The Top 5 Places to See Lions in Africa
Lions are at the top of the wish list of most first-time safari goers. They are the most iconic member of the Big Five and play an important ecological role as key predators.
Lions generally prefer areas with many open fields and are found in most of the major national parks and game reserves in southern and eastern Africa.
Being diurnal and sociable by nature, they are easier to spot than the elusive leopard and many of Africa's smaller nocturnal cats.
However, they hunt most of the time after dark, and if you see them during the day, you are more likely to catch them napping.
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Seeing these kings and queens of the jungle is still a true privilege, Discover the Best Places!
Despite their wide distribution, lions are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The African population has declined by 43 percent since the early 1990s, due in large part to habitat loss and hunting.
You can increase your chances of a date by visiting safari destinations known for their healthy lion populations. We have listed five of the best below.
1. Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, Tanzania and Kenya
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem includes the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southern Kenya. The area is home to some 4,000 lions, including herds known as those featured in the legendary documentary Big Cat Diaries.
Try to schedule your trip with the annual Great Migration, when large herds of wildebeest and zebra move through the ecosystem in search of good pasture.
The lions follow them, making the most of the abundant prey. Head south of the Serengeti from December to March to see the lions in action during the calving season; and to the Mara River in July and August to watch them ambush the wildebeest as they try to cross the river.
In Kenya, private protected areas offer a more exclusive safari experience.
2. Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Located in central Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is the largest game reserve in the country, but also one of the least visited, giving you the opportunity to escape the crowds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It is also an exceptional choice for lion sightings, with 40% of Tanzania's lions and 10% of the entire African population living within its borders.
Ruaha lions are known to form large flocks of up to 30 individuals and have relatively small ranges, making them easy to spot.
To feed these large families, lionesses work together to bring down the Cape buffalo. A battle between two of the most dangerous animals in Africa is something you will never forget, although it is not for the weak.
With only a few remote campgrounds, Ruaha offers a taste of true wilderness and is a great option for East African veterans.
3. Kruger metropolitan area, South Africa
South Africa's largest national park, Kruger, sits on the country's northeast border with Mozambique and has a population of around 1,800 lions.
Generally, the southern section of the park is considered the best for lion sightings, as it has a higher concentration of prey. If you drive alone, the asphalt road between Skukuza and Satara has earned a reputation for frequent encounters with lions.
However, some of the best places to see lions in the Kruger area are in the private, unfenced reserves that line the national park.
These include the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, the Manyeleti Game Reserve, and the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. The latter is famous for its exceptionally rare white lions, although I don't bet I'll see them - trophy hunters have driven them to the brink of extinction.
4. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Botswana's Okavango Delta has one of the largest lion populations in the world, with more than 2,300 lions living in the Okavango-Hwange metropolitan area.
These lions have adapted to the aquatic ecosystem of the Delta and can often be seen swimming between islands in search of prey during floods from June to October. They are known for their size and often target larger prey, including buffalo and elephants.
Traditionally, the dry season, which is confusingly the same as the wet season, is the best time to see lions because prey is restricted to higher ground and therefore predators are less dispersed. However, the rainy months (December to March) coincide with the calving season and are a good time to witness a slaughter.
The areas surrounding Chobe, Savuti, and Linyati are also known for lion sightings.
5. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Located in eastern Zambia, South Luangwa National Park also has large flocks of up to 30 lions. The southern region is particularly productive, as incredible concentrations of hunting mean that lions don't have to travel very far to find prey and have smaller ranges, making them easier to spot.
Interestingly, some of the South Luangwa flocks have developed an unusual taste for hippos, and if you are very lucky, you can witness this phenomenon for yourself.
South Luangwa is also special because it allows night walks, unlike most other national parks. This gives you the opportunity to search for lions when they are most active. Make sure to sign up for at least one walking safari as well.
The park is famous for them and the thrill of seeing Africa's apex predator on foot is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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