutes and there’s about 15 minutes of interaction with the elephants afterwards.
  • After the walk, snacks and drinks are served at the lodge. The morning safaris serve breakfast instead of snacks.
  • Shorter interactions are available without the walk.
  • Minimum age: 6 years. Children between 6 and 18 years must be accompanied by a guardian.
  • Take a hat and apply sunscreen before going, especially if doing the afternoon safari.
  • Book with your tour company, hotel, lodge, or with the Wild Horizons/Shearwater office in Victoria Falls.
  • At the end of the safari you have the opportunity to tip the elephant handler – if you so wish, take a few US Dollars in your pocket.
  • As far as I can tell, there are two elephant safari sanctuaries: the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust on the Masuwe River (booked through Wild Horizons and Adventure Zone), and the Stanley & Livingstone Game Reserve (booked through Shearwater). For the time being, I recommend the Wild Horizons one because this sanctuary is publicly attuned to the bigger ethical questions surrounding the issue.
  • Read about my Wild Horizons elephant safari here.
  • Some visitors to the Elephant safari or guests at The Elephant Camp can also meet Sylvester: Cheetah Ambassador, which you can read about in my post here. Encounters with this cheetah are not done on a paid-for basis for ethical reasons.

Crocodile Farm tour

Crocodile Farm Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

  • Want to hold a baby crocodile, and see these adult reptiles up close? This is the place for you.
  • Cost: Approx. US $20 ($5 for locals), booking not required.
  • Family friendly?: Yes, kids will love interacting with the baby crocodiles. Read about my visit to the crocodile farm here.

Lion encounterWild Horizons lion encounter-0565

  • Walk through the African bush with young lions and see them in their natural environment.
  • Notes: The lions are not bred for canned hunting, unlike those in other locations in South Africa. The lions are part of a conservation program where they are eventually released into the wild to have their own wild cubs. The lion programme has strict rules about the stage at which lions can be involved with humans. Read more here. This conservation program is still in its early days and the long-term success of the lions released into the wild is still to be proven.
  • Lion encounters cost approximately US $140 per person.
  • You will be transferred from your lodge to the Masuwe Estate (and back again), home to the ALERT lion programme.
  • Trained lion handlers and guides will give you a full safety briefing before accompanying you on the walk (max. 10 walkers).
  • The lions on the encounter are between 3 months and 2.5 years old, and are very playful. You’ll walk with them through the bush, seeing them in their natural environment, while the guides tell you about lion behaviour.
  • Walks last for 1.5 hours, and at the end of the walk drinks and snacks are served. Breakfast is served after the morning walk.
  • There are 3 walks per day: 6.30 am, 10 am and 3.30 pm .There is no difference between the walks except for the food served afterwards.
  •  Don’t wear long skirts, bright clothing or flip-flops.
  • Minimum age is 15, although the mid-morning walks allow child-seats – enquire when booking. Walkers under 18 must be accompanied by a guardian. Minimum height is 1.5 metres.
  • Shorter lion encounters which don’t involve the walk are also available.
  • Book with your tour company, hotel, lodge, or with the Shearwater/Wild Horizons office in Victoria Falls.
  • Lion conservation volunteer holidays are also available if you want to come back for more.
  • All lion encounters in Victoria Falls are operated by ALERT, regardless of who you’ve booked with.
  • Read about my lion encounter experience.

Next: See the Victoria Falls Bridge from a steam train: Number 9 of things to do in Victoria Falls.

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