Lions are Africa’s top predators, preying on massive animals like zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and even baby elephants. It’s always exciting to witness lionesses on the prowl, with their entourage of hyenas, jackals, and vultures. Lions, which are the same colour as the savannah on which they dwell, are as much a part of the African environment as flat-topped acacia trees and red, crumbly soil. Hearing their piercing roars as they congregate for hunting at twilight is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Their calls also serve as a terrifying reminder that they still have control over the woods.
Botswana, Okavango Delta
Everyone knows that cats loathe water, but the lions of Duba Plains in the northern Okavango Delta have learned to thrive in it for a good reason: the area’s rich grasses and steady water supply make it perfect for buffalo. And buffalo is a favorite of lions.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Lions are so numerous in Kenya’s Masai Mara that they had their own BBC nature documentary series, Big Cat Diary, for a while. Every year around July, two million wildebeests cross the Mara River into the Masai Mara National Reserve to feast on fresh and delicious grass — all while being guarded by predatory lions. The Mara’s flat, broad, and open plains are also great for cheetahs — it’s a terrific site to witness the world’s fastest land mammal hunt down its prey all year.
Namibia, Namib Desert
The lions of Northern Namibia are among the most intriguing on the globe, living in a harsh habitat with little vegetation and prey. The Namib Desert lions have adapted magnificently to their hard environment, giving them the title “desert-adapted” or “desert lions.” Because of their migratory lifestyle, seeing them is never assured; your best bet is to visit the remote Kaokoveld and Damaraland.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
The vast Kruger National Park has traditionally been the go-to place for anyone wishing for a lion safari in South Africa. The Kruger National Park, the size of Wales, is home to around 1,600 lions, with an average of five to six lions per 100km2. If you want to see a lion, we recommend heading to the park’s south, which is regarded to be the greatest for lion sightings due to a larger concentration of prey. The Kruger National Park’s unfenced private reserves are also fantastic spots to see lions in the Kruger region.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti-Mara habitat, which runs from Tanzania’s spectacular Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara, is home to one of the world’s biggest populations of wild lions, believed to number over 4,000 individuals. It also boasts Africa’s oldest lion study project, which has been functioning in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park for almost 50 years. Across the border in Kenya, the immense savannah plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve offer a good opportunity to witness big prides that have become acclimated to the presence of the reserve’s few visitor vehicles.
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
The northerly area of the park is the best place to see big cats, but you won’t lose out if you stay near the main entrance – the difference is that in the north, you’ll probably have the sightings all too yourself. The Marsh and Hollywood pride rule the animal kingdom (keep a lookout for dominating males George and Brad in particular – just as magnificent as their namesakes!) It’s unusual not to see them resting and sunbathing under the trees as you drive. Even better, night drives are permitted in South Luangwa, improving your chances of watching a hunt tenfold.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Although lions can be seen lazing in the heat of the day all over Africa, there is no better place to see them than in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park on safari. The big cats take it a step further by sleeping within the branches of massive sycamore-fig trees.
These lions, both young and old, are thought to rest in the branches to avoid being bitten by insects and to escape the heat. To spot these lions and appreciate their unique behavior, we recommend staying at Ishasha Wilderness Camp, which combines an authentic glamping experience with excellent game viewing.