Lions are an enigmatic wildlife species and they are not as common as other wild animals. Currently, there are very few African lions left in the world. Their population is declining at a very high rate and is at risk of extinction. Nearly all wild lions live in Africa, but a small percentage of them live in Europe and Asia. Lions are mostly found in open grassland, savanna, dense scrub, open woodland, and thick bush. They have a golden or brownish-tan fur coat which looks almost like the dry grass found in the savanna. This allows them to blend and disguise perfectly with the grass.
The last of the African wild lions are found in East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the Southern African countries of Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia.
Some Lions have an adaptive behavior of climbing trees which helps them to spot prey from afar, stay away from the heat on the ground, find shelter from the rain and the sun, and protect themselves from insects like tsetse flies. They sometimes also rest on tree branches after a large meal and get a shut-eye. So when on a safari, don’t forget to look up at the trees and in the grass.
Tanzania is home to the largest lion population in Africa which lives in some of the popular game parks in Northern Tanzania. Chances of seeing a pride of lions in Tanzania are very high.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is the most ideal place to see lions and the Maasai Mara since it also lies within the Serengeti ecosystem on the Kenyan side. The legendary annual Great migration cuts across the region. Almost 1.2 million wildebeests among other plain animals like zebras, gazelles, and impalas follow in the 40km trek. Lions are drawn to this just like the other predators living in the park as they hunt for meals.
The best time to spot a lion in the Northern Serengeti Park is between July to October as the wildebeests make the river crossing in the Mara River. The other best time is from December to March when the wildebeests are calving. The calves provide easy and vulnerable targets for the lions and the other predators.
This is a hotspot for lions on the southern side of the Serengeti. It is the easiest and most reliable viewing point. The crater provides a natural home for wildlife to roam around freely. Which in return provides plenty of prey for the lions living there.
Lake Manyara, which is close by, is a good place for sighting the big cats as well as the Selous Game Reserve. Lake Manyara is also known for the tree-climbing lions that imitate the characters of leopards.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve
It shares the Serengeti ecosystem which is mostly open savanna. The lions here are so plentiful that they once had their documentary series called the Big cat Diary.
From late July to October every year, wildebeests cross the Serengeti in Tanzania to cross into Maasai Mara in Kenya. It is quite the sight to see lions run down their prey.
Nairobi National Park
This park is located in the capital city of Kenya and has around 45 lions. The park is also home to other wild animals which act as prey for the lions living in the park.
- South Africa
The best time to go for a safari in South Africa is during winter when the vegetation is not thick.
Kruger National Park
It is the top-notch destination for a lion safari. It has almost 2,000 lions. The climate of the area ensures a constant supply of green grass hence a big number of animals especially The Big Five.. The park also offers self-drive safaris during the day.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve
It is a private game reserve in South Africa. It is said to offer the best lion safaris.
The lions in Botswana exhibit strange habits. They are bigger than the common lions. Botswana also has large pride in the two parks. It is also said to be home to 3,000 lions.
Just like in other parks, the availability of pasture and water draws a large number of animals. Such places include the Duba plains and the Chief’s Island.
Around the Selinda spillway, lions prey on hippopotamuses. This makes it a catchy place to watch them as they hunt.
The lions in Duba Island display different behaviors of hunting in deep waters. The prides- skimmer and Tsaro have adapted to their environment by learning to swim in deep waters. They also hunt during the day which goes against the normal lion nature of hunting during the night. This makes it easy for the tourists to spot them during the day as the action takes place.
The park has also been used to conduct research which includes Relentless Enemies and the Last Lions.
Chobe National Park
This park is home to several prides of lions in the Savuti Marsh Area. It is famous for lions that hunt elephants. They also fight against hyena clans for food and territory.
Zambia has just a few national parks. The South Luangwa National Park has a variety of prey holding up to 850 lions in prides of up to 30 lions.
South Luangwa National Park
It is a less explored park with very few tourist registrations in a year. Here, prides can be seen anywhere but the large prides can be seen on the south side of the park with smaller territories. The park offers night game drives, walking safaris and bush walks for tourists to get clear lion sightings. With its limited number of tourists, it is easier to sight lions and have a better experience with them.
The best time for a safari here is between April and October. Walking safaris were launched here.
Kafue National Park
It is on the West side of Lusaka. It contains the marshlands of Busanga plains which enable the park to be a habitat for a good number of animals that attract lions.
The lions in Kafue are known for their unusual behavior. Some of these behaviors include tree climbing and buffalo hunting. Due to its remoteness, it is less crowded making it perfect for the sightings.
Etosha National Park
This park is famous for its water holes which are situated near the tourist camps. It is a habitat for 300 to 350 lions which are easy to sight at any of the watering holes. The best time to see the lions here is between June and October- the dry winter- because the vegetation is scarce.
Sighting Lions Successfully
The best time to see lions is early in the morning. This is because the lions lie on the roads to avoid the dew on the grass which makes them cold. It is also easy to sight them at this time because it is when they return from their hunt.
During the day they tend to hide away from the sun and stay off the ground because of the heat. So one should always remember to look up at the trees.