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Top 5 Safari Destinations to see Lions

Predator on the planet, to see a lion up close in the wild is simply breath-taking. here’s our pick of safari destinations to find this charismatic cat:


The stage for David Attenborough’s “Dynasties” and the BBC’s “Big Cat Diary” for 22 years and counting, the Maasai Mara offers fabulous year-round game-viewing. Probably the greatest slice of wildlife real estate on the planet, the likelihood of encountering the full suite of big cats: lion, leopard and cheetah is higher here than anywhere else. Further, the Mara is famous for particularly large lion prides, regularly numbering thirty-plus individuals and encountering such a large assemblage of apex predators is an awesome sight indeed.


Only seven countries contain over a thousand lions and none has more than Tanzania. Lions are widespread here, from the northern border of the Serengeti – from where they can follow the wildebeest in to the Maasai Mara – Katavi in the west, Ruaha in the centre and Selous in the south east.

For the best chance of seeing them, head to where the buffalo roam; Katavi and Ruaha are Tanzania’s wildest parks and play host to several super-herds through the dry season. These buffalo must make a daily pilgrimage to the last remaining water sources – find the buffalo (relatively easy) and there’s every chance that the lions are not far behind. From Katavi it’s a short hop across to the home of another iconic dynasty – the chimpanzees of Mahale.


The place where walking safaris were pioneered is still amongst the top spots to undertake a proper foot safari. Finding lion on foot is a particularly special thrill – looking in to their eyes and wondering who will bolt first connects to something deep in all our psyches. Lions typically spend up to 21 hours a day resting yet almost always react to the presence of man, typically by moving away, sometimes threatening with a growl or a snarl – and very occasionally by charging.


Through a combination of their size, strength and being co-operative hunters, lions are capable of pulling down much larger prey than any other carnivore. Several prides in the Okavango have become expert in hunting hippo, buffalo, giraffe and even the occasional elephant. More unusually 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.


“The Queen” as Ugandan’s endearingly call this park can’t boast the most nor the biggest lions, but in the wild Ishasha sector they habitually do something pretty special and incredibly photogenic; clambering up in to giant fig trees to spend the day sprawled out over the lateral trunks. Stunningly beautiful, with an astonishing 550 species of birds recorded and only few hour’s drive from Mountain Gorilla country a couple of days in Ishasha is always time well spent.

This is as far from formulaic as you can get and feels like a real journey, of which your family group are the only participants as you bounce through an array of unique, eclectic and sometimes eccentric camps. Each destination offers a different landscape to explore – plains, woodland, river and lake – and it’s this variety which makes this park a unique proposition. We challenge even the most insouciant teen to not become intermittently animated here.

Rod Tether
About the Author

Rod Tether

Expert guide, born and raised in wild Africa.

Born in Uganda and guiding since the age of 17, Rod is one of Africa’s leading safari guides. His spiritual home remains Zambia’s North Luangwa where he and his wife Guz created and ran ...

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