Top 5 Africa Safari Animals And where You Can Find Them During Your African Safari Tours.
If you love wildlife or animals, going on a safari in Africa will be a dream come true. You’ve probably watched nature documentaries and the Lion King and wondered what it might be like to go to Africa and see these amazing creatures for yourself. Maybe you’re wondering what African animals you will actually see on safari? How close can you get?
To answer all your questions, here’s my personally researched list of the top African animals you might expect to see on a safari. Every single one of these animals was photographed by me on just three African safaris – one in South Africa, one in Tanzania and one in Uganda – so you can rest assured that this isn’t propaganda from a safari tour company, this could really happen to you too!
- AFRICAN LION
The African Lion is the King of all animals, the number one, Africa’s top carnivore, and right at the top of most people’s wishlists of animals on safari. These iconic predators are the second largest big cats in the world after tigers, and the only cats that live in groups. Lion family units usually contain mostly females with their young Ones, as well as one or two males. Only the males have a mane, the females don’t, which is how you can easily differentiate between the two. The females do most of the hunting, and they hunt mostly large mammals like antelopes, zebras and wildebeest. They usually hunt in the morning and evening which is your best time to spot them; during the day they quite often rest in the shade and are harder to see. In Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park and Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park the lions climb trees, which is rare as most lions stay on the ground.
Top places to see African lions on safari
- Botswana – Okavango Delta
- Kenya – Maasai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Park
- Namibia – Etosha National Park
- South Africa – Kruger National Park
- Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park has tree-climbing lions
- Uganda – Queen Elizabeth National Park (especially the famous tree-climbing lions in the Ishasha sector), Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park
- Zambia – Kafue National Park, South Luangwa National Park (especially Lion Camp)
- Zimbabwe – Mana Pools National Park, Matusadona National Park.
- AFRICAN LEOPARD
Leopards are the most beautiful of all the African cats, with their stunning spotted coats and piercing green eyes. Unlike lions, leopards are solitary safari animals so you will rarely see more than one at a time; they hunt alone, preying on anything and everything from antelopes and baboons to rodents, birds, fish and even eating carrion. Leopards are nocturnal so your best chance to see one will be in the early morning or evening, and they are strong, powerful animals who love to climb trees, so when you’re on your African safari make sure you look up!
Top places to see African leopards on safari
- Botswana ‐ Okavango Delta
- Kenya ‐ Masai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Park
- South Africa ‐ Kruger National Park
- Tanzania ‐ Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater
- Uganda – Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Zambia ‐ South Luangwa National Park.
- AFRICAN ELEPHANT
Elephants are one the Big Five, as it’s weighs more than other animals. Seeing a herd of elephants calmly crossing the road just metres from your safari vehicle is one of the greatest experience of any trip to Africa, and if you’ve never seen them before it’ll be a truly heart-stopping moment.
African elephants come in two types: savannah elephants and forest elephants. Forest elephants are smaller and hairier, and live mostly in West Africa. The type of elephant you will see on your safari is the African savannah elephant, or bush elephant, which is the largest land mammal, with the biggest males reaching up to almost 4 metres in height. They move around in big family groups led by a female, foraging daily for bark, roots, leaves, and herbs. An elephant can eat 150 kg of food a day!
Top places to see African elephants on safari
- Botswana – Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta
- Kenya – Tsavo National Park, Masai Mara National Park, Amboseli National Park, Samburu National Park, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
- Namibia – Etosha National Park, and you can see desert elephants in Kaokoland and Damaraland regions
- South Africa – Addo Elephant Park, Kruger National Park
- Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park
- Uganda – Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park.
The name rhinoceros comes from Latin and means ‘nose horn’, though the word is often shortened to ‘rhino’. There are two species of rhino that you might see on your African safari: the critically endangered black rhino, and the southern white rhino, which is more common. Confusingly both types are actually grey – the ‘white’ rhino is said to get its name from the Afrikaans word ‘weit’ meaning wide, referring to the animal’s square-shaped mouth. Rhinos can weigh over 1000 kg and live to an age of about 40-50 years old. A rhino’s skin can be up to 5 cm thick!
Rhino numbers have been decimated over the course of the last century due to poaching, and there are now fewer than 30,000 left. But you should still stand a reasonable chance of seeing one, particularly if you visit a game reserve or rhino sanctuary. It’s quite rare to see a rhino in the wild – I did see one in Kruger National Park in South Africa but it was a veeeery long way away!
Top places to see rhinos on African safari
- Kenya‐ Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Lake Nakuru National Park, Meru National Park, Masai Mara National Park
- Namibia ‐ Etosha National Park
- South Africa ‐ Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg National Park
- Uganda – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
- Tanzania – there are just a few left in Serengeti National Park
- Zimbabwe ‐ Hwange National Park.
- CAPE BUFFALO
Last on the Big Five list is the African or Cape buffalo, which might not seem as exciting as a lion or a leopard, but is actually one of the most dangerous safari animals in Africa due to its enormous strength and extremely bad and unpredictable temper. This is why buffalo have never been domesticated like cows. Buffalo can reach up to 1.5 metres tall and weigh 750 kg, and both males and females have horns, though on the males the horns are fused together in the middle while on the females they are more on the sides of the head.
You’ll easily see buffalo moving around in huge herds, and they can also often be found wallowing in lakes and watering holes. If you’re staying in a campsite in one of the national parks they sometimes wander into the camps at night to graze, so be careful when moving around after dark.
Top places to see Cape buffalo on safari
- Botswana – Chobe National Park
- Kenya – Amboseli National Park
- Namibia – Etosha National Park
- South Africa – Kruger National Park
- Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater
- Uganda – Queen Elizabeth National Park, especially the Kazinga Channel, Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park
- Zambia – South Lungwa National Park
- Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park.