For those seeking something much deeper in terms of understanding, and who would like to contribute towards the monitoring and ultimately, the survival of the African lion in Kenya, the experience of spending a day with a lion scientist in Africa is the one for you.
The lion (panthera leo) is still widely regarded as the undisputed King of the African bush and invariably, no safari is complete without having seen one! It is the only cat that lives in a social group and is observed as such. The fascination comes when they hunt on a co-operative basis, and the glance between the lionesses that marks the next collaborative move. They are the quintessential African predator – beautiful, regal, and intelligent. The overall numbers have alarmingly declined in Africa – from 100,000 in the early 1990s to around 16,000 today. Sadly, the conflict between local herders and lions continues, although there are a number of conservation and educational projects in place trying to dissuade the local warriors from killing a lion who historically marked their rite of passage when becoming a warrior with the killing of a lion.
The good news, however, is that there are a number of properties in Kenya, such as Campi Ya Kanzi in the Chyulu Hills and Shu’Mata in Tanzania who through great effort and donations have made a difference to the lion populations in their regions through education and monitoring, and the numbers have stabilised – if not, begun to increase.
Many travellers these days are looking for something deeper from a safari than simply ticking a list or taking a photograph. Their thirst for knowledge about these magnificent beasts, their existence, their behaviour, and their future for survival is far more interesting. There are plenty of non-touristy experiences with a lion scientist out there, for example in the Laikipia region in Kenya, where one can have an exhilarating experience obtaining information that one would never normally have access to on a safari – for a donation.
If you plan with sufficient time, you can even try and time it with a collaring exercise. The lions are collared so that the researchers can follow their tracks and determine their movements, collating information which is vital to their survival. Stay at a fabulous owner managed lodge in Laikipia for this very special experience – these lion safaris are one of a kind!
Another place is in Namibia with Dr Stander which one can do for around 5 days. A private, mobile camp is erected as he searches for the desert lion and you share this unique experience with him. This is simply fabulous and transcends a good safari to an extraordinary one, which ties in with the ethos of the safari – extraordinary journeys for extraordinary people…
There are also two very special safaris each year which enable visitors to travel out with author and leopard expert, Graham Cooke, to Zambia. This is a once in a lifetime experience.
Regions where you can see the best lion populations include the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, The Kafue in Zambia, and Ishasha in Uganda.