"No-one can return from the Serengeti unchanged, for tawny lions will forever prowl our memory and great herds throng our imagination." - George Schaller
Waking up just in time to watch the sun rise over the horizon of the East Africa rolling plains, lighten up with a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea with light snacks before you set off for your pre-dawn game drive. Your experienced driver guide is an expert at spotting Big Cats as its more of an art form. Lions tend to hunt in the early mornings or in the evenings, and lay lazily resting for most of the day in their territories. However, being opportunists, they will hunt whenever they the chance arises and that could mostly happen where the wildebeests or other amassed herds are grazing. Up close encounters with lions are the highlight for action-packed game viewing drives – safari-goers get so close to lions they can feel their remarkable power.
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem encompasses a wide range of habitats in the vast 25,000Km2 wilderness area, which is why it is home to Africa’s highest variety and concentration of wildlife. The Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve are the ultimate destinations of choice for travellers interested in the best sightings of prides of lion and the majestic black-manned lions. Predator and prey interactions are quite common during day time, especially during the dry month of July to October when wildlife converge to water points to quench or cool off from the heat of the day.
Ngorongoro Crater has a healthy population of lions on the crater floor where there is an abundance of plains herds grazing on the open grassland areas. Wildebeests, and antelopes are the most common prey on the crater floor’s succulent grass plains and lions make sure that only the fittest survive. Our team of driver guides are highly experienced and knowledgeable and they share an in-depth look into the lives of the big cats of the different safari attractions while on game viewing drives.
While lions are not natural tree dwellers, the Lake Manyara National Park is renowned for its tree climbing lions. Prides within the area have been known to spend much of their time in the tree tops and on lower branches of larger trees from where they catch up on their rest and get better views for potential prey. While climbing trees is an unusual behaviour for most lion prides, it seems common and a repeated behaviour among the Manyara prides. Also, there is a measure of behavioural learning that happens, in that young lions see older lions climb trees and copy the behaviour so the habit remains in that pride.
Ruaha National Park is another great attraction that safari-goers head to for specifically rewarding big-cat sightings. Ruaha hosts an incredible 10% of the world’s lion population and provides good chances of witnessing lions stalking their prey – a stirring and primal moment that shows how tactful it takes for the lions to make the best of their every opportunity at hunting prey. Special moments such as these are a reminder of why it is so important to keep these pristine wilderness areas intact for future generations and well-balanced ecosystems.
Given that lions are more common to spot, and curious in nature, the iconic African backdrop of blue sky and rolling savannah grasslands provides the best setting for photographing them which is a fun and rewarding experience. The density of lions in the Serengeti and Masai Mara are extremely high and prides are usually large – it is not unusual to see numbers of 15 or more together. Other key predators living in the safari destinations include: leopard, cheetah, hyena, black-backed jackal and the elusive African wild dogs.
Some of the best tented camps to stay at for incredible lions and other predator sightings are: