Who knew vultures are under threat and need to be fed!
Well, they do at Victoria Falls in Africa.
And the vulture feeding experience is one of the best Victoria Falls activities. Bonus: It’s free.
(Victoria Falls, by the way, is the humongous waterfall between Zambia and Zimbabwe that many people visit when on an African safari.)
Vulture feeding, Victoria Falls
So set aside your preconceived notions about vultures – ooh, they’re icky and gross-looking creatures.
And learn why vulture feeding at Victoria Falls is a good and necessary thing – and fascinating and fun to watch too!
Why vultures are endangered
Vulture populations are dropping like a stone.
Yet they’re critical to keeping the eco-system clean. By clearing away dead carcasses, they help to stop the spread of diseases like rabies, TB and anthrax.
Unfortunately, man has become their major enemy in Africa.
Poachers who kill and cut the tusks off elephants then inject them with poison, so vultures who feed on the elephant carcasses die – otherwise clouds of live vultures alert rangers and signal the poachers’ location.
In June, 2019, hundreds of vultures were poisoned in Botswana, resulting in one of the biggest losses of vultures in history. (The toll could actually be 1,000 or more.) Their dead bodies were found at the site of poached elephant carcasses.
Vultures are also killed by local tribes people for traditional medicines. And they’re electrocuted by accidentally flying into power lines.
Interested in really beautiful birds? Check out these photos of the birds of Costa Rica
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge vulture feeding
The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is doing something to help the scavenger birds.
For the past 19 years or so, the hotel has been feeding them, and guests and visitors to the area are invited to come and watch the show (called the “Vulture Culture” experience) for free.
In front of the lodge’s Buffalo Bar, down a dirt pathway through dry scrub, there’s a “hide” – a viewing deck with concrete benches on which to sit, covered by a canopy of branches for shade.
You first get a briefing on the plight of the endangered birds and their ecological importance.
Then the vulture guide hauls out a gunny sack with heads, feet and leftovers of beef, chickens, warthogs – whatever the chef doesn’t use in the lodge’s kitchen – to a red dirt patch.
Then he tosses out the carcass bits and quickly runs away.
The vultures, which for the previous hour have been flying in from miles around and gathering on nearby trees, suddenly swoop in.
It’s quite a sight to watch them tearing into the bloody pieces!
You can hear the whoosh whoosh of their big wings flapping (they have wing spans of three feet) as they push and jostle one another to get at the food.
The ugly red-headed birds are hooded vultures, while the others are mainly white-backed vultures.
The feeding we watched attracted more than 200 vultures (typical). And it was all over quite quickly – within 10 minutes or so…
Lunch at the Buffalo Bar
By then, we were actually hungry ourselves.
And so we headed to the Buffalo Bar, which must be one of the coolest bars in the world.
It’s basically a fancily-done-up, two-level, wooden viewing platform covered with a thatched roof, with buffalo wood carvings decorating the bar area.
And it offers staggering views of the bush plain below.
It overlooks a large watering hole, where during lunch, we saw a herd of a dozen elephants, babies included, drinking and giving themselves dust baths with their trunks (by spraying dust over their backs).
The hard question was: Should we order the famous buffalo burgers?
We went for mojitos and the local “Zambezi” beer for drinks.
And for food, we shared a plate of two African pies (one beef, the other chicken-and-mushroom), made fresh by the hotel’s pastry chef each day, along with fresh-cut fries. Yummy!
We were also entertained by a couple of baboons that jumped in and onto the bar, snatching an orange and other fruit before scampering off. (We can’t resist watching monkeys, be it in Bali, Africa or anywhere else we travel.)
It was a pleasant way to finish off our “Vulture Culture” experience!
When you’re planning what to do in Victoria Falls, viewing the waterfalls, of course, trumps all other Victoria Falls tours.
But this free vulture feeding (followed by lunch at the Buffalo Bar) is well worth the time.
Where to stay in Victoria Falls? We loved the Victoria Falls Safari Club, a boutique 20-room hotel sharing the same grounds as the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
Vulture feeding: Victoria Falls tour
The “Vulture Culture” experience occurs promptly at 1:00 pm at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, in front of the Buffalo Bar. Plan to be there about 15 minutes beforehand.
Admission is free for this Victoria Falls tour.
Vulture feeding experience: See here for more information.
Other things to do in Victoria Falls
It’s also one of the popular activities in Victoria Falls.
Want to know more about Africa? See our ultimate Africa Guide & Safari Planner (it’s packed with on itineraries, safari tips and more)
Photo credits: 3, 4, 5 and 7 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase