Lions are one of, if not the, main reason people travel from all around the world to partake in an African safari. Apex predators in every environment they inhabit, they are the epitome of the wild nature of the continent itself.
Sadly, the reality is that over the last century, lion numbers across Africa have dramatically declined, primarily because of human encroachment and the subsequent loss of habitat for the big cats. Yet in major game reserves in a number of countries, their populations are stable if not recovering.
And lion viewing in one part of Africa may be very different to another.
Here then are our 5 suggested lion viewing destinations, chosen for their variety…
For sheer numbers and scale, the great open plains of East Africa simply have no equal. Apart from the huge herds of wildebeest that make their way through the ecosystem as part of the Great Migration each year, every other animal seems dwarfed by vastness of these grasslands, the king of beasts included.
The contiguous Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems boast roughly 4000 lions between them, and unlike the wildebeest herds that move between the two in a great loop, the lions – being territorial – are around all year, meaning viewing is constant and incredibly varied depending on which season you are in.
You won’t ever forget viewing lions with the endless grasslands of Africa stretching out to infinity behind them…
Situated right up in the north of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Duba Plains became famous a few years ago for the specialised lion prides inhabiting the area, that had learnt the knack of using the Okavango’s myriad water channels to hunt buffalo.
Huge cats, developing much thicker than normal upper body muscles from wading through the water courses, these lions use special tactics to isolate individual buffalos – even the big bulls – and drive them into the water where the bovines’ manoeuvrability and ability to defend themselves is greatly reduced
There is of course no guarantee of witnessing such amazing buffalo/lion interaction, but for idyllic habitat and lions that have the know-how, look no further than this destination for your lion fix.
Sabi Sand Reserve
South Africa’s world famous wildlife reserve in the north-east of the country is essentially the big cat viewing destination against which all others are measured.
Not only does it boast a particularly high density of both lions and leopards (the leopard population is reputedly the densest in Africa), but the guides have an intimate knowledge of the prides and the individuals they contain. This means that sightings take on a life of their own as it isn’t just lions you’re viewing; it’s these lions…
Individual life stories and entire family trees are accessible through the guides and trackers, so even a sleeping cat can become the most fascinating creature on earth as its trials and tribulations are revealed to you.
As the Sabi Sand is all privately owned, off-roading is allowed (conditions depending), so one is able to get intimate views of all wildlife, not just the local lion population.
Click here to view some of our favourite lodges in the Sabi Sand Reserve…
Ruaha National Park
South-centrally situated in Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is one of only six reserves that can boast a population of over 1000 lions. It is part of the greater Ruaha Landscape, a 50,000 square kilometre section of East Africa that serves as one of the continent’s most important wildlife areas.
Its rugged scenery, prominently featuring the iconic baboab tree, is a haven for predators, particularly in the dry season (May to October), when wildlife centres its activities around the Ruaha River where the remaining water supplies are, and the lions in particular take advantage of the weakened state of the herbivores to hunt along the river fringes.
Although not as well known as its sister reserves further north, Ruaha’s wildlife viewing is just as spectacular in its own right, and a multitude of luxury safari options that generally fly below the radar are available to those wanting a safari a bit more off the beaten track.
You are less likely to see lions in this inhospitable part of Southern Africa, but if you do manage to get a sighting (and many of the specialised camps are masters at finding where the roaming prides of desert lions are to be found), it will be like no other you’ve ever had.
Lions plodding their way over soaring sand dunes; lions threading their way along long-dry desert watercourses; lions on the beach…
The uniquely adapted desert lion population of north-west Nambia is highly specialised for their environment.
Some hunt the giant desert giraffes, some have been known to hunt seals on the beaches of the aptly named Skeleton coast, and some lions have even been known to eat the desert-growing Tsama melons.
Just a chance to see these unique cats is well worth looking into Namibia as your next safari destination with a difference…
The beautiful thing about Africa is its sheer diversity of wildlife offerings. If lion viewing is your main reason for visiting, be sure to get in touch with our sales representatives, and we can start planning your dream lion-viewing safari…