• Zimbabwe Lions at Davisons Camp

Everything you need to know about seeing lions on safari

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 including zebra, wildebeest and antelope 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, you can witness the wild behaviours of these magnificent mammals, and the drama of the African plains unfold in front of your very eyes. The African safari experience is world-renowned for its wildlife, activities and luxurious accommodation; lions can often be a big part of this.

These big cats are fascinating to watch, people often want to sit and watch their days unfold for hours on end on the plains of Africa, and we put you in the right place at the right time to do that.

Our destination specialists know where and when to send you to ensure the best possible chances of seeing African Lions in the wild. 

African Lion Grid

The African Lion

Arguably the most famous animal on the planet and the true icon of Africa’s Big Five, the African lion is the symbol of strength and power and 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.

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.

Found in isolated parks throughout Southern Africa extending through Zambia and Malawi into Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, pockets of prides are found across Africa just south of the Sahara Desert.

African lion safari

The Best Locations for Lion Sightings

Kings of the Trees – Uganda

Uganda is one of the last strongholds for lions In Africa, home to the unique prides of so-called ‘tree climbing lions’. Whilst most lions across Africa prefer to keep four paws on the ground, the lions in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park have deviated from usual behaviours, incorporating a rest in leafy acacia and fig trees into their daily routines. Whilst there is not a clear distinction as to why this behaviour occurs, it is believed that these lions have adapted this behaviour to avoid bites from pests as Tse Tse flies and mosquitoes whilst also escaping the midday heat. Whatever the reasons for the intriguing habit of climbing trees, the lions attract more and more visitors each year to Queen Elizabeth Park.

Gladiators of the Plains - Botswana

Botswana is an incredible location for excellent lion-watching territory, with the northern national parks having some of the higher population densities including Moremi Game Reserve. Botswana’s main attraction, the magnificent Okavango Delta, produces fascinating sightings stemming from the big cats’ interesting reaction to the flooding waters. Here, Chobe National Park is famous for its lions who hunt huge buffalo in this area as water sources become scarce in the dry season.

Kings of the Desert - Kalahari

Black-maned lions are one of the most unique sub-species of African lions, not just with their magnificent dark manes. This species of lion roamed the vast Kalahari from the earliest of times, adapted to a land of extremes and contrasts with dramatically changing weather conditions. This species of lion lives in large prides consisting of big family units. Catching sight of these desert-dwelling lions, with a famous dark contrast against a tawny body, is not a sight you’ll easily forget.

African Lion Grid

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.

African lion cubs

Your Next Steps

Talk to one of our specialists for more details on seeing African Lions in the wild. Please note we recommend a budget of from £7,000 / $10,000 USD per person for our style of trip to this destination.