Tanzania safari holidays: Serengeti lions, Tanzania

Guide to Big Cat Safaris: Lions

When most people think of lions they think of Africa, but you might be surprised to learn that you can find lions in India.

Serengeti lions, Tanzania

© AGMarks

Lions: The King of Cats

A big male lion sits proudly in the midst of Africa’s savannah grasslands. He looks around at his domain, his resplendent mane the envy of younger lions, and his roar carries for around 6 miles, telling both males and females of his presence. Unless he is ill or comes across a stronger lion, there is very little which will worry this magnificent beast. He’s the top of the pile. He’s the king.

And yet, he is vulnerable. The lion population is decreasing year on year. In Africa, it is thought there are now between 20-30,000 individuals. These hugely social and affectionate cats are usually attentive parents (or at least the mothers are!) and iconic mammals of the African plains. Seeing a lion is one of the main hopes of people going on safari, and for good reason – they could kill us in a heartbeat yet they fill us with awe because of their beauty, grace, playfulness and gentleness.

When most people think of lions they think of Africa, but you might be surprised to learn that you can find lions in India. They are here, but the only place to see Asiatic lions is in Gir National Park in the western state of Gujarat. There are said to be around 400-500 lions here.

Just after sunrise, in the morning mist, I saw 3 young lion cubs spring out of the dew-soaked grass onto a track, followed by their mother. Our guide thought they were no more than 10-12 weeks old and that we were the first humans they had seen. A thrilling, never-to-be-forgotten sight.

Christine MacDougall - Travel Consultant

Born and bred in Africa, Chris travels to explore and drink in nature in the wild. Chris is diligent, caring and a bit bonkers.

Call:  01473 890499


Lion swimming in Okavango Delta, Botswana © DStrickland,Shutterstock

The best time to see lions

AFRICA: You can see African lions all year round. They are slightly less willing to show themselves if it’s very rainy, but otherwise in most large African reserves you stand a good chance of seeing a lion no matter the season of time of day.

INDIA: The best time to see the lions of Gir National Park is roughly November to March. April and May are excellent for wildlife viewing, but just too hot for most visitors. The park closes from mid-June to mid-October.

Planning a safari to see lions

AFRICA: Below, you will find just a few of our favourites places where you can see lions. This is not a definitive list by any means. Ideally, talk to us about what kind of a trip you want and we can work with you to give you the best possible safari for your needs and wishes.

INDIA: Gir National Park is not really on the way to anywhere, so it takes effort to come here. The nearest airport is about 70kms away but you might want to plan a road trip in the area to take in this special park. We’re always happy to plan such an itinerary.

The experience of seeing lions in the wild

As with all wildlife experiences, seeing a lion can be very different each time you see one. They might be in ‘lazy cat’ mode just lying around, perhaps having just eaten or ensuring they get their 15-20 hours of daily shut-eye. However, you might come across them with a young family where the cubs are in playful mode and it’s a total delight to watch their antics. Or you could even be witness to them stalking or catching prey.
Whatever mood you find them in, you’ll possibly be surprised how close you can get without disturbing them. Don’t worry, just keep your arms inside the vehicle, don’t break the line of an open vehicle by standing up, and keep the noise right down (even if others do not). Your guide should know how not to bother them, and how long you can stay with them. We strongly recommend not staying around if the animal is looking stressed, perhaps by too many vehicles. Enjoy chilling with these kings and queens of the wild.

Wildlife viewings were off the scale! We saw 79 lions! And loads of other species - way beyond our expectations. Absolutely loved going to sleep with the sound of lions roaring a few feet away. So exciting.

Lion conservation

Sadly, humans still hunt lions. Many are killed each day, either as trophies or body parts. Some of this is because of traditional beliefs of local communities and some is down to worldwide criminal syndicates.
Lions are also attacked and killed due to fear when they get too close to human populations. Human-wildlife conflict is on the rise as wild lands shrink.
There are many charities working to try to mitigate these issues, for example Ruaha Conservation Project in Tanzania, so if you’re keen to help the plight of lions, do get in touch as they willingly accept donations.

We were sitting 10 yards from pair of lions roaring a challenge across the plain to an incoming lioness.

Wild dogs seen on Robin Pope Safaris' Carnivore Week in South Luangwa, Zambia
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Carnivore Week in South Luangwa

8 days from £3,960pp plus international flights.

A rare chance to accompany members of the Zambian Carnivore Programme as they track lions, hyenas and wild dogs in the Luangwa Valley, interspersed with safari activities.

    • Spend time with the Zambian Carnivore Programme
    • Watch animal tracking and identification
    • Enjoy game drives and guided walks
    • See elephants from your private deck
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Lioness and cubs
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11 days from £2,940pp plus international flights.

Enjoy the vast plains and wildlife of the Masai Mara. This is big cat country. End your holiday relaxing on a beach on Zanzibar.

      • Game drives in Kenya's Masai Mara
      • A must for cat lovers
      • Stay at Governor's Camp of Big Cat Diary fame
      • See the wildebeest migration (July to Oct)
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      • Go snorkelling, diving and kayaking
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Chimp baby and mum in Mahale, Tanzania
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Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale

11 days from £12,560pp plus international flights.

Get right off the beaten track with this safari to some of Tanzania's most remote and spectacular locations

    • See more remote parts of Tanzania
    • Have the magical experience of meeting chimps in Mahale
    • Stunning wildlife and scenery of Ruaha
    • Game drives with experienced professional guides
    • Watch elephants and buffalo from your camp in Katavi
    • Stay in small camps with friendly welcoming staff
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