Lions are very often the biggest prize of an African safari. No animals stalk the plains, or roar in the night, with quite the same power and gravitas of a lion. Although lions are facing challenges across the continent, you can still see them, often quite easily, in many parks and reserves of southern and East Africa. Keep reading for our pick of the 10 best places to see lions in Africa.

 

1. Masai Mara (Kenya)

The Masai Mara is filled with lions. From Masai Mara National Reserve to the more exclusive Maasai-run conservancies that lie adjacent to the reserve to the north and east, large prides of lions roam the Mara. This is classic safari terrain. The savannah grasslands and light woodlands make for an ideal lion habitat while also offering perfect visibility for seeing lions. The conservancies are especially good if you want to escape the crowds.

  • Best time to see lions in the Masai Mara: Lions are best seen during the Dry season (June to October). They’re very much a part of the great migration experience, which begins in the Mara in July or August, and is at its best in September and October.

Masai Mara Tours

2. Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)

The vast plains of the Serengeti are perfect for seeing lions. Whether the great wildebeest migration is passing through or not, there are always lots of lions around. They’re most commonly seen in the Seronera region of the Central Serengeti but going on a game drive anywhere in this fantastic park puts you in a good position to see lions. Watching a family of cubs playing atop one of the kopjes (rocky outcrops) that are so typical here is a very Serengeti experience.

  • Best time to see lions in the Serengeti: July to February or March is generally dry, with good conditions for seeing lions. The great migration begins in the park’s south in January and February, and moves north through the park until it crosses into Kenya’s Masai Mara sometime between July and September.

Serengeti Tours

3. Kruger National Park (South Africa)

When it comes to where to see lions in Africa, there is nowhere better than Kruger National Park. 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.

  • Best time to see lions in Kruger: There’s no bad time to see lions in Kruger, but the mildest and driest conditions are usually from May to September

Kruger Tours

4. Sabi Sands & Timbavati (South Africa)

Part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, the privately run Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Timbavati Nature Reserve are just as good as the national park itself (there are no fences between them), but without the crowds. These two reserves are known for their big-cat sightings and for being among the best places to see lions in Africa. Timbavati is also one of few places in Africa to have a handful of white lions.

  • Best time to see lions in Sabi Sands and Timbavati: As with Kruger National Park, you can visit Sabi Sands and Timbavati year-round, but May to September are usually the driest months

Sabi Sands Tours

Timbavati Tours

5. Okavango Delta (Botswana)

There’s a reason so many wildlife documentaries starring lions are filmed in the Okavango Delta. Lions stalk the islands and channels of this amazing place, and while sightings are never guaranteed, the Delta does have one of the highest lion densities anywhere in southern Africa. This applies in the Moremi Game Reserve as much as it does in the exclusive private concessions into which much of the Okavango is divided.

  • Best time to see lions in the Okavango Delta: Looking for lions is best from July to October. This is during the Dry season when most of the lodges are open and water levels are high, meaning that the animals are unable to disperse into the surrounding area.

Okavango Delta Tours

6. Etosha National Park (Namibia)

Namibia’s premier safari park is also the best place in the country to see lions. More than 700 are thought to roam across this fascinating ecosystem, and lions are often sighted hunting, feeding or just relaxing by the many waterholes throughout the park. Much of the park has very little vegetation, meaning you can see lions from a long way off, which only adds to the excitement of it all.

  • Best time to see lions in Etosha: To see Etosha at its best and increase your chances of seeing lions, come during the dry winter months from July to October

Etosha Tours

7. Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana)

Spread across a vast area of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is known for its golden grasslands, as a homeland for the San people, 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’.

  • Best time to see lions in the Central Kalahari: You can visit the Central Kalahari any time of the year, but it can be bitterly cold at night and in the early morning from May to September. The best months are generally from December to March.

Central Kalahari Tours

8. Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda)

Easily one of Uganda’s best national parks for seeing lions, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of few places in Africa where you can consistently see lions up in the trees. The park’s Ishasha sector is where this happens most often. There’s nothing quite like staring up into the branches of an African sycamore fig tree or an umbrella acacia and finding an entire pride of lions looking back at you.

  • Best time to see lions in Queen Elizabeth NP: The best months for visiting Queen Elizabeth NP are during the Dry seasons, which run from January to February and June to July

Queen Elizabeth Tours

9. Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe)

Hwange National Park will be forever remembered as the former home of Cecil, a magnificent male lion that was shot by a hunter just outside Hwange back in 2015, sparking an international outcry. Cecil’s offspring, and lots of other lions, still roam this fantastic park, and it’s one of few places in Africa where lions are known to hunt elephants. If you’re lucky enough to see this happen, it’s an epic clash.

  • Best time to see lions in Hwange: The prime time for wildlife viewing in Hwange is from July to October, at the middle and end of the Dry season. Battles between lions and elephants usually happen around October, when water is scarce.

Hwange Tours

10. South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)

Zambia sees far fewer safari visitors than it deserves, and South Luangwa National Park is a very underrated park. It’s known for its lions and leopards, among many other species. While it’s one of the more popular parks in the country, South Luangwa’s safari trails are much quieter than many others in Africa, and you usually won’t have to share each lion sighting with too many other vehicles.

  • Best time to see lions in South Luangwa: The months from July to October, during the middle and end of the Dry season, are the ideal time to go looking for lions in South Luangwa

South Luangwa Tours

By Anthony Ham
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

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