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The African lion, known worldwide as the “King of the Jungle”, has astonished and inspired since the earliest days of human civilization. The majestic creatures have been depicted in artworks for thousands of years (the oldest, cave paintings found in Ancient Egypt, date to about 3500 BC). They have also been honored in legends ranging from ancient Buddhist texts to Greek myths, and from the Bible to modern-day animated films.

While the African lion population has sadly and steadily declined over the past 20 years, an estimated 20,000 remain in the continent’s sub-Saharan region. Most of these reside in the wildlife game reserves in East Africa and Southern Africa. Wondering where to see lions in Africa? Continue reading for our pick of the 14 best places to see lions in Africa.

Where to See Lions in Africa

Where To See Lions In Africa?

  • Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda
  • Serengeti National Park in Tanzania
  • Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
  • Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
  • Ruaha National Park in Tanzania
  • Okavango Delta in Botswana
  • Chobe National Park in Botswana
  • Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana
  • Kruger National Park in South Africa
  • Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa
  • Timbavati Game Reserve in South Africa
  • Etosha National Park in Namibia
  • Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe
  • South Luangwa National Park in Zambia
  • Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania
  • Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda
  • Amboseli National Park in Kenya
  • Samburu National Park in Kenya, etc

The 14 best places to see lions in Africa

There are a few that do stand out as perhaps the best places to see lions in Africa, and below are some suggestions:

1. Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

Where to See Lions in Africa

“Queen” as Ugandans endearingly call this park is one of the best national parks in Uganda. Neither it boast the most nor the biggest lions in Africa, but is one of the few places on the continent where you can see lions that habitually do something unusual and incredibly photogenic. Here, you can spot lions climbing up in to giant fig trees to spend their long lazy days dozing on the lateral trunks. Strikingly beautiful, with an astounding 612 bird species recorded and only few hour’s drive from the gorilla trekking forests of the southwest a couple of days in Queen Elizabeth NP is always time well spent.

2. Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

Possibly the world’s best safari destinations, Serengeti holds the highest population densities of lions in Africa, making it one of the very best places to see lions in Africa.

Lions in Serengeti National Park are most often seen in the Central area of the park (Seronera region). Here you will consistently find lions sprawling in the sunlight on the crests of towering kopjes (rocky outcrops).

And the legendary wildebeest migration that takes place in Serengeti every year attracts attendant predators including very hungry lions. Your chances of spotting lions on the hunt are particularly good from around July to October when the wildebeest become fair game as they make the dangerous Mara River crossing in northern area of Serengeti.

In the southern plains of Serengeti near Ngorongoro things heat up from January to March when the wildebeest are calving, offering easy targets (vulnerable calves) for lions and other predators like hyenas and cheetahs.

3. Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Masai Mara National Reserve is also a top African lion safari destination. The lions here were made famous by the BBC nature documentary series “The Big Cat Diary”. This reserve is also part of the Serengeti ecosystem and it is indeed filled with lions.

It is particularly famous for large lion prides, regularly numbering 30-plus individuals and encountering such a large assemblage of apex predators is an awesome sight indeed.

The best time to see lions in Masai Mara is during the great migration season from around July to October. At this time of the year, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest can be witnessed crossing the Mara River into the Masai Mara from the Serengeti.

The herds of wildebeest follow the fresh and succulent grasses that come after good rains. Remember that lions do not migrate. Pride lands are set up along the migration routes and the lions merely exploit the movement of these animals. In addition to the lions, the Masai Mara’s flat, wide and open plains are also famous for cheetah populations – it’s a fantastic place to watch the world’s fastest land mammal chase down its prey!

4. Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

Where to See Lions in Africa (6)

Bordering Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater is the largest inactive volcanic caldera on Earth and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

Thanks to its mineral-rich volcanic soil, the short-grass plains grow lush on the Crater’s floor; it provides nutritious grazing for a plethora of herbivores. These big herds in turn attract a remarkable number of predators including lions.

The Crater’s lion population is arguably one of the highest densities of prides in the world. Consequently, the lions here have a complete disregard for safari vehicles – they will hunt within metres of a vehicle and even seek respite from the sun beside one!

5. Ruaha National Park in Tanzania

Where to See Lions in Africa (7)

Ruaha National Park covers over 20,000km2 of remote wilderness. It is one of the wildest and largest protected wildlife areas in East Africa. It is utterly beautiful with broad sand rivers, vast plains, rugged hills and valleys, and quirky upside down trees (baobabs). In terms of lions, Ruaha host over 10% of Africa’s entire lion population.

In fact, it is second only to the Serengeti in terms of absolute numbers. Lion prides here swell up to numbers of 25 adults, bringing down large game such as giraffe and buffalo. And here, you can have lion sightings completely to yourself.

