Lion Encounter tours tout community pride

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Lion Encounters offers 60- to 75-minute walks with lion cubs.Lion Encounter, an Africa-based business devoted to the long-term welfare of lions, offers tourists options to have unique travel experiences while giving back in ways that benefit both wildlife and neighboring communities.

The company, with offices in Livingstone, Zambia, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, uses its earnings to fund a lion rehabilitation and release program and to fund an associated nonprofit, Lion Alert, which focuses on protecting lion habitats, according to David Youldon, Lion Alert's COO.

For FIT clients or those adding days to packaged tours, Lion Encounter offers 60- to 75-minute walks with lion cubs that are being prepared for release into the wild. At least two strolls are available daily in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Clients are advised to wear shorts or slacks, to wear neutral colors and not to wear anything that dangles. The cubs, essentially very big kittens, might want to play with a dangling scarf or belt.

For clients with a deeper interest in wildlife protection, Lion Encounter offers two short-term volunteer programs, lasting up to seven days.

One program, devoted to the care of and prerelease training for the lion cubs, takes participants to the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park or Zambezi National Park daily, from their Livingstone or Victoria Falls lodgings, respectively.

In the second, community-focused program, available in both countries, participants work in the schools supporting conservation training, literacy and other educational needs.

Volunteers can include adventure travel components in their packages. Choices include whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River; bungee-jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge; and a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls. Youldon said Lion Encounter can organize a client's entire package, including transfers and hotels, from arrival to departure in either country. Earnings from these activities, he said, are what supports Lion Encounter's and Lion Alert's wildlife and habitat programs.

Sample published rates are about $140 for the Lion Walk, and, for volunteers, from about $165 for a half-day to $925 for seven days. Arrangements are customized to each client's schedule and preferred combination of activities. Youldon said Lion Encounter quotes retail rates to direct bookers but discounts the rates to agents by up to 20%.

Email Lion Encounter at [email protected] or [email protected].

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