Watching wildlife videos of a lion in action, pouncing on its prey is exciting but the thought of taking a walk with the king of the jungle cannot be taken lightly given its strength, power and the dominance it enjoys over other species.
Despite its fearful nature, walking with the king of the jungle is one of the most popular activities in Victoria Falls.
Bungee jumping and zip line are considered as some of the most attractive adrenaline rush activities in Victoria Falls.
Scary and dicing with death is how many describe them, but walking with the lion is another activity which is as good as throwing oneself into an endless pit.
Although every effort is made to ensure that visitors are safe, they are not tamed lions as many would assume and there is no guarantee that one can come back alive.
In fact statistics indicate a few have been injured all in the name of being adventurous.
A few rules must however be observed and adhered to and these include staying alert and without fail keeping an eye contact with the animal all the time.
Visitors must also carry a stick which serves as an extension of the hand so that in case the lion strikes, only the stick will be attacked and never should the visitors touch its head or tail under any circumstances.
Interestingly, observing all these rules still does not guarantee friendship, for the king of the jungle, everything entirely depends on its mood.
“Eye contact what it does is that it gives you dominance and authority, when you do that cubs will respect you. On a general note and you come across a lion, one thing you mustn’t do is to give your back and run away. Rather stay where you are, stand there give them that eye contact because you are showing authority you not scared of them. If they might persist and you stand your ground believe me they might turn and run away,” said Mr Jabulani Mathe the assistant manager of Lion Encounter.
When the ZBC News crew visited the Lion Encounter organisation, two female lions Lila and Lalaphanzi were available while the other two were out in the jungle.
All of them are 16 months old and will be taken back to the company headquarters at Antelope Park in Gweru at the age of 18 months, where they will adapt to the next stage in their life, surviving in the natural habitat with no human contact.
“Our peak season, we can take like 24 people to say maybe two lions to take 10 to 12 people but more than that. What we looking at is that are lions confident to be happy among a group of people because when people are too many, cubs begin to feel uncomfortable, they feel somehow insecure so we need to look at a number of people where cubs are not scared and also it comes to the safety of our visitors,” Mr Mathe says.
The lion walk experience is somewhat traced back to Antelope Park where in 1997 the park owners Andrew and Wendy Connolly noticed a lion that had given birth to six cubs but abandoned them.
Out of compassion and a passion for wildlife conservation the couple took care of the cubs until they reached the stage in which they were old enough and mature to be sent to their natural habitat as a pride.
This is meant to boost the conservation of lions whose population has dropped to less than 16 000 in the entire continent.