Best places to see Lions and Tigers

For as long as I have known, I have been an animal lover. Every Mammalia of the wild kingdom fascinates me, cats, dogs, elephants and horses, just to name a few. When I reached my late teens, I realized intrinsically that the Lion is my favourite animal and while I had numerous favourite animals in the past, horses, sharks and elephants being predecessors, I decided that after the Lion, no other animal would succeed him.

There was an exception though; when I reached my early 30s, the Tiger began to fascinate me as much as the Lion and it soon came to me as kind of a revelation that I could not think of one without the other. This convinced me to have the Tiger as a second favourite animal and I think this is symbolic since both big cats are the most familiar of all the members of the cat family. Many of my interests – prehistory, travel, music, movies, literature and television in some way or another have to do with both the Lion and the Tiger. Both these big cats have sent fear into us and inspired us having represented courage, strength, nobility and even romance and they are as popular in the world of man as in the natural world. When I was browsing the Internet for animal books, I discovered a series called ‘Portrait of the Animal World’ which covered different species of animals. The Lion and the Tiger were no exception and even though I know at some stage I am going to own these books, all the same, I read the books and was inspired to want to write about the best places in the world to see them. Even though this is covered in the books, I would like to add my own inspiration which far exceeds what these books mentioned, some of which comes from other animal-related elements and national parks. This story of recommendation also borrows inspiration ‘Insight Guides’ and the YouTube travel channel ‘Expoza’. Lions and Tigers are the celebrities of both the animal world and the human world and even where they have never roamed they have earned a place for themselves in both facts and fiction of literature, film, television and even music.

Before we begin, let me take ye on a simple insight into the two big cats we have grown to love, adore and be inspired by. It is important to remember though that both these big cats are in danger of extinction either due to leisurely hunting or loss of their natural habitat from deforestation and urbanisation. Despite our admiration for these great cats, over the centuries, they have also been hunted or fought over the centuries as well. We need to remember that Lions and Tigers are positive symbols since a sight of them is a reminder of the greatness we see in ourselves, be it nobility, strength, bravery and sometimes even romance and without them, the world would be unimaginable. For those of us who love and cherish these animals, we are doing the best to protect and preserve their lineage as rightful king and lord of the beasts.


(Panthera Leo)
Unique among cats, Lions form close-knit and long-term social groups known as prides which may apply to females more so than males. In female prides, there is an average of 4-6 related Lionesses and their cubs. Females tend to give birth at the same time, mostly away from the pride before returning with the cubs. Lionesses even suckle those cubs in their pride which are not their own. Each pride occupy home ranges and members cooperate to hunt large prey such as zebra, antelope including wildebeest and impala and may hunt larger animals such as buffalo or giraffe. Individuals may also hunt alone for small rodents, hares and reptiles. Adult males live alone or in groups of mostly 2-3 males who may be brothers (from the same pride and can even range up to 4-5 males) or hunting colleagues. A male pride defends a large area against other male prides and holds mating rights above prides within it but this normally lasts up to 3 years. While once widespread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe, today, Lions are restricted mainly to Southern and East Africa with a tiny population of the smaller Asiatic or Indian Lion occurring in the Sasan-Girnar national park in Gujarat, Western India, colloquially referred to as the ‘Gir Forest’.




(Panthera Tigris)

The Tiger is the largest member of the cat family and his orange coat with black markings make him instantly recognizable. His size colour, coat and markings vary according to subspecies. Although 6 subspecies are recognizes, 3 have become extinct since the late 1950s and the remaining 3 are endangered. The geographical distribution of the Tiger once extended throughout Asia but he is now restricted to the forests of Southeast Asia and India as well as a few parts of China and Europe. The Tiger’s habitat varies widely from tropical forests to coniferous woodlands but his basic requirements are dense cover, access to water and large prey. Hunting mainly by night he takes mostly deer and wild pigs but he will also eat smaller animals such as monkeys, birds, reptiles and even fish, readily feeding on carrion at times. Tigers may also take prey as large as elephants, rhinos, wild cattle and bears, perhaps eating up to 40kg (88lb) of meat at a time and return to a large kill for 3-6 days. Tigers are usually solitary but are not necessarily loners. Occasionally a male may be seen resting with a female who he has got together to mate with and cubs or teenage Tigers may travel in groups for sometime after leaving their mother to live on their own. Like all cats except the Lion, the Tiger hunts alone.





Lion highlights
For most people on an African Safari, the Lion is the ultimate highligt. As a result, no visit to Africa is complete without the sight of a Lion. It is erroneously believed that Lions travel great distances and are quite hard to find but this is not exactly the case as they are quite easy to spot, even when one least expects it.