Hidden away in southern Tanzania, Ruaha sees less than 6000 visitors a year – or about 16 a day – which makes it one of Africa’s hidden treasures. Ruaha National Park is where you will see many lions in Africa, but hardly any other safari vehicles.

6. Okavango Delta in Botswana

Where to See Lions in Africa

Okavango Delta in Botswana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site List and also one of Africa’s 7 Natural Wonders. And many wildlife documentaries starring lions are filmed here for many reasons. Although lions might not be the first to pick a wetland like the Okavango Delta, they have adapted to their water habitat and thrive in the Delta.

Don’t be surprised to catch a lion slowly swimming closer to his prey. Several prides in the Okavango Delta have become expert in hunting hippo, buffalo, giraffe and even the occasional elephant. More remarkably they do this in daylight and the chance to witness these battles first-hand is both thrilling and gory, truly nature red in tooth and claw.

7. Chobe National Park in Botswana

Where to See Lions in Africa (1)

Spanning an area of roughly 12,000 km², Chobe is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa (between 60,000 and 70,000) and is one of best places to see lions in Africa. The park’s Savuti region is the famous stage upon which lion prides regularly clash with clans of hyena for food and territory.

This remote area is also known for its well-documented, powerful lions that take down Africa’s biggest mammals like giraffe, buffalo, and even elephants.

8. Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana

Where to See Lions in Africa (1)

Spread across a vast area of Kalahari Desert, the Central Kalahari Reserve is known for its golden grasslands, as a homeland for the San Bushmen, and as a place to see what may be some of Africa’s biggest lions. Male Kalahari lions, for example, are known for their dark, luxuriant manes. They played a starring role in the 1984 classic book ‘Cry of the Kalahari’.

9. Kruger National Park in South Africa

Where to See Lions in Africa

When it comes to best places to see lions in Africa, there may be few places better than Kruger National Park in South Africa. With hundreds of kilometers of easily accessible safari trails and excellent places to stay, this is a brilliant spot to see not just lions, but big cats in general. Visibility is also excellent with lots of open country and plenty of prey species to draw the lions out into view.

10. Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa

The privately run Sabi Sand Game Reserve is part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem. This wildlife reserves are just as good as the national park itself. It’s not uncommon to spot all the members of the Big 5 on a single game drive in Sabi – especially the big cats like lion and leopard. This is one of the most reliable places to see lions in Africa.

11. Timbavati Game Reserve in South Africa

Also park of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, Timbavati is one of few places in Africa to have a handful of white lions. Unlike their tawny-coated, amber-eyed comrades, white lions have snowy fur and beautiful blue eyes – making them incredibly photogenic.

Their paleness is not albinism but rather due to a harmless genetic quirk known as leucism. As they occur naturally in Timbavati, which is located to the north of the Sabi Sands on the western edge of the Kruger, their Latin name is Panthera leo krugeri. Timbavati is actually an anglicisation of the traditional name ‘Tsimba Vati’, which means ‘place where the star lions fell to Earth’.

12. Etosha National Park in Namibia

Where to See Lions in Africa

Undoubtedly one of the great parks of Africa, the huge Etosha National Park in Namibia covers more than 22,300 km2. It is home to a staggering amount of wildlife and is also the best places to see lions in Africa.

Over 700 are thought to roam across this captivating ecosystem, and lions are often sighted hunting, feeding or just relaxing by the many waterholes in the park. Much of this park wide open spaces with little vegetation, meaning you can spot lions from a long way off, which only adds to the excitement of it all.

13. Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe

Where to See Lions in Africa

Spanning over 14,600 km2, Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest national park and Africa’s 10th biggest. It is almost as big as Belgium, and bigger than all of Zimbabwe’s other parks combined! Hwange also has more animals than any other park in Zimbabwe.

It supports a population of around 500 Lion. And in 2015, Hwange’s Lions gained international fame with the controversial death of Cecil, a much-loved Hwange Lion killed by a trophy hunter from the United States, sparking an international outcry.

The offspring of Cecil, and lots of other lions, still roam this amazing park, and it is one of few places in Africa where lions are known to hunt elephants. If you are lucky enough to see this happen, it is an epic clash.

14. South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

Where to See Lions in Africa

South Luangwa is actually the southernmost of 3 national parks that lie in Zambia’s Luangwa river valley. The butterfly-shaped 9,050 km2 Park is where walking safaris were pioneered is still amongst the top spots to undertake a proper foot safari. It is known for its lions and leopards, among many other species. Though it is one of the most popular parks in Zambia, the safari trails of South Luangwa are much quieter than many others in Africa. And you usually won’t have to share each lion sighting with too many other vehicles.

You may also like; best places to see giraffes in Africa

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