Up close with a pride of lions in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

I shielded my eyes from the dust kicked up by a passing safari vehicle as we drove along the rough dirt track. As the dust quickly cleared I stared out of my window at the huge expanse of the Serengeti Plain. The mix of golds, browns and greens of the grass contrasted beautifully against the clear blue sky, and although this was my third day in the national park, I still could not get over how truly vast this place was. There was very little besides the odd tree or rock to break up the huge expanse of the grasslands.

Grasslands of the Serengeti Plain, Tanzania

The typical scenery of the vast Serengeti Plain

We were now on our final game drive in Serengeti National Park as we made our way back towards Ngorongoro Conservation Area, however the huge size of the park meant that we would get a nice long game drive in before even making it to the border, as our camp had been located in the middle of the park.

So far this morning we had seen very little apart from the usual zebra, gazelle and wildebeest herds, and as we drove further away from the center of the park, even these became far less common.

I had constantly kept my eyes focused for any movement in the grass as we drove along, but it seemed more and more likely that I wasn’t going to spot any more wildlife. Then, after what seemed like hours of nothingness, I was stirred from my sleepy daze by our guide shouting “There! Two lions on the rock!“. All of a sudden we were all alert and scrambling up to try and spot the lions.

A lioness lazing on a rock in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A lioness lazing on a rock

Two lionesses lazed under the shade of a tree on a huge granite outcrop ahead, and we crept in for a closer look, driving along next to the outcrop to find the best viewing angle. We were so busy admiring and snapping photos of these beautiful cats that no one even noticed what was up ahead. Again we were alerted by our guide. “Oh there is a male lion up here!

Past the granite outcrop there was a nice sized waterhole, and lazing in the sun right next to it was the huge male lion of the pride, and we were able to get right up close to him. This was simply a beautiful sight, his golden orange mane waving in the soft breeze as he looked on over to his lionesses, not caring at all about our presence. As I clicked away on my camera he seemed to be almost modeling for me, changing positions and giving his best pose for the camera.

A male lion lazing in the sun in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The male lion relaxing by the waterhole

A male lion by a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

He turns his head for another pose

Up close with a male lion in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

He changes position for a close up shot

A male lion getting sleepy in the sun in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

It’s tiring being this awesome and eyelids do get heavy

Once again, the excitement of spotting the male lion had taken our attention completely away from our surroundings, and further along the lake was some more of the pride and the true highlight of the day. Two lionesses with four baby lion cubs.

Slowly, we drove along the shoreline of the waterhole for a closer look. The four cubs were relaxing next to a lioness which I presume is their mother as she had a tracking collar on her neck. Another lioness casually walked along the edge of the lake to join them, one of the cute little cubs running up to greet her. Together they laid down to rest in the hot sun while the cubs played next to the water and got up to mischief, the patient lionesses watching on. This truly was a special moment.

Lion cubs with their mother at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The four cubs with their mother

A lion cub at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

One of the lion cubs looks at as as we approach

A lioness at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The other lioness walks along the edge of the waterhole

A lion cub playing with a lioness at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

One of the cubs comes over to greet her

Lioness joining the rest of the pride in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The lioness joins the rest of the group by the waterhole

A cub having a cuddle with it's mother in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

One of the cubs having a cuddle with mum

Lion cub and it's patient mother in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A very patient mother with her cub

Lion cubs playing with the water at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The cubs start playing in the water and mud

Lion cubs drinking water in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Apparently this is the best spot for a drink

After “oohing and ahhing” over the cute little cubs for some time, it was time to start moving on. As we circled back around we could see two more lionesses in the distance, and the male lion had moved up on top of the granite outcrop where he could properly watch out over his pride.

A male lion on top of a granite outcrop in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The male lion looks out over the Serengeti

As we drove away from this special place, I felt so lucky to have been able to see these beautiful animals so up close in the wild. They really touched my heart, and this is one of those special moments that I will never forget. Serengeti, Tanzania, is one amazing place.


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24 comments… add one
  • Mark Wiens Dec 13, 2012

    Great shots Dean! It really is a magical feeling to see such amazing animals in their natural habitat. I saw a similar pride in the Selous (southern Tanzania), and we were in an open air truck, and I was scared out of my mind, but the lions were just lazying about!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..How to Eat Scary Insects, Worms, and Bugs in ThailandMy Profile

  • Cheryl Dec 13, 2012

    Wow, amazing shots. Lions are really such extraordinary creatures … love that lost shot especially, it’s very Lion Kingish. 🙂
    Cheryl recently posted..Weird and Offbeat Sites: The Invisible Exhibition In Budapest.My Profile

    • Dean Wickham Dec 15, 2012

      Thanks Cheryl! I had no idea that we would be able to get so close to the lions. It was quite an experience and they are extraordinary creatures. He had “King” written all over him 😉

  • So amazing. I would love to go on a safari one day … and to see lion cubs up close and in the wild, what an experience!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..Swimming with sharks at Hol Chan Marine Reserve in BelizeMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Dec 15, 2012

      Hi Ellen. It certainly was an amazing experience and you should definitely go if you get the chance. Cheers!

  • Buck Dec 14, 2012

    These are amazing pictures… I’d never be able to be as bold as you. Can I ask what camera you’re using?

    • Dean Wickham Dec 15, 2012

      Thanks Buck. In the confines of the safari vehicle I felt quite safe. At the time I was using my Canon 1000D with a 300mm lens. I have just recently upgraded to a 60d. Cheers

  • Christy Dec 15, 2012

    That is amazing! This is one of my ultimate dreams. Great photos too!
    Christy recently posted..Fall Colors in San Diego?My Profile

    • Dean Wickham Dec 15, 2012

      Thank you, Christy. It was a dream come true and I hope that it comes true for you too 🙂

  • What an incredible experience! Awesome photos!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Living like a local in NYC… the good and the badMy Profile

  • Steph Dec 16, 2012

    I loved the photos of the lion cubs with their mum, how cute!!
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  • Rob Dec 17, 2012

    What a wonderful set of pictures.

    When I was in Tanzania, I was in Selous and loved it. We didn’t see a Pride of Lions so it makes encounters like this all the more special as you never know if you’ll see them or not.

    • Dean Wickham Dec 21, 2012

      Thanks Rob. Yes I was very lucky to come across a whole pride of lions like this. It’s not something that I expected. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

  • Agness Dec 18, 2012

    I absolutely agree with Stephanie and Mark – great photos and experience. Just wondering how good your camera was or how close you walked towards the male lion to take such a great photo! By the way, Serengeti National Park is on my bucket list!

    • Dean Wickham Dec 21, 2012

      Hi Agness. I was using a 300mm lens to take these photos but we were quite close to the lions as we were in the safety of the safari vehicle. No way that you could walk up that close to a lion like that. It would be far too dangerous. Cheers!

  • Vinnie Jan 9, 2013

    Loved the photographs, fascinating to see the King lording over in this natural habitat. Cubs and their mother looked so cute together, I forgot for a moment that they are aggressive and dangerous beings. I have found this interesting difference in the habitat of Lions in African and India. In Africa they are mostly found amidst tall grass and while in India they are mostly found in dense forests. This amazing diversity of cat family is spell bounding, they are found every where, forests, grasslands, deserts and snow.

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