For the Love of Lions
Asking me about my favourite place to see lions is like asking me to choose a favourite child. From the wide-open plains of the Masai Mara to the waterways of the Okavango Delta, there are some incredible safari camps and lodges who make it their mission to get you in amongst the most spectacular wildlife in the world, and to me that means lions.
Here goes, in no particular order:
Bateleur Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Here in the Kichwa Tembo private concession there is an astounding year-round concentration of animals. Furthermore, the Great Wildebeest Migration, which passes this way every year, is a real draw card for predators – cue the ultimate predator, the lion. Enjoy thrilling game drives, bush walks, hot air ballooning and meet the local Maasai community. Stay in luxury ‘tents’ – think hardwood floors, polished silver and copper bathtubs. Did I mention you get a butler?
Serian’s Serengeti North Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
This camp is also positioned perfectly for the Great Migration – in fact it moves to be in the best possible viewing position each season. Here, you can venture out on a walking safari with a guide and ranger. There is simply nothing more exhilarating than spotting lion on foot. Under expert guidance you keep your distance, stay downwind and quietly (if not calmly) observe these magnificent big cats in their natural environment, undisturbed by vehicle noise or commotion. A truly exhilarating and memorable moment.
Duba Plains Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta is something else. These seasonally flooded plains are home to prolific wildlife, a veritable Garden of Eden with all the Big Five, but also rarer (and more elusive) Kalahari species such as aardwolf and pangolin. With just five tented rooms, Duba Plains Camp is an exclusive and extraordinary place, chosen by National Geographic filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert as their home base. You can bet the lion sightings here are great, especially getting out on a traditional mekoro (dugout canoe) for a completely different perspective.
Savute Safari Lodge, Savuti Region, Chobe National Park, Botswana
Savute is famed for its large prides of lion, which have been known to take down elephants who are their main competitors for the scarce and precious water resources of the area. Savute Safari Lodge, being a solid structure, adds great variety to an otherwise ‘tented’ safari itinerary, and I love the large viewing deck allowing you to watch, G&T in hand, as elephants and other wildlife come to drink at the waterhole right in front of the lodge.
Tengile River Lodge, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Of course, we couldn’t talk about lions without going to South Africa! For true ‘wow’ factor alone, I’d go to andBeyond’s new Tengile River Lodge. Right on the banks of the Sand River, and in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve which shares an unfenced border with world-renowned Kruger National Park. Lions galore, plus my close-second favourite cat, the leopard. Here you can explore on foot, go on a night drive, or go off-road, enabling you to get closer to wildlife. Another spectacular deck with views over the riverbed, this is luxury plus exceptional wildlife plus plus… I could go on!
Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
I’ve had a soft spot for Zimbabwe since days of old. It is now (pandemic aside) re-emerging as a highly desirable safari destination. From dense teak and acacia forest to vast open savannah, the diverse Hwange landscape has inspired Somalisa Camp to lead the way in eco-friendly safari accommodation. Combine excellent year-round lion and other wildlife viewing with a visit to Victoria Falls, a quick 45-minute flight away.
Tena Tena, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Getting close to being my ‘favourite child’, South Luangwa National Park is possibly the finest wildlife sanctuary in Africa, and the great Luangwa River is where the hippos wallow and the lions roam. Owned and operated by Robin Pope Safaris, Tena Tena is a small luxury camp famed for its walking safaris, led by passionate guides and an armed National Park scout. True luxury in a remote wilderness.
Wherever you go to witness lions in the wild, you won’t be disappointed. Hearing that low baritone roaring in the night as they communicate to each other, witnessing them hunting prey and spotting them the next day, bellies full in the shade, is one of life’s true delights. Be warned though, you will, like me, get hooked and want to return to your favourite places again and again.
Some great ‘lion spotting’ itineraries:
– Zambian Walking Safari, an 8 or 10 day small group itinerary including a stay at Tena Tena
– The Zambezi Experience, a 10 day journey to Victoria Falls, Mana Pools, Lake Kariba and Hwange National Park (including Somalisa Camp)
– The Great Migration, a 9 day safari in the Masai Mara and Serengeti, including a night in a treehouse!
– andBeyond Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, with Big Five wildlife galore!