The ten best places and National parks in Africa to encounter lions in the wild
Lions are in danger, as their habitats are vanishing, due to rising pressure of human settlements.
So it is not that easy anymore, to encounter lions in the wild savannas of Africa anymore.
For me, the best you can do as a traveller to support the wild lion populations of Africa is to give thema visit. Go for a lion safari, hire a local company, and your your admittance fee for the National Park is funding the lions!
Following are the ten best Safari places in Africa, where you might encounter lions.
- Serengeti, Tanzania. One of the last increasing lion populations of all African game reserves. The Serengeti in Eastern Africa has it all: A truely fantastic landscape, an enchanting light, loads of animals, and some lovely lion packs. Mostly, the driver guides know where to find them. So the chance to take a picture of wild roaming lions in the Serengeti plains is quite high. Accessability: easy.
- Masai Mara, Kenya. The Mara is the place, where professional wildlife photographers are heading to get their lion photo. Especially in the months of September – November, when the Great Migration of wildebeest is in the area, your chances to spot lions are close to 100%. Infrastructure in Kenyas most famous game reserve is great, getting there is pretty easy: One four hour drive from Nairobi by car, or just a short hop if you fly in.
- Etosha, Namibia. Etosha is my advise for Safari beginners. Easy to get there (half day drive by car from Windhuk), easy to navigate in the park, pretty easy to find your lion pride resting in the dusty African bush of northern Namibia. Etosha is a great location for your first Safari, you will find your way easily, as there are as many signposts like on a German autobahn, and you will not get stuck in deep sand or anything like that.I especially like Fort Namutoni camp site, but lions rather tend be more south of it.
- Moremi Game Reserve, Okavangodelta, Botswana. Wonderful, unique landscape where a huge river runs dry in the sands of the Kalahari plain, transforming the area to a safari lovers dream. The Moremi lion population though, is under pressure. In the Xaxanaka area you have a good chance to encounter the pride living there. Photography opportunities might be difficult. Getting there ist not a peace of cake, because Botswana still seems to be a bit off the beaten track, though it is a great country to travel, and a wonderful Safari destination, even if you do an organised trip or you are on your own 4×4 self drive Safari.
- Kruger National Park, South Africa. A true Safari classic. Not to encounter lions in Kruger is like not getting a picture of a red letter box in London. Kruger and the surrounding private game concessions (like Sabi sands) gives you all you might need to ask from a lion Safari. Check with the rangers at the gates, as they are keeping track of carnivore encounters and might know where to find your lion pride.
- Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. One of South Africas best kept Safari secrets. This is a very well managed, great little game reserve in the Northwest of South Africa, close to the Botswana border. The area is classical Sfrican bush, they have lions, and even a pack of Sfrican wild dogs, plus some really nice lodges. Absolutely worth the four trip from Johannesburg airport.
- Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. This protective area belongs to the larger Chobe – Okavango eco system, and it was once home of Cecil the lion. The lion population in Hwange is estimated to be about 2300 lions, that might give you the chance to encounter them in the park. Hwange is likely to be more a destination for self contained travellers with their own 4×4 vehicle, than for organized travel.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. South Luangwa is truely off the beaten track. In the hottest and dryest month of October, peak of the dry season, you have very good chance to spot lions close to the river, which gives its name to the area. Though the lion population in Luangwa is small (around 500 animals), they might gather close to the water and relax from the heat of the day. More information about South Luangwa you find on the National Parks official web site. Best way to travel to Sambia might be to catch a plane via Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Selous Game Reserve, Tansania. Africas largest game reserve hosts one of the largest lion populations of the continent. Together with Ruaha National Park the Selous makes the top spots for Tanzanias so called Southern Circuit. You might do an organized fly-in Safari, a walking Safari, or hire a car and get to selous from Dar-es-Salaam.
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana and Kalahari Transfrontier NP. These two game reserves in Botswana and the border area between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa respectively make for great Safari trips. The Kalahari is a wonderful, very unique landscape with lots of animals to spot, and some lion prides as well. Both parks are a great area for photographers, with dramatic weather, wonderful light and plenty of vast gras land and semi-arid savanna. Also great for birding!
Please support lions in Africa by donating to these nature conservation organizations:
Watch this great documentary by Wildlife Photographer Mike Nicols: