Where to See Lions in Africa

Best Safari Destinations for Spotting Lions in Africa

You should have no problem spotting lions in most of Africa's major national parks, just be prepared for them to be sleeping. Witnessing a lion kill is relatively rare and a tad gory, so careful what you wish for! Here are the top five National Parks and Conservancies where you have an excellent chance of seeing lion, one of Africa's "Big Five".  

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    ••• Lion, Kenya Masai Mara. Michael Daecher

    Even if you miss the great migration (July - October) in the Masai Mara, you are still highly likely to see plenty of lion in the Mara eco-system. Personally, I favor the private conservancies adjacent to the National Park (less crowded, much better safari experience) like Olare motorogi and Mara North. I stayed at Porini Lion Camp recently and saw no less than two dozen lion in just one game drive. If you like the "Big Cat Diaries" this is their playground. A close second to the Mara in Kenya is Amboseli National Park, which offers the scenic backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro and excellent wildlife viewing. 

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    Lions on a Kopje in the Serengeti
    ••• Lions on a Kopje in the Serengeti. © Anouk Zijlma

    With a population of around 3,000 lions, the Serengeti is an excellent bet for lion enthusiasts. Wherever you are headed in the Serengeti National Park (and it's huge) you are likely to pass through the central Seronera area. This is a gorgeous landscape of undulating savanna, punctuated with little rocky outcrops called "kopjes". You're almost guaranteed to come across a nice pride of sleeping beauties here. As the great migration moves through the park, it is also highly likely you will witness at least an attempt at a kill. Last time I experienced this, the lions were using our vehicles to hide as they stalked the thousands of zebra on the other side of us. An easy add-on for more lion viewing in the area is the Ngorongoro Crater, and it is interesting to note the lions here have much shorter manes.

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    ••• Lion, Greater Kruger. Anouk Zijlma

    Similar to Kenya's Masai Mara - the best Kruger safari experience is actually in private reserves adjacent to the National Park, they include: Sabi Sand Reserve, Manyaleti, and Timbavati. Lion is plentiful in this area, and with some of the best guides on the continent, a 2-3 night stay should be more than enough to see them. Timbavati also boasts the famous white lion (not albino), but don't expect a sighting, they are very rare and have mostly been hunted to extinction. 

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    Okavango Delta lion, Botswana
    ••• Okavango Delta lion, Botswana. Getty Images/Daryl Balfour

    The Okavango River cuts through the center of Botswana's Kalahari Desert, creating a unique inland water system that gives life to a huge variety of birds and mammals. The best season to visit for lion viewing in the Delta would be during the dry months from June through October when the vegetation is more sparse and the lion's prey move about in larger herds. If you've seen the Joubert's excellent "Last Lions" documentary, you'll want to head to the Duba Plains area to check out the lion on buffalo action. Otherwise, you can't go wrong on Hunda Island, and Chitabe and Vumbura concessions. The Savuti/Linyanti area is becoming the next "go to" spot for wildlife viewing and offers a great combination with the Delta.

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    ••• Busanga Lion. Wilderness Safaris

    The concentration of wildlife that lives around the Luangwa River is one of the highest in Africa. Even back in the 1980's when poaching was rife and the Zambia tourist industry was negligible, my family would almost get bored with the amount of lions we'd see on safari here.  Not much has changed, except now you have a wonderful choice of camps and walking safari options to really get up close! 

    Kafue National Park, just a short flight away from South Luangwa is also a stellar place to view lion. The Busanga lions are huge, numerous and incredibly impressive. Stay at Busanga Bush Camp and you won't be disappointed.

More About Lions ...

The African lion (Panthera leo) king of the sub-Saharan savanna, has been admired by man for its beauty and strength for thousands of years. It's one of the most exciting animals to see on safari. These beautiful, large cats are excellent hunters but you're more likely to see one sleeping than hunting. Find out all about lions by clicking the headline above, and then head to one of the destinations listed in this article see them in the wild!