If you’re a wildlife enthusiast and lion lover, then there’s no better way to experience the thrill of seeing African lions in their natural habitat.
In this blog post, we’ve curated a list of 7 top destinations for spotting lions in the wild. From the vast savannahs of the Serengeti National Park to the wetlands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta and the thicketed bushveld of the Sabi Sands, these destinations offer an unforgettable opportunity to observe lion prides. Whether you’re a seasoned safari-goer or a first-time visitor, these destinations should be on your bucket list for the ultimate lion safari in Africa.
1. Seeing Lion in the Serengeti
Arguably one of the best wildlife sanctuaries on the planet, the Serengeti National Park spans 12,000 square miles and is home to over 3,500 lions. The vast savannahs, abundant prey populations, and diverse landscapes make it an ideal place for lions to thrive. While on safari, you’re likely to spot prides of lions lounging under acacia trees and hunting on the plains, especially during the annual Wildebeest Migration. Prides are often found with larger numbers here.
2. Look for Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater
Located in Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a natural amphitheater that harbors one of the highest densities of lions in Africa. The lush crater floor is home to several prides of lions that are accustomed to the presence of visitors. You’re likely to see them resting in the shade of trees, stalking prey, and even interacting with each other.
3. Spot tree-climbing Lions in Lake Manyara National Park
Set between the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara, this national park is a hidden gem for lion sightings. The park’s extensive groundwater forest is home to tree-climbing lions, a unique behavior not often seen in other places. You could be lucky to spot these impressive felines perched on tree branches, surveying their territory.
4. Watch for Lion Kills in the Masai Mara
Known for the legendary wildebeest migration, the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is a prime destination for lion sightings. The park has a high density of lions, and visitors are almost guaranteed to see them on game drives. Prides of lions are often seen roaming the grasslands, hunting wildebeest and zebras, and even taking on larger prey such as buffalo.
5. Walk to Find Lion in the South Luangwa National Park
The South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is renowned for its walking safaris, which offer a more immersive wildlife experience. Lions are commonly seen, and visitors are greeted by the iconic roar of the lions soon after arriving in the park. While some of your game-viewing will be done on foot, there are plenty of opportunities to track lion in your game drive vehicle too, accompanied by your experienced ranger.
6. Search for Lion in the Okavango Delta
The world’s largest inland delta, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is famous for its water-based safari activities. The Delta is home to several prides of lion, and visitors can spot them prowling on the banks or even swimming tentatively across the channels in search of prey. Here, you could experience the rare combination of a water and land-based safari while observing the lions in their natural habitat.
7. Spot a Hunting Lion Pride in the Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife sanctuary in South Africa, boasting a vast expanse of savannahs, forests, and rivers and is famous for its excellent Big 5 sightings. The park’s lion population is estimated to be around 1,500, and sightings are fairly common on game drives. You’re likely to come across prides resting under trees or hunting gazelles and wildebeest. Many lions enjoy walking on the tarred roads at dawn or at dusk, when the road is clear of dew or warm from the sun during the day.
8. Discover the Best Lion Sightings in the Sabi Sands
Known for its high-end lodges and exclusive safari experiences, the Sabi Sands is a private game reserve that shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. The reserve is home to several prides of lions, many of whom are quite habituated to the presence of vehicles. This means that you could have a unique chance to observe them at close quarters while on game drives.
Still want more lion fact and lore? Here are our most asked questions:
Where else can I find lions in South Africa?
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Located in the northern part of South Africa, along the border with Botswana, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is known for its large population of Kalahari lions. Visitors to the park can see lions roaming freely across the vast desert landscape.
- Addo Elephant National Park: Located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park is home to a population of lions that were reintroduced to the area in the 2000s.
- Pumba Private Game Reserve: this private game reserve is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The reserve is home to a small population of white lions, which are a unique sight to see on safari.
Which parks have the most lions in Africa?
All the above-mentioned destinations and national parks have the highest density of lions in Southern and East Africa, with the Kruger Park’s 1500+ lions one of the highest populations of free-ranging lions.
Are lions part of the Big 5?
Yes! Lions, together with leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino form the Big 5 – which continue to be a huge attraction for visitors to Africa.
These 8 destinations offer some of the best opportunities for seeing African lions in their natural habitat. From the iconic savannahs of Serengeti to the lush landscape of Lake Manyara and the exclusive reserves of Sabi Sands, each location brings its unique charm and wildlife experiences. However, it’s important to remember that lion sightings are not guaranteed, and patience and a bit of luck go a long way on an African lion safari. With the right planning and guidance, visiting these destinations will be the trip of a lifetime.