Lions are the undisputed lords of the African jungle and one of the most sought-after safari sightings. It’s thrilling to watch lions in Africa, and it’s a primal fascination. We know we’re dealing with lions because of their reassuringly feline name, Panthera leo, but lions are breathtakingly large, nearly bear-sized. These powerful, barrel-chested physique and protruding chins make it clear who is in charge – and it isn’t the two-legged critters wearing sunglasses!
Lions are Africa’s top predators, preying on large animals including zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and even baby elephants. It’s heart-stopping to see lionesses on the hunt, and their retinue of hyenas, jackals, and vultures is always a fascinating sideshow. Lions, which are the same color as the savannah on which they live, are as much a part of the African landscape as the flat-topped acacia trees and red, crumbly earth. Hearing their huge roars ring out at dusk as they congregate to hunt is an experience that will never be forgotten. Their calls are also a chilling reminder that the wilderness is still theirs.
The 6 Greatest Locations in Africa to View Lions:
Botswana is number one.
Everyone knows that cats dislike water, but the lions of Duba Plains in the northern Okavango Delta have learned to flourish in it for good reason: the area’s nutritious grasses and persistent water make it ideal for buffalo. And lions adore buffalo.
But 2 000lbs of hoof and horn does not go down easily, and the Duba Plains lions have developed into pretty amazing monsters. The lions here are roughly 15% larger than average due to the continual exertion they get racing through shallow water and grappling with agitated buffaloes. When the buffalo herds are feeding on the exposed floodplains, they’ve also adapted to hunting during the day (normally prides hunt at night and sleep during the day). This equates to amazing game watching and one of the best spots in Africa to witness water-adapted lions.
Chobe National Park
The famed Savuti region of Chobe is where lion prides often struggle with hyena clans for food and territory. This distant area is also known for its well-documented, formidable lions, who hunt Africa’s largest species like as buffalo, giraffe, and even elephants. Savuti will appeal to all wildlife fans as one of the best spots in Africa to view lions in the most ferocious predator action.
Lions are so numerous in Kenya’s Masai Mara that they once had their own BBC nature documentary series, Big Cat Diary. Every year, around July, two million wildebeest cross the Mara River into the Masai Mara National Reserve to feast on fresh and delicious grass – all while being watched over by ravenous lions. Not only is it a terrific spot to see lions in Africa all year, but the Mara’s flat, wide, and open plains are also ideal for cheetah – it’s a fantastic place to witness the world’s fastest land mammal hunt down its prey!
Northern Namibia’s lions are among the most remarkable on the planet, thriving in a harsh environment with scant flora and prey. The lions that wander the Namib Desert have adapted admirably to this harsh habitat, earning them the moniker “desert-adapted” or “desert lions.” Because they are nomadic, sighting them is never guaranteed; your best hope would be in the distant Kaokoveld and Damaraland.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park, home to most of the country’s wild lions, has long been South Africa’s best site for a lion safari. Yet, Kruger National Park is the size of Wales, and the distribution of its 2 000 lions is determined by topography and climate. Richer, grassier soils and more rainfall support more animals to hunt on, resulting in higher lion numbers. The northern Kruger, which is hot and dry, has five to six lions per 100km2 (39 square miles), whereas the southern Kruger, which is wetter and greener, has more than twice that amount. If you want to go on a Kruger lion safari, we recommend visiting these private reserves:
Sabi Sands Game Reserve
The private Sabi Sands Game Reserve is the only region in the wider Kruger National Park consistently providing a fantastic big game experience. It’s not unusual to see all five members of the Big 5 on a single game drive in Sabi, particularly the large cats like lion and leopard. This is one of the most reliable spots in Africa to observe lions.
Timbavati National Park
White lions, as opposed to their tawny-coated, amber-eyed relatives, have whitish fur and stunning blue eyes, making them exceedingly photogenic. Their pallor is due to a harmless genetic quirk known as leucism, not albinism. Panthera leo krugeri is the Latin name for these animals because they live in the Timbavati Game Reserve, located north of the Sabi Sands on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park. Timbavati is an anglicization of the original name “Tsimba Vati,” which means “place where the star lions fell to Earth.” Timbavati is the best place in Africa to see white lions.
Serengeti National Reserve
Consider this from the standpoint of a lion: if your life depends on acceptable food availability, how does a million wildebeest sound? Tens of thousands of zebra and gazelle accompany the wildebeest as they grunt and gallop their way around the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. This stunning circular migration spans two countries and takes most of the year to complete. The Grumeti Game Reserve in the west and the middle Seronera sector of the Serengeti National Park are two of the best places in Africa to watch lions.
Go down onto the floor of the world’s largest dormant volcano caldera for some of the simplest and most dependable game watching in East Africa. The Ngorongoro Crater, home to around 30 000 animals, including formidable lions, provides an excellent Big 5 safari experience in an extraordinary location.
Ruaha National Park
At Ruaha, you’re likely to get lion sightings all to yourself. Ruaha National Park, located in southern Tanzania, receives fewer than 6000 tourists yearly, or only 16 visitors per day, making it one of Africa’s hidden jewels. Its breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife are home to 10% of the world’s remaining lion population. In terms of absolute numbers, it is second only to the Serengeti. Ruaha has a high concentration of lions but few other safari vehicles.
The Luangwa Valley, a wildlife paradise and home to the South Luangwa National Park, is home to the majority of Africa’s lions, which live in Zambia’s vast reserves.
Walking safaris were invented here, and several lodges offer anything from a morning walk to a multi-day hiking trip. From May to October, you’ll be high and dry throughout the dry season in a 4X4 patrolling the Luangwa River’s banks. Animals throng the banks and oxbow lakes, making Luangwa’s lions easy prey.