As the world prepares for Disney’s highly-anticipated, live-action remake of The Lion King, I can’t help but reflect on Africa’s most iconic species. The king of the jungle’s reign comes under greater threat with each passing year, yet this sad fact remains relatively overlooked. Just several decades ago, 450,000 lion ruled Africa’s savannahs; now the number has dwindled to 20,000.
Thankfully, vital conservation work on private reserves has greatly improved the protection of the lion. By choosing to take a safari at a camp on these conservancies, often in blissful privacy and comfort, you are contributing to the ongoing survival of these majestic cats and many other endangered animals.
Great Plains Conservation owns a number of camps on private reserves across Africa and has founded a project specifically aimed at lion conservation. Land for Lions, along with its annual cycling safari component, Ride for Lions, is a programme that raises funds to save these felines. It has seen lion re-establishment in Zimbabwe, an expanded lion corridor in Kenya, and the prevention of human-wildlife conflict in Botswana. I have stayed in all three of these countries and can highly recommend the sumptuous Great Plains camps, such as Mpala Jena, Mara Plains and Zarafa.
Other destinations where you are likely to see Africa’s largest cat are Tanzania’s vast Serengeti and remote Ruaha National Park. The former is a thrilling location for watching lion, leopard and cheetah hunt among the millions of wildebeest undertaking the Great Migration. Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park, with diverse landscapes comprised of wetlands, river networks and mountains, creating a haven not only for cats, but also huge elephant herds and myriad plains game. In southern Africa, are the black-maned lion of the Kalahari, the stunning white lion of South Africa, and the desert-adapted lion living in Namibia’s arid dunescapes.
Whether it’s inspired by countless hours re-watching the Disney classic with children or by a life-long love of cats, a trip to see Simba and Nala roaming freely on vast expanses of protected land deserves a place on every bucket list.
Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.