Best Places to See Lions

Are you looking for the Best Places to see Lions?

Seeing a Lion without a cage or bars around it is something very different. Many people see Lions in Zoos or Animal Parks around the world everyday, but being able to witness the beauty of the “King of the African Wildlife” in the wild is really something to remember. 

So let’s start with giving you an overview about Lions in general, looking into the Lion Distribution and Habitat and highlighting the Best Places to see Lions in the Wild. Have a look at the subsections below. 

What you need to know about Lions

Lion Habitat and Distribution

Endangerment of Lions

Best Places to see Lions

Blood Lions

What you need to know about Lions

Lions are sometimes called “King of the Animals”. They appear in the fairy tales and fables of many peoples. 

We often find statues of lions in front of palaces and on large squares. Especially powerful men like to show themselves with pictures of lions to make themselves appear especially powerful and strong.

Lions once lived in Europe too, but they have long since become extinct here. Today, lions only exist in Africa south of the Sahara desert and in Gir National Park in India.

Lions are big and strong. Male animals grow up to 2.5 metres long, about 1.2 metres high and weigh more than 200 kg. Females are smaller and lighter.

Life expectancy10 – 14 years (adult, in the wilderness)
Speed80 km/h (maximum, in short bursts)
Weightmale: 190 kg (adult)female: 130 kg (adult)
Heightmale: 1.2 m (adult, shoulder height), Female: 1.1 m (adult, shoulder height)
Lengthmale: 1.7 – 2.5 m (body length),female: 1.4 – 1.8 m (body length)

The fur is yellowish to dark ochre in colour. The males have a long brown mane, which protects their neck during fights. It takes five years for young lions to grow a mane. The tail of the animals ends in a black tassel.

Lions can run up to 65 kilometres per hour, but they only maintain this speed for a short time. They can jump about six metres far and two to three metres high.

Are you a fan of the African Continent? Have a look on the top Safari Parks in Africa were we collected everything about the best places to see wild animals. Have a look at the Wildebeest Migration.

Lion Habitat and Distribution

Learn about where lions live and what kind of habitat they like.

african lions

Lion Habitat 

As habitat lions prefer the savannah. Here there is grass to hide in and watering places where the prey also lives. This is the best place for lions to hunt.

However, there are fewer and fewer lions living freely on earth. It is estimated that today, only about 16,000 to 30,000 animals live in freedom. Their habitat is becoming scarcer as more and more land is being used for agriculture. Even in large areas of Africa there are no lions any more.

At their resting places the lions often lie in the shade for hours and doze away. Since they take in a lot of food after a successful hunt, it can take a few days before they go hunting again.

Lion Distribution

Originally, lions inhabited all of Africa and large parts of southwestern Asia. In historical times, lions also lived in the southeast of Europe, especially in Greece. 

Today lions only live south of the Sahara in South and East Africa. They are in smaller populations in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic (Chad), Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

A small population of the subspecies Panthera leo goojratensis lives in the Indian protected area Gir.

Apart from pure deserts and tropical rainforest, a variety of habitats are inhabited. Lions prefer dry bushland and tree and shrub savannahs with proximity to water. In Ethiopia, lions can also be found in the highlands at altitudes of up to 4,000 metres. The Indian representatives live in gallery forests or on the edge of the jungle.

The distribution area of the African lion extends from the southern edge of the Sahara to South Africa with the exception of the Congolese rainforest belt. Of the Asian lions, only a remaining population of 411 individuals lives in Gir National Park in India today.

Endangerment of Lions

Once they were the rulers of the savannahs, but now the situation is dramatic: in West Africa there are only about 500 lions left, on the whole continent probably only 20,000. The impressive cats of prey threaten to disappear.

The highly symbolic species has disappeared from 94 percent of its original range. Once the animals roamed almost the entire African continent, which after all has an area of 30.2 million square kilometres. Today, the big cats of prey romp around on less than 1.7 million square kilometres. It is estimated that there are not even 25,000 lions left in Africa, which is why they are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union.

On the IUCN red list, the lion is declared as “vulnerable”.

lion endangerment

Since the early 1990s, the number of lions in the wild has halved, according to the non-profit organization Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN).

Best Places to see Lions

Just over a century ago, the lion numbers in the wild where much higher than today. From around 200,000 lions living in Africa, only around 20,000 – 30,000 lions still exist nowadays. It is a shame that the United States of America might be the country with the most living Lions on this planet, in captivity. 

Lions are actually exist in 26 different African countries. The number one country with the highest numbers of lions in the wild is Tanzania. Some scientists expect the number to be around 15,000 wild lions. 

However, there are still some places where you have a pretty good chance of seeing a lion in the wild. We show you some of the best places to see lions here. 

#1 Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 

The Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest park & world famous for the annual natural spectacle of animal migration.

male lion serengeti park

As previously mentioned, Tanzania is the country with the highest estimated number of Lions living in the wild. Therefore, its is very likely for you to see a lion pride on your tour to the national park. 

The lions prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk, but they can also prey during the day. Lions especially like to lie and wait at watering places.

Best Travel Time

  • Dry Season from late June to October
  • Good wildlife sighting throughout the year

Best Tour Operators: 

#2 Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya 

The Masai Mara National Reserve is a nature reserve in Kenya, which is known for the great Wildebeest migration. It is part of the Serengeti and adjoins the Serengeti National Park to the north and has an area of about 1510 square kilometres. 

lion pride

Masai Mara is Kenya’s most abundant reserve, both in terms of the number of species and of individual animals.

