How to walk with elephants in Lusaka

Lusaka Zambia - a man posing for a picture with an elephant.

Whether you are visiting Lusaka for business or pleasure, make sure you fit in a day trip to experience the serene surroundings and incredible native wildlife at Lilayi Lodge, just 15km from the city.

If the most leisure time you can manage when in Lusaka is a day trip then we recommend visiting Lilayi Lodge. We were lucky enough to get an interview and insiders’ view from Scott Leslie, Lodge Manager, of what daily life is like here at the lodge and what adventures you can expect on your visit.

Lodge is a beautiful game park with lush vegetation and spectacular trees. Escape the city for an entire day in a tranquil environment with 2200 hectares of unspoiled natural surroundings, incredible wildlife, its own elephant nursery and fantastic food, wine and service.

Taking care of the elephants

“Lilayi Elephant Nursery is the first stop for Zambia’s orphaned Elephants. Sadly, poaching is a real threat here, often resulting in the babies being left defenseless. They are brought to the nursery and cared for by Camp Managers, or “keepers”, from Game Rangers International (G.R.I). Each keeper is a trained vet, as well as guard, who watches over them 24/7,” Leslie explains.

G.R.I is an NGO whose focus is on the conservation of Zambia’s wildlife. The program receives volunteers from all over the world who come here by their own funds to assist the project. The park has a sister project in Kafue National Park, Camp Phoenix, where the elephants are taken and released into the wild once they have grown too big for Lilayi Game Park. Every day at 11:30, there is an organized viewing of the elephants at Lilayi Elephant Nursery.

“The visit starts with an introductory talk by the nursery’s manager from the viewing deck as the elephants come in from the game park. The elephants are then fed milk formula, a three-hour ritual. The visit is free of charge but being a charitable organization, donations are gratefully accepted,” Leslie says.

Varied wildlife

There are over 300 species of birds and a wide variety of animal life that call the park home. They vary from the graceful giraffes and impala to the clumsier wildebeest and bush pigs, with almost everything in between.

“All of these animals are completely wild and live in a natural habitat, and are there to be enjoyed by our guests. You can get within 20 meters of the wildlife, sometimes even closer if you choose to go on a bush walk. Game drives are very eventful when it comes to sighting animals,” Leslie tells us.

They might be animals living on the savannah but we share many things in common with these animals. Several animals have special bonds but the elephants are the cutest ones.

 “They have a small, dynamic heard, which is quite unique as they are all juvenile. When new babies come into the group, they are automatically accepted and looked after by the older elephants.”

A day in paradise

On arrival to Lilayi Lodge, you can choose a spot by the pool and take in the surroundings over a cup of specialized coffee and tea, then join one of their morning guided activities. Head down to the elephant nursery for the 11:30 talk and feeding session. Follow this with lunch from the à la carte menu, which includes their very own organically vegetables and herbs, and venison from the lodge’s game farm.

“We have a distinguished wine list with a wide variety of grapes for all pallets. Guests are welcome to use the spacious pool to cool off before or after lunch.  Once fed and rested, we recommended you join the afternoon activities, such as the game drive to really get a feel for what the park has to offer. Conclude your day with a sundowner wine tasting on the deck as animals graze in the foreground”, Leslie says.

Activities for all

From bush walking and game drives, to horse riding and walking trails, there are several activities you can participate in. Tours can take as little as one hour meaning you can fit several into one day.The bush walks are very relaxing. Experienced guides will take you on a gentle stroll along the park’s trails. This is your chance to get maximum exposure to the wonderful habitat of Lilayi Game Park.

“As you stroll through the thick canopies and vegetation, you’ll find yourself surrounded by trees and birds. If you’re lucky, you will stumble upon and observe the magnificent animals that reside here, from a distance,” Leslie says.

The game drives provide a more extensive journey through the game park as much more land can be covered during the one hour trip. The experienced drivers will take you to the best animal viewing spots and aim to give you maximum exposure to the wildlife.

Walking and riding

For a unique experience, join a one or two hour horseback safari. Guides will take you out on a lovely walk, trot or canter around the park so you can enjoy the horses, as much as the environment, at your own pace. If you’re looking for a hike then Lilayi Lodge is surrounded by three wonderful walking and biking trails: 2.5km, 5km and 10km.

“Even if you just need a break from city life, you are free to use these trails and follow up with a refreshing dip in the pool and a healthy lunch,” Leslie says.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka is around 15km from Lilayi Lodge, a drive that takes approximately 30 minutes. The best way to reach the lodge is to take one of the registered taxis, outside the hotel. Make sure you book the return journey, as it is not possible to call a taxi from the lodge. After a busy and adventurous day at this Zambian haven, we guarantee a comfortable night’s sleep, so you’ll wake up ready for a new adventure.

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