Masai Mara (Kenya)

Situated within the captivating expanse of the Serengeti’s Northern Extension in Tanzania, here lies a mesmerizing region that stands as a testament to the raw beauty of untouched wilderness on a grand scale. This expansive area, a true marvel of nature’s grandeur, is renowned globally as one of the largest untamed landscapes, teeming with an unparalleled diversity of wildlife that roams freely amidst its captivating vistas. Notably, it serves as a haven for numerous prides of majestic Lions, possibly boasting a greater concentration than even the most prolific spots in Kenya. This remarkable phenomenon can be attributed to the region’s unique position as a beneficiary of the annual animal migrations, which bestow upon it a bountiful supply of prey, thereby fostering the flourishing of these magnificent predators.

Encompassing a vast expanse spanning approximately 720 square miles (1,872 square km), the Mara not only treats its fortunate observers to awe-inspiring lion encounters that etch unforgettable memories into their hearts, but also unveils a spectacular parade of other charismatic creatures, including regal elephants, robust buffalo herds, and the fleet-footed cheetahs that grace the landscape with their fleeting presence. The very name of this sanctuary, “Mara,” is a tribute to the Masai tribe, a people whose historical ties to this land were deep-rooted and profound. For generations, they engaged in the practice of hunting Lions as a revered rite of passage, a tradition that now gives way to an imperative emphasis on the conservation of these awe-inspiring felines.

The Masai, in their intimate connection with the land, have evolved their relationship with Lions to one of coexistence and respect, exemplified by their selective hunting of lions solely when they pose a tangible threat to their cattle or fellow humans. This harmonious balance speaks volumes about the harmonious interplay between humans and nature, a rare dance that showcases the unique ability of a community to share space with these majestic creatures without jeopardizing their survival. Amidst this remarkable backdrop, the Marsh Pride stands as a legendary presence within the bounds of the Mara, earning well-deserved recognition as a luminary among the tapestry of Lion prides that call this remarkable expanse home.


Nairobi National Park (Kenya)

Named after the vibrant capital of Kenya, Nairobi, and conveniently situated just a short 20-minute drive from the heart of the bustling city, this park stands as a captivating testament to the coexistence of urban life and untamed wilderness. Within its borders, majestic lion prides roam freely, sharing their domain with a diverse array of creatures such as zebras and wildebeests. The sheer contrast between the sprawling civilization and the untouched natural realm creates a spectacle of awe-inspiring proportions. What adds to the allure of this unique setting is the striking sight of the city’s modern skylines, visible from various vantage points within the park. Against this urban backdrop, an intriguing drama unfolds as lions stealthily stalk their unsuspecting prey, a scene that almost whimsically blurs the boundaries between the untamed wild and the metropolitan cityscape, embodying an astonishing harmony between two worlds that appear so distinct yet are remarkably intertwined.


Meru National Park (Kenya)
This park holds a truly special and remarkable place for those who hold a deep fascination and passion for lions, owing to its profound connection with the world-renowned Lioness Elsa. Elsa’s captivating story unfolds within the confines of this very park, where she was nurtured and guided through her journey from captivity to the untamed wilderness by the dedicated wildlife warden, George Adamson (1906 – 1989), and his equally devoted wife, Joy (1910 – 1980), during the vibrant decade of the 1950s. The narrative of this extraordinary encounter found its lasting expression in Joy’s poignant literary work titled “Born Free,” a poignant testament to the deep bond between human and beast, a bond that later transcended its pages to manifest in a BBC documentary and subsequently in a cinematic masterpiece that found its way into the hearts of countless viewers.

Situated in close proximity to the equatorial line, westward of the imposing presence of Mount Kenya, Meru Park expansively sprawls across an impressive expanse of 320 square miles (832 square km). Within this sweeping canvas of land, a tapestry of diverse terrains unfolds, encompassing everything from lush woodlands that paint the landscape with rich shades of green, to sprawling plains that stretch as far as the eye can see, and meandering riverbanks that breathe life into the surrounding environment. This symphony of geographical diversity creates an ecosystem that is as intricate as it is captivating.

The park itself, while embracing its status as a sanctuary for wild creatures, embodies a contrasting duality within its geographical makeup. The western reaches boast an abundant lushness, with verdant vegetation and a teeming abundance of life, a testament to the generous nourishment provided by the land’s generous rainfall. In stark contrast, the eastern fringes of the park stand as a semi-arid expanse, where life persists with an unyielding tenacity in the face of challenging conditions. It’s this striking juxtaposition that contributes to the park’s enduring allure, preserving its pristine and undisturbed character, a treasure trove of unspoiled wilderness.

For those fortunate enough to venture into this captivating realm, a unique opportunity presents itself – the chance to reside in the very abodes once inhabited by the indomitable Adamsons. The legacy of their dedication and unwavering commitment to the wild and its majestic inhabitants lives on within these walls, offering visitors a chance to connect with history on an intimate level, and to become a part of the ongoing narrative that has been etched into the park’s very soul.



Samburu National Park (Kenya)
Elsa the Lioness was nurtured in yet another captivating location – a reserve nestled within the vast expanse of Kenya’s arid northern region. This particular reserve, renowned for its resident elephants that garner more attention than its regal Lions, boasts a rugged and desiccated terrain devoid of substantial foliage. Paradoxically, this seemingly inhospitable landscape serves as an advantage for keen Lion enthusiasts, as it facilitates optimal lion observation opportunities. The strategic placement of the park’s lodges enables visitors to witness awe-inspiring moments of lions boldly venturing close to obtain the sustenance thoughtfully provided for them. This arrangement not only ensures the Lions’ well-being but also affords visitors an unparalleled chance to intimately observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.