The large movements of Zebra and Wildebeest herds also mean that there is a lot of food for hungry predators like lions. Therefore, the chance to see lions in the Masai Mara are quite high. 

Best Travel Time

  • All year round excellent wildlife viewing.
  • July to October offers some spectacular sightings because of the Wildebeest migration. 

Best Tour Operators: 

#3 Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world. It is also famous for its nature and wildlife sightings.

lion botswana

The gateway to the world-famous Okavango Delta is the small town of Maun. The Okavango River meets the Kalahari – coming from the highlands of Angola.

About 1/3 of the Okavango Delta is protected, e.g. by the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, which is the oldest nature reserve in Botswana. A great area to see lions in the wild.

Best Travel Time:

  • For safaris, the months May to October are considered the best time to travel in Botswana.
  • These months fall into the dry season.

Best Tour Operators: 

#4 Kruger National Park, South Africa 

The famous Kruger National Park covers a total area of almost 20,000 square kilometres. 

lion hunting

Since 1927 the park has been open to visitors. Even then, Krüger’s vision was to protect wildlife from poachers. In this way, the basis for today’s biodiversity was created.

Today, an estimated 1600 Lions roam the wide plains of the Kruger. You can find the big cat in all parts of Kruger Park. 

It likes to stay near waterholes, because the wild animals come there to drink. Most wild animals recognize the danger, but the thirst is greater than the fear. So it often happens that weakened animals fall victim to the big cats!

Best Travel Time:

  • Spring (September, October, November) and autumn (March, April, May) 
  • Not rainy seasons; pleasantly warm and it does not get too cold at night, making these months the best time to visit Kruger National Park

Best Tour Operators: 

#5 Ishasha Sector – Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

A very different type of lion encounter awaits you at the Ishasha Sector in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

tree lion in uganda

An unusual attraction of the national park are the lions of Ishasha in the southern part of the protected area, which climb trees. The region lies off the main routes and is therefore less frequently visited.

In the case of the tree lions, researchers suspect that on the one hand they enjoy the cool wind in the treetops, on the other hand they want to escape from the tsetse flies and other annoying insects on the ground and, in addition, high up they can get a better overview of their surroundings and potential prey. The food is still eaten on the ground.

Best Travel Time:

  • The dry months from June to August and December to February are considered the best time to visit Uganda
  • Especially for wildlife viewing in all national parks

Best Tour Operators: 

#6 Gir National Park, India 

The Sasan Gir National Park is the only region outside of Africa where wild lions can still be found. In the peripheral areas around the fully protected national park, various groups of the Adivasis (“indigenous people”) also live and work in harmony with nature.

indian lion

The most famous inhabitants of Sasan Gir are without doubt the more than 400 free-ranging lions! 

Unlike tigers, they can be observed very well in a pack when relaxing in the high grass. 

Visitors can explore the park themselves with a rented jeep. However, it is recommended to take a professional nature guide with you. 

Not only for your own safety, but also to increase the chances of seeing wild animals. There are a total of eight different routes through the protected area with a total length of 226 km, which are open for tourism. 

Along the different routes you can stop at observation towers to observe the wilderness all around and enjoy the fantastic panorama.

Best Travel Time:

  • The best time to visit Sasan Gir National Park is between the end of November and the end of January.
  • This is the time when temperatures are at their lowest, the sky is clear and there is little or no rainfall. The chances of spotting a pack of lions or even many of the other park inhabitants are especially good during these months.

Best Tour Operators: 

Blood Lions

South Africa is not only a popular holiday destination for animal and nature lovers. Also many hunters of big game are attracted to the southern tip of the African continent every year.

Especially lions are a popular souvenir. 6,000 to 8,000 lions currently live on about 250 farms in South Africa. 

In the last seven years the number of lions in captivity has doubled. Around 1,000 of the big cats are shot by hunting tourists every year – a lucrative business. 

A recent movie called “Blood Lions” dealt with this cruel industrie. 

Not only the hunting of the breeding lions is to be rejected as deeply unethical from an animal welfare point of view. For the lions on South African breeding farms, the ordeal begins shortly after birth. 

Often just three days after birth, the lion babies are separated from their mothers. Apart from the mental suffering of the animals, this practice has fatal consequences: The lack of breast milk often leads to deficiency symptoms. 

Do you like Big Animals? We collected some ideas on the the Best Places to see Hippos, Elephants, Giraffes or Rhinos.

The young animals suffer from bone deformations, breathing and digestion problems, thyroid problems, calcium deficiency and many other diseases that put a great strain on them as adult animals.

Also the keeping conditions for the young animals are often completely unacceptable: water, food or shade are in many enclosures in short supply. In the worst case, female juveniles are killed shortly after birth because they are less in demand for hunting.

Do you want to see big apes? 
Have a look at the best places to see Orangutans trekking tour to the Mountain Gorillas on our blog.

The male lion cubs are misused as tourist magnets. By hand-raising they are specifically imprinted on humans. Everywhere in South Africa there are offers to stroke baby lions, take pictures or go for a walk with adolescent lions.

For the motherless baby lions this is pure stress: the young animals have an enormous need for rest, the constant contact with people and the bad posture lead to massive behavioural disorders. 

Their physical development is also severely impaired. In addition, people are repeatedly attacked and injured by young lions.

Summary

There are many beautiful places in the world where you can see lions in the wild. Most people only think of the african continent when deciding where to go for lion safari.

India, however has some magnificant sightings of lions in the wild. Just be aware that a Zoo or Park promoting lion pet pictures may be a crucial exploitation practice for these animals.

Do you like Big Cats? Have a look at the best places to see Tigers, Leopards or Lynx.

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