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African Lions


Encounters with the Icon of Africa

The true icon of Africa’s Big Five, the African lion is the symbol of strength and power, the epitome of any safari to wild Africa. Today, catching sight of this apex predator is one of the most sought-after prizes for almost every safari-goer, with regal prides located from East to South.

Observing the social aspect of lions' lives is one of the most memorable elements of an encounter with the species. Out on the wild African plains, females stalk big game as they feed on tasty grasses, prides nap in the shade and cubs play under the watchful eye of their mothers as males fight for the crown. Exploring via game drives and even walking safaris, witness the wild behaviours of these magnificent mammals.

Where can you see the African Lion?

African Lions are found in sub-Saharan Africa, with 80% of the population in eastern or southern Africa and three of the five largest populations in Tanzania. African Lions used to be found across most of the continent, but in recent decades they have disappeared from 12 sub-Saharan countries.

Graeme Purdy 5DS


  • Lions are notably the only sociable big cat, with prides formed of a few muscular males, crowned with a thick mane and measuring up to 3.5m long and up to 272kg.
  • Most of the hunting is done by the smaller more agile females, weighing between 110 kg and 168 kg, who will work together to hunt anything from small antelope up to buffalo and even giraffe; in Savuti in Botswana, they have learnt to hunt young elephant.
  • The males will often get involved to help tackle the dangerous animals. Males have a large mane of hair which can be beige or black depending on the individual and the area they live in.

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African Lion Safari Destinations


  • Masai Mara National Reserve: A great place to see lions year-round in the flat, wide and open plains of the Masai Mara. In July, 2 million wildebeest cross the Mara River under the eyes of the hungry lions.


  • Serengeti National Park: Three of the five largest lion populations are in Tanzania and the Serengeti is one of the best spots to see lions due to the availability of food and the million wildebeest.
  • In Southern Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is one of Africas hidden treasures with only 6000 visitors a year. Second to the Serengeti, Ruaha is home to 10% of the worlds lion population so there is great opportunities to see lions around less safari vehicles.
  • The Ngorongoro Crater offers the oppourtunity to see the Big 5 in a different setting, in the worlds largest inactive volcanic caldera.


  • Okavango Delta: The Okavango Delta is the best place to see water-adapted lions in Africa, these lions are 15% larger than others and have adapted to hunting during the day when the buffalo are grazing. The permanent water and nutritious grasses makes the Okavango Delta the perfect habitat for buffalo and you may witness lions fighting them here.

South Africa

  • Kruger National Park: Most of South Africa’s lions can be found in Kruger National Park. Being the size of Wales, it can be hard to find them, but South Kruger has way more lions as it is wetter and greener. We recommend staying at Sabi Sands, which is one of the most reliable places to see lions in Africa. Timbavati is also the best place to see white lions in Africa.


Lions are highly adaptable, and in Namibia you will find ‘desert-adapted’ or ‘desert-lions’, that have adapted to survive in the harsh landscape of little vegetation and prey. The best places to see lions in Namibia is in Kaokoveld and Damaraland, but be aware these lions are nomadic and you are not guaranteed to see them.

African Lion Conservation

In just 25 years, Africa’s lion population dramatically dropped with only 50% of their numbers remaining across the iconic landscapes of the continent. The IUCN classified these majestic creatures as “vulnerable” as a result, a subject of habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal wildlife trade, poaching and human-lion conflict.

It was as a result of this revelation that the Lionscape Coalition was formed, in response to the growing threat of extinction and the predictable knock-on effect this would have on Africa’s biodiversity. Lions are classed as an “umbrella species”; with a wild lion population thriving, the entire surrounding eco-system functions effectively, ultimately also affecting the livelihoods of those relying on ecotourism for survival. The Lionscape Coalition sees four commercial competitors, who share the bold vision of the Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) to double wild lion numbers by 2050, collaborate on lion conservation programmes across Africa. Putting all commercial considerations aside, this alliance brings to this initiative over 100 years of positive conservation and community impact throughout Africa.

Lions are a resilient species so the future looks bright. These animals will rapidly reproduce if their habitats are protected if communities have incentives to co-exist and protect them. Creating healthy ‘lionscapes’ which can benefit these local communities is key to the success of population decline being reversed and many other species will recover in the process.

St South Africa Kruger National Park Lion Shutterstock Matthieu Gallet

When is the Best Time to See African Lions?

The best time to see lions is during the peak safari season from July to October. The cool, dry winter means less vegetation for wildlife to hide behind and the lack of rain means wildlife will congregate around the lakes and rivers and most wildlife wont stray too far from the little water left.

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