Where do Lions Live?

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Where do lions live: shutterstock_221311156 lioness

We know lions live in Africa, but WHERE in Africa do lions live?
Is one country better than another, for lion-spotting?
Is there a good time of year to see lions?
Do I need any special gear to see a lion?

Did you know

Where do lions live?

The good news is that there are lions in every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and many more places besides.

There are lions in Botswana and South Africa; there are lions in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia; there are tons of lions in Eastern Africa: in Kenya and Tanzania; there are now lions again in Rwanda, and in Mozambique; there are lions in Uganda and Ethiopia.

And there are lions further afield than the ‘traditional’ safari destinations: Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, to name a few in other parts of Africa. Lions are even found in India. Which shouldn’t be surprising as these great cats roamed throughout Asia as well as Europe.

But some places are better than others when it comes to the lion-viewing experience. Have a look at our guide below to some of the top spots, when to go and how to see them.

Our top 4 spots to see lions

1. Lions in Kenya & Tanzania

Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara together are in fact one massive wildlife reserve, and it’s here you’ll find an estimated 3,500 lions.

You see, lions aren’t silly: it’s here that 2.5m wildebeest and zebra migrate annually. And that’s food-to-go for our predators.

This is also our number one spot because in Tanzania, not only can you see ‘normal’ lions, but this is one of only 2 places to spot tree-climbing lions too!

2. Lions in Zambia

The thing about lions is that they like being free to roam, free to patrol their territory. This happens best where there aren’t many people and it’s calm and peaceful. This is why Zambia is one of the best places to see lions.

Waking up to the rumble of lions is one of the most awesome experiences there is, and you can enjoy it every night if you’re lucky in Zambia. Head to the remote South Luangwa, or Northern Kafue to the Busanga Plains where you might even spot that elusive tree-climbing lion.

3. Lions in Botswana

Botswana, like Zambia is blissfully remote and untouched, and lions love this. Currently around 3000 lions contentedly live out their days in Botswana’s desert and delta.

For some excellent up-close lion encounters, head out on foot on one of the islands in the Delta. Watching lion cubs tumble about over their mum, or a pride eating its lunch, with nothing separating you but a patch of grass, is an experience not to miss.

4. Lions in South Africa

Although South Africa is not as remote nor wild as our other top spots, it shouldn’t be overlooked with its estimated 3200 lions. South Africa does very well at looking after its wildlife and so its wildlife likes to hang around.

Kruger has a great lion population, and we recommend heading to the north – to Sabi Sand or Timbavati – for some great predator-action. In these private reserves you can go off-road and keep up with the pride, wherever it may wander.

Best time of year to see a lion?

There is no bad time for lion-viewing! Lions are territorial; this means that, unlike migrating animals, lions stick around no matter what the weather is doing. So whether you head out in the dry season or the rainy, the lions are going to be there.

Having said that, you can generally maximise your chances of seeing the predators if you go on safari during the dry season. This is because the lions won’t have dense bush in which to hide, and you’ll spot them when they come to the waterhole for a drink.

Click on any of the following to find out the best time for general wildlife viewing in the following countries:
Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia.

How to see a lion

1. Choose a great guide

We’ll work with you to help choose the best spot and the best accommodation with the best guides for your lion-focused safari.
We strongly advise that whilst you can save money on other bits of your trip, spend as much as you can on the wildlife-viewing. A great guide, and a great location, will make all the difference to finding, and hanging out with, a lion.

2. Get your kit on

Whilst you don’t need anything too specialised, you’ll want to wear natural colours so not to put the cats off their lunch. You’ll also want some great photo equipment and binoculars ideally. Download our guide which includes a comprehensive packing and equipment list.
Note: remember to put down the camera sometimes!

3. Get up early

Once in your lodge, as luxurious as it will be, try not to give in to the temptation to lie in bed in the morning. Lions are up early and so that’s the time to see them, when they’re active. Once the sun is truly up, they’ll laze about and do nothing – and that’s your cue to head back to the lodge to do the same.
The late afternoon, when it’s cooler, is another good time to head out to look for lions.

3. Keep quiet and enjoy

When you’re finally face-to-face with these majestic predators, it’s time to do absolutely nothing. No movements – especially sudden, and you can sit watching their lives play out in the savannah.
And if you’re especially lucky, and you have a great guide and you’re in a private reserve where you can go off-road, you can join the pride on a hunt.


Want to see lions?

Contact us today to find out more about pricing, schedules, availability and all that jazz!


Top Lion Facts

  • Connector.

    Lions sleep - a lot!

    Up to 21 hours every day, in fact

  • Connector.

    Lions are the only cats with a tasseled tail

    They use it for communication of course

  • Connector.

    Lions like to cuddle

    Although we don’t understand fully what’s going on, there’s certainly some good old-fashioned social bonding afoot

  • Connector.

    Lions are great swimmers

    Unlike the cats we know..

About the Author
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Rose co-founded the Good Safari Guide and the Safari Awards in 2007, key independent media organisations which have been informing the trade reliably since their inception. Today, Rose lives in London with her son, Barnaby, from where she heads up the Abambo team. Rose’s passion is to share knowledge and hatch plans with travel-savvy people who love nature. Contact Rose at rosanne@abambotravel.com