African Safari Wildlife

Cheetah, Kruger National Park

Cheetah in Kruger National Park

The range of African safari lands provides a vast and varied playground for all kinds of wonderful wildlife adventures. From the vast distances of the great Serengeti to the waterways of the Okavango Delta, from the wilds of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia to the hidden, wild walking paths of the Luangwa Valley… there is an overwhelming range of wildlife encounters out there, more than enough for a lifetime.

While many safari visitors are keen on seeing the “Big Five” – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino – there is a lot more out there if you know where to look.

Carnivores. The meat-eating mammals are the kings of the bush
Cheetahs are the fastest hunters in Africa, but you are quite lucky if you can see them very close because they tend to be hidden in the high grass. You don’t see them in the dense thickets of South Africa whereas the savanna in Kenya and Tanzania allows better viewing. Cheetahs usually travel alone or in small groups consisting of mother and offspring.
Leopards are famously elusive hunters that stalk their prey at night. For most visitors the only chance of spotting one is on night drives, and Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park (which allows night driving) is claimed by some to have the highest density of leopards in all Africa.
Lions are common in the wider part of Africa and can be best seen in Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Serengeti and to a lesser extent in South Africa, nevertheless you have to be lucky to see them very close. Lions hunt early in the morning or in the night and during the day they allow themselves to be lazy. To see them in action you have to get up before the crack of dawn or you see them only resting after a big dinner.
Spotted hyena has a bad reputation for no good reason. They are good at hunting and are not dependent on the leftovers from lions. They live in packs of 3-4 animals and can form larger groups as well. The leader of the pack is a female and they hunt often during the night but can be spotted during the daytime as well. They tend to explore bins in national parks.
Wild dogs live in packs of 10-15 members. Wild dog sightings are always a big event so watch out for them because they are considered to be the rarest predator in Africa. Wild dogs are mainly active during the day and they hunt in the early hours or late afternoon.

Bontebok, Bontebok National Park

A Bontebok in the Bontebok National Park

Antelopes are among the most common animals seen on safari, but there are numerous species that, to the untrained eye, can be difficult to distinguish
Bonteboks are mainly found in the Western Cape of South Africa. They have white, light and dark brownish markings and are easily recognised. They live in herds. However males leave the heard with a certain age and form small groups of themselves.
Impalas live in big herds and newborn lambs join the herd after 1-2 days. They are an excellent sprinter and can outrun many predators. The impala can be distinguished from other antelopes by its distinctive backside, marked with white and black stripes that resemble the McDonalds logo.
Kudu is a big antelope and is very common in the Kruger National Park. Calves are born outside of the herd and are kept in a secret location for 1-2 weeks before they join the herd. They are loved in the national park but farmers hate them because a 2 meter high fence does not stop them from entering farm premises and eating the crops.
Puku are uncommon outside Zambia, but very common there. Usually found in small herds of about half a dozen, puku have large lyre-shaped horns, reddish-brown fur and lack the backside markings of impala and waterbucks.
Springbok are often mistaken for Impalas, because they look like a small Impala. However their colour is different and they prefer living in the wide open fields of the arid regions. They are very difficult to spot, especially in high gras.
Waterbucks are medium-size antelopes with grey-brown fur and distinctive backside markings. There are two types: one has white ring often likened to sitting on a just-painted toilet seat, while the other has a solid white circle.

Other mammals
Elephants are the biggest land mammals in the world. A male can weigh up to 6000 kg and a female up to 3500 kg. They live in large family groups led by the most experienced female and can be often seen around rivers when they have a bath and a good sip of water. They must drink up to 160 litres of water and eat several hundred kilograms of plants per day to survive. Elephats are active at both day and night time. They are peaceful creatures and only become aggressive when they are wounded or when they want to protect their babies.
Elephants are among the most common sightings in the Kruger National Park and you will be able to see them very close up. Amboseli in Kenya is famous for the biggest tusker in the world. For some it may be too close — it is definitely not for a faint hearted visitor.
Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth. Males reach a height of up to 5.2 metres and females 4.7 metres. They live in loose family groups and newborn calves join the group after one week. Giraffes have a maximum mass of 1400 kg. To maintain such an enormous size as herbivores giraffes eat for up to 20 hours a day and rest only during the hottest hours of the day.
In addition to the common giraffe, a subspecies known as Thornicraft’s giraffe, with white legs and faces, inhabits Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.

Hippos, South Luangwa, Zambia

Adult and juvenile hippo, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

Hippopotami tolerate direct sunlight poorly, so during the day they are often spotted lurking in the river, little more than their nostrils visible. They come out to graze during the night. Hippos are said to account for more deaths than any other African animal: keep well clear of these unpredictable beasts, and ensure that they have a clear path to retreat to water.
Rhinoceros are the rarest of all large mammals in Africa. There are two sub-species, the white rhino and the black rhino. Hunted to near-extinction in the 1970s and 1980s, herds have been reintroduced into select parks around the continent and are now slowing growing again.

Zebras are common in national parks throughout Africa and easily recognized due to their striking white and black stripes. Burchell’s zebra is the more common subspecies, with gray “shadow” stripes, while the rarer Crawshay’s zebra (found in Zambia’s South Luangwa) lack these. The mountain zebra, a separate endangered species, is found in the dry and hilly regions of southern Africa, notably the Mountain Zebra National Park.
Some national parks in Kenya and Tanzania support groups of thousands of zebras.

Other animals you may see here are: crocodiles, ostriches, fish eagles, blue wildebeests, buffalos, chacma baboons, dwarf mongoose, vervet monkeys, warthogs.

Lending to specific conditions such as relative infrastructure or inherent geography countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, South Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe advertise locally specialised safari experiences ranging from guided safaris, mobile safaris, walking safaris and fly-in safaris to more niche concepts including elephant back safaris, river safaris, primate safaris, horseback safaris, balloon safaris photographic safaris, mobile tented safaris, and accessible safaris for those with disabilities.

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