Best day ever aka Walking with Lions (and cheetahs)

Walking with Lions and cheetahs

BEST.  DAY.  EVER!!! Walking with lions and cheetahs is absolutely amazing!

Before I get into that I have to start at the beginning.  We had heard about walking with lions at Mukuni Village and it was high on our list of things to do in Zambia.  But we couldn’t decide between walking with lions or with cheetahs.  So we decided to do both!

Our day started with us going on an elephant ride.  My elephant’s name was Temba which means hope.  Temba was a female elephant aged 20 and her rider’s name was Christopher.  He has been working with Temba for three years and he rides her everyday and then takes her to the river for a bath and play time.

The best part of the elephant ride was feeding Temba when we were finished riding. Temba was very excited for this part. I have to admit I wanted to feed her but it was so hard. Let me explain. We were feeding them some pellets and we needed to say ‘trunk up’ and she would open her mouth and we were suppose to put our hands in and set the pellets on her tongue. No way. Temba had a smaller mouth for an elephant and I just couldn’t put my hand in there. I could do the second part though which was ‘trunk down’ and then I held my hand out while Temba hoovered the pellets up through her trunk while slobbering on me and then put them into her mouth. It was a cool interaction with the elephants that I won’t forget.


After the elephants we went on to walk with the lions.  Meet Terry and Diana they are brother and sister lions that are about 2 and a half years old.  They were absolutely stunning.  We first saw them as they were running towards us to meet us.  It was such a surreal experience to be out in the bush and have two lions running towards us.

We spent a bit of time with Terry and Diana with Terry getting all of the attention.  They said it was unusual for him to be laying with his head up but it made for a good photo opportunity.  He loved having his mane scratched.  As long as we didn’t touch the top of their heads while they were lying down.

First thing in the morning we got to watch the cheetahs run.  This is Susan who would later become my cheetah that I would take for a walk.  She is the fastest of the four cheetahs there but surprisingly she is the slowest walker.


After the lions we went in with the Cheetahs.  This was a very special experience for us as we were the only two there and we each had our own cheetah.  Mine’s name was Susan and Claire’s one was named Lillian.  They were both gorgeous.  When we first met them they were lying down just chillin’.  The cheetahs are different than the lions as they will let you touch them anywhere except the following three places – inside the mouth (like I was going to try?!?), their front paws, and inside their ears.  They were completely fine with us petting the top of their heads and touching their tail.  I had Susan purring within minutes.

We actually spent a long time interacting with the cheetahs before we took them for a short walk.  The guide said to us that the schedule is completely up to the cheetahs and their behaviour when we are with them.  If they don’t like the interaction we would move onto the walking first.  Luckily our cheetahs were very relaxed and actually didn’t want to go for a walk at all.  So we went for a very short walk with lots of rest stops.  Susan was not impressed with the walking and it always took us a few times to get her going again.

It was such a sad end to our experience when I had to take Susan back.  She was so calm and cuddly.  Can you use that word to describe a cheetah?  This was hands down one of my favourite experiences in Zambia.  I really spent a bit of time contemplating whether I thought this was ethical or not but the work that the Mukuni Safaris is doing here is amazing.  Our guide told us so much about the cheetahs and our individual cheetahs as well.  Susan was a slow walker and very calm.  Did you know that cheetahs are the only cats that aren’t colour blind?  That’s why they have the black lines coming down from their eyes to help protect against the sun.  They are also the only cats to not hunt at night.

I had a hard time deciding which experience I enjoyed the most.  If I was to do it again I wouldn’t do the elephant ride.  I have done this before and if it wasn’t for the experience at the end of feeding Temba it wouldn’t have really been worth it to me.

And between the lions and the cheetahs at first I thought I liked the lions first because we had done that first but then I thought about the cheetahs and what a calming, lovely experience it was.  My fav as we each had our own cheetah and they really suited our personalities.  I thought I would be scared but as soon as you see how calm the animals are and see the way they are behaving you just get lost in the experience.  Best day ever walking with lions and cheetahs.


Nicole LaBarge is a travel expert who has been traveling internationally for over 25 years and she has visited over 115 countries all while working a 9-5. She has lived in England, Scotland, Japan and New Zealand. Check out her detailed destination guides and travel product guides.

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