Africa is the best place to go if you want a great, memorable safari experience. It is rich in wildlife, some of which are only endemic to Africa, meaning that they cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Here are 10 big animals you will see on a safari.
Lion sightings, especially a pride of lions, are one of the most intriguing, amazing and impressive wonders that Africa will offer. While a pride of lions- a full family of a full-grown male with bushy mane, a few lionesses and their cubs- is satisfying, witnessing a kill is the ultimate prize in an African safari.
Lions spend about 20 hours a day resting, and are most active at dusk or dawn, when you are most likely to catch them hunting and enjoying their kill afterwards, of course disturbed by scavengers such as vultures and daring hyenas.
To catch this animal, visit parks where it is commonly sighted, such as Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the border of Botswana and South Africa, or Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, during the famous wildebeest migration.
The elephant is the largest land mammal on earth, majestically roaming Africa’s wilderness. Tourists not only visit Africa to see this big animal in the wild, but to also marvel at its tangible aura. It is a generally peaceful animal but very dangerous when provoked. Calves are adorable and you will fall much deeper in love when they exhibit behaviors that are similar to human behavior. For example, did you know that elephants mourn their dead?
Visit Amboseli National Park in Kenya to see herds of elephants traverse the vast land, and Tsavo National Park in Kenya, where you will see herds of dust-red elephants beautifully cool off in mud pools.
This is the tallest animal on earth, and is also known for its elegance and beautiful body. Giraffes are attractive and interesting due to how they give birth standing and the calves have to fall straight to the ground, how they kick off predators to ward them off and most amazingly, neck fights by males when fighting for dominance.
This iconic animal has 9 different subspecies in Africa. Reticulated giraffe is mostly found in Northern Kenya especially at Samburu National Park, the Maasai giraffe is found in Maasai Mara National Reserve, and the rare white giraffe has been spotted at Hirola Conservancy in Garissa County, Kenya. You can also visit Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park and Kenya’s Nairobi National Park where you will see the endangered Rothschild giraffe.
- African Leopard
The African leopard is a subspecies of Leopard, and is only found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an elusive member of the cat family, hence among the most difficult animals to spot on a safari because they are wary of humans, and are also nocturnal.
Watching a leopard during the hunting process is one of the most satisfying safari experiences. Leopards are solitary, using trees as observation platforms and protection. Once they spot desirable prey, they hunt it down, and the success rate is increased by their ability to climb, swim and drag prey 3 times heavier than them up the trees, to keep off scavengers.
A visit to Maasai Mara Game Reserve, and Samburu National Reserve in Kenya is recommended if you want to see leopards easily.
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, with a speed of up to 70 mph. Its most characteristic features are the teardrop marks on its face and distinct spots. Despite being successful hunters, their kill is often stolen by other powerful predators.
A game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve, and Samburu National Reserve and Nairobi National Park in Kenya, as well as the Serengeti, Ruaha National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania offer amazing cheetah sightings.
Although threatened by widespread poaching, you can still find black and white rhinos in the wild in Africa. The white rhino has a characteristic wide mouth while the black rhino is characterized by pointed lips, and is smaller in size.
White rhinos are more numerous hence easy to spot. They are also easier to spot because they prefer grasslands as opposed to black rhinos which are found in bushes. This animal is best experienced in Etosha National Park in Namibia, Lewa Downs in Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya as well as Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The buffalo is one of Africa’s iconic animals. The ability of a herd ganging up against predators has caused the animal to earn a lot of respect and fear. It is also a very dangerous animal due to its unpredictable and aggressive nature, and is responsible for multiple human deaths annually.
Buffaloes are very common in Africa, and can be seen in almost any national park across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
- Nile Crocodile
The Nile crocodile is always the icing on the cake for tourists watching the wildebeest migration at Serengeti in Tanzania and Mara in Kenya. Hungry crocodiles always flock the Mara river during this period, ready to pounce on zebra, gazelle and wildebeest taking part in the migration. Photographers have captured amazing shots, and tourists always marvel at the strength and stealth nature of these aquatic predators, as well as the squeaks that wildebeest make once they are trapped in the Nile crocodile’s massive jaws.
A safari is never complete without zebra sightings. In fact, they are among the very first animals you will see when you begin your game drive because they dominate the grasslands. Their beautiful white and black stripes always stand out. Although common, you can only find Grevy’s Zebra-a different sub species of zebra- in northern Kenya, therefore head to Lewa Conservancy to see this endangered animal.
Crocodiles and hippopotamus dominate Africa’s rivers and lakes. Hippos usually live in groups of 100 individuals, living an aquatic life, and leaving the water whenever they need to graze on the riverbanks at night. Although