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Elephant safaris - Zam & Zim

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I have read negatives posts about the elephant safaris arranged by SafPar (hope I got that right) in Zambia. Is there another elephant safari company in Zambia, or will all the companies use the same group? If so, what about elephant safaris in Zimbabwe? Any suggestions? (By "safari" I mean the 1/2 day arranagements.)

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    The Elephant Company about 15 minutes from Vic Falls ( Zim side) does excellent, responsible elephant back bush walks with breakfast in the morning. Shearwater has lots of info about this operation on their website, and I think The Elephant Company has much more experience with these elephants than the newer more commercial operations. All their elephants are rescues (orphans from culls or droughts), are treated very well (roam freely on the reserve except when giving rides) and are trained only with positive reinforcement. I did this a few years back and found it an excellent experience (more about the elephants than the bushwalk safari of course). I grilled the trainers and owners about various elephant issues while I was there, and found them knowledgeable and caring. It seems that this is the way the elephants help pay for their keep, rather than an operation that seeks to make money off the elephants.

    Unlike the reports of the Zam-side elephants, I also received a nice intro to elephant behavior, a demo of how they train the ellies, and I was allowed (even encouraged) to spend lots of time interacting with the ellies (feeding, playing ball, which they love, etc.) after the walk.

    I believe that you can book this through your hotel on arrival too.

    I am more dubious about the Zambia-side operations booked by SafPar. This is a new operation with far less experience...I don't know, but I fear that it is more commercially driven and this was the outfit that had the fatality a couple years ago. Also, I think the Lion Encounter that SafPar is promoting is horrible and irresponsible, so I would be suspect of their use of this new elephant encounter/safari operation too. Yes, you are judged by who you associate or do business with...

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    Actually there are 4 Elephant Back safari operators in the region, 2 of which are Saf Par! They have an operation in Zambia and in Zimbabwe and as per all the other operators in the region they do it for commercial gain. The oldest operation is Wild Horizons with 13 Elephants, then shearwater with 12 Elephants and last to follow was Saf Par with 4 Elephants in Zimbabwe & 6 in Zambia. The history of the Zambian operation is that it took them 4 years to get the Elephants into Zambia due to the red tape. Their operation is actually measured by ghost clients every month through their endorsement by Sun international. Due to this the operation has high standards which are maintained, I am very surprised to hear negative feedback as all I personally have heard was good, apart from the fact that the spaces were limited as they are always full!! All three Zimbabwe operations offer exactly the same product, only saf Par has now started what they call the Elephant Encounter which is not riding them but spending time with the Elephants and their expert handlers in the bush learning about them and enjoying the experience of sharing the bush with them.

    Lastly, to give you some information on the Lion Encounter, this is actually a very exciting rehabilitation program and you should have a look at their website for further information- www.lionencounter.com. I hope this information is of use for you, if you need any further please let me know, I used to live in victoria Falls and still have some friends left there although they dwindle on a monthly basis!!.

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