For first-timers and experienced safari goers alike, lions are always at the top of everyone’s wish list when entering the African bush. The most iconic member of the Big Five, they are a sociable species that live in family groups called Prides. They typically favour open grassland and woodland areas, and are found throughout most of the major national parks and game reserves in Southern and East Africa. They are a diurnal species, but generally do most of their hunting after dark so if you do get to see them during the day, you’re most likely to catch them napping in a shady spot under an acacia tree.

Despite their wide distribution, lions are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The African population has seen a more than 40% decline since the early 1990s, primarily due to habitat loss and human-conflict.

Seeing these majestic predators in the wild is a privilege that is becoming increasingly hard to come by. You can increase your chances of a sighting by visiting safari destinations known for their healthy lion populations.

Here are the 5 Best Places To See Lions In Africa

1. Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

The largest national park in South Africa, and one of the most famous in the world, Kruger is situated on the country’s northeast border and spans more than two million hectares. The park is home to an estimated 1,800 individual lions.

The southern section of Kruger is often referred to as ‘lion country’ thanks to its high density of prey animals. The 90 kilometre stretch between Lower Sabie and Satara has earned a reputation for incredible lion encounters.

The Best Places To See Lions In Africa
Wounded lion walking down the road in Kruger National Park

However some of the best places to see lions in the Kruger, are the unfenced private reserves that border the national park and make up the Greater Kruger National Park. These include Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and Timbavati Private Game Reserve. The latter is famous for its rare white lions, although they’re very infrequently seen so count yourself lucky if you do!

The dry, winter months between May and August are the best for lion spotting in Kruger National Park thanks to lower temperatures and thinner vegetation.

READ NEXT: WHERE TO STAY IN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

2. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Widely considered to be the greatest national park on earth, the Masai Mara is the stage on which the famous ‘great migration’ plays out. Visitors come from far and wide to experience the ‘new world wonder’, that sees millions of zebra and wildebeest migrating across the Mara river. Such a spectacle is seen nowhere else on earth.

Relatively small and with less than 1,000 lions, on paper the Masai Mara might not seem like the best place to see lions in Africa, but in reality it is one of the best. The area is home to some of the most famous lions in the world, from the legendary Scarface to the prides made famous by various documentary films like Big Cat Diaries.

The 6 Best Places To See Lions In Africa
A lioness and her cubs in the Masai Mara National Reserve

This portion of East Africa is a stronghold for Maasai tribes, an ancient culture famous for their fierce warriors – once expected to hunt and kill lions in order to prove their strength and manhood. Maasai people are easily recognisable for their iconic red robes and beads.

The best time to see lions in the Masai Mara is July and August, when the migration is in full force. During this time you can watch as prides lie in wait and ambush wildebeest as they attempt to cross the river.

READ NEXT: NATIONAL PARKS IN KENYA – THE WORLD’S PREMIER SAFARI DESTINATION 

 

3. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

With its name originating from the Maasai word ‘sringet’ meaning ‘a place where the land goes on forever’, the Serengeti National Park is one of the oldest and most famous national parks in Africa.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the national park every year, to witness Africa at its most wild as the Serengeti plays a part in The Great Migration. Often the location chosen for wildlife films and documentaries, the Serengeti supports the largest concentration of predators in Africa, with a healthy population of over 3,000 lions.

The 6 Best Places To See Lions In Africa
Lioness hunting a herd of zebra in Serengeti National Park

Thanks to its vast grasslands and savannah plains, the Serengeti is one of the best places to observe lions hunting in the wild. Particularly as they follow the migrating herds and attempt to single out the weak and fatigued.

Head to the southern reaches of the Serengeti between December and March to see lions preying on the herds during the calving season.

 

4. Okavango Delta, Botswana

With an estimated population of over 2,300 lions, the Okavango Delta boasts one of the largest lion populations in the world. These lions thrive in the Delta’s aquatic ecosystem and can often be seen swimming between islands in search of prey during the flood season. They’ve adapted to these marshy conditions by growing larger and more muscular than lions living in dryer areas.

Their size means they can often attempt to take down larger prey, like buffalo, giraffe and even elephant, and the marshy terrain means that these life and death battles often take place in the water.

Large lioness in the Okavango Delta

The surrounding areas of Chobe, Savuti and Linyati are also well-known for providing exceptional lion sightings. Traditionally, the dry season – May through August and confusingly the same as the flood season – is the best time to see lions. Flood levels force prey to higher ground and predators are therefore less spread out. However, the rainy months between December and March coincide with calving season and greatly increase the chances of witnessing a kill.

READ NEXT: 10 REMARKABLE PLACES TO VISIT IN BOTSWANA

 

5. Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Situated in the country’s centre, Ruaha is Tanzania‘s third largest national park and one of its least visited.

Home to 40% of Tanzania’s lions and 10% of the entire African population, Ruaha is one of the best places to see lions in Africa. Ruaha’s lions are known for forming large prides of up to 30 individuals and with relatively small territories, they’re fairly easy to spot.

Three male lions taking down a Cape buffalo

Living in such large families means that these lions need a lot of food, and they need it often! The pride works together to bring down Cape buffalo. Witnessing a tense battle between two of Africa’s most dangerous animals is not for the faint-hearted, but is a sighting that you will never forget.

With just a few remote camps scattered throughout, Ruaha offers an authentic taste of true African wilderness.

 

6. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

In Zambia’s east, South Luangwa National Park is another destination known for its mega-prides of up to 30 lions.

The southern region is home to incredible concentrations of game, and predators don’t have to venture too far in order to find prey. This means that lions also stake out smaller territories.

Interestingly, some of the South Luangwa prides have developed a taste for hippos, and lucky safari-goers have witnessed these hunts and attempted hunts on various occasions.

Majestic male lion looking out from the tall grass

Contrary to most other national parks in Africa, South Luangwa is special because it allows night drives. This allows the chance to see lions under the cover of darkness, when they’re at their most active.

The park is also famous for walking safari’s, and the thrill of seeing Africa’s apex predator on foot is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.