Nakuru National Park (Kenya)

This national park, named after the nearby lake, is renowned for its role as a haven for Africa’s rhinos – the square-lipped or white rhinoceros and the hook-lipped or black rhinoceros. Lions also thrive in this park and are remarkably simple to spot due to their preference for staying near water sources; occasionally, an entire pride can be observed. Alongside the Lion, the elusive leopard is another significant feline species in the area, although proves to be more challenging to catch sight of compared to the Lion.


Amboseli (Kenya)
In this national park, which can be considered a paradise for elephants, the fame of the Lions takes a back seat to the immense popularity of the park’s biggest land inhabitants. Sometimes, the elephants and Lions might engage in disputes, with the elephants usually emerging as the winners. Both Lions and elephants share a mutual apprehension of each other. Although Lions seldom show any desire to confront elephants, except in infrequent instances, elephants prefer not to have any Lions around. For an elephant, the best kind of Lion in their vicinity is one that’s absent—either by running away or not being there at all, either through escape or by not existing.



Kruger National Park (South Africa)
Nowhere have Lions been studied and followed as extensively as in this premier national park in Southern Africa, named after South African President Paul Kruger (1825 – 1904). This park, the country’s first, holds a unique significance. Lions are easily spotted here, and despite spending about half their time resting, they still display moments of activity, particularly during hunts, which captivate tourists, both local and foreign. Nearby Timbavati holds a special cultural place for Lions among the Shangaan Tribe, connected to the Zulu and the revered White Lions with their snow-white fur, a color mutation of Kruger’s Lions. These White Lions, considered messengers of the Gods, even venture into Kruger at times. The popularity of these majestic creatures has reached the realm of manga, anime, and through conservationist Kevin Richardson, advocating for various big cat species, mostly the Lion.




Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa)
It is said that here are the largest Lions in Africa and not just in terms of size but also in term of personality, the Lions in this part of South Africa have grown accustomed to the dry environment of this most recognizable part of Southern Africa. They can go for days without water and are still efficient hunters of animals such as the oryx or gemsbok which ironically give the park its name since the water sustained by these animals passes onto the Lions once they have consumed them.


Etosha National Park (Namibia)
Larger than the American state of New Jersey, this national park located in the North of Namibia has nearly 500 Lions who are at home in the landscape here which is versatile in providing an environment of both desert and grassland. It is surprisingly easy to see large Prides here even if they are doing what they seem to like best, sleeping. Another great attribute is that newborn cubs may be somewhat easy to spot as well, given that in most circumstances it is a terrible risk to try to see newborn Lions elsewhere in Southern Africa.



Tiger Highlights
If the Lion is the star of Africa, the Tiger is the star of India and Asia. The Tiger is perhaps viewed in the same way as the Lion when one takes a safari into the above. Because of their reckless persecution by man in retaliation for human attacks or livestock killings as well as for their valuable body parts, Tiger sightings are somewhat hard although that does not mean they are not possible and people continually persist positively in wanting to see the Lord of the Jungle, perhaps a sign that saving Tigers can be achieved




Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh)
The national park in Madhya Pradesh’s Seone Region, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, features the Tiger as both villain and attraction. Visitors are drawn to the reserve by the Tigers and other characters from Kipling’s tales, like the sloth bear, Indian wolf, jackal, leopard, and Indian bison. The Indian wild dog, the true antagonist in Kipling’s stories, also resides here. Notably absent is the elephant; the only way to spot one is by riding into the park – a traditional method to see Tigers in India. With rich forests and valleys, the area has been a sanctuary since the 1930s, becoming part of Project Tiger. To reduce human-Tiger conflicts, a successful relocation program moved many villages out of the park. Kanha is now considered the premier Indian national park.


Tadoba National Park (Maharashtra)
This is another national park that served as inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and amazingly, Tigers are quite easy to see, often playing or lying in water to keep cool when not hunting. Many of these big cats like in a few other reserves in India have also been given names and extensively tracked and studied



Manas National Park (Assam)
More known as the home of the Indian rhinoceros, there are about 118 Tigers here, most of which can be seen relaxing in lush swamps and sometimes hunting their primary diet, deer. It is more common to see the kills of Tigers rather the Tigers themselves and they are somewhat extreme opportunists targeting prey not just as large as buffalo but will also attempt to take on elephants and even rhinos.




Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (Sumatra)
Apart from the Tiger, two other endangered animals present here are the Malayan Tapir and the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the latter of which in recent years however has not been sighted. Both the rhinoceros and the tapir along with the Sumatran elephant and the sun bear however are the only animals that seem to rival the Tiger. Siamangs are common here in treetops and lesser mousedeer are prey for Tigers.




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