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Why are we so fascinated by lions? What’s the point of them, anyway? And what can a healthy lion population tell us about the wider landscape? Here we explore our deep-rooted love for the king of the beasts, for it is this passion that holds the key to their survival.
Two heads are better than one Princess and Scarface

Not long after leaving Busanga Bush Camp, guide Isaac Kalio slowed the vehicle to a crawl. He’d spotted a powerful lion and lioness to the right of the sun-baked dirt track we’d been bumping along. Another male’s shaggy head popped up to the left. The cats’ manes fluttered in the wind, their coats the exact buffy tan of the dried grass, shimmying on the floodplains. Two Americans on their first trip to Africa gasped with delight and fumbled with a new camera.

What luck to find lions on the first sighting of the first day! As top predators, lions are scarcer than many species. Safari psychology dictates that a rare sighting is especially exciting. Bonus points for danger and cultural cachet, of which lions have plenty. In a study comparing the number of photos per species shared on Flickr, lions, of course, crushed the global competition.

Isaac cut the engine and introduced the lions by the names he’d given them. Maggie and Nervous lay side-by-side while Scarface remained aloof. Maggie got up and circled Nervous, swishing her tail in his face. He followed her, nuzzling and pawing at her flank. They started mating, then, after 15 seconds of drama, sprawled out again, yawning. Lions as a first sighting is lucky. To spend time with lions actually doing something, I thought, “These first-timers don’t know how lucky they are.”

Little did I know, I would soon discover a renewed respect for the world’s favourite animal. With Isaac’s insightful guiding in an environment like Busanga, this nice sighting would unfurl into an epic drama to rival The Lion King.

Busanga Plains occupies the remote northwest corner of Zambia’s sprawling Kafue National Park. Enriched by seasonal floods, the plains draw the park’s highest densities of wildlife and a wealth of birds. Heaving herds of lechwe and puku are easy to appreciate with open views for miles. It’s a similar effect to the famed plains of the Serengeti.

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About Travel Africa

Our love for lions - why are they so captivating? • Reza Pakravan, crossing the Sahel • Lower Zambezi Valley accommodation guide • Planning the ultimate self-drive trip around Namibia • Route 62, in praise of Padstalle • Plus Botswana behind the pics; Family safaris; Tipping; Chimps in Tanzania; Zakouma; Uganda adrenaline and much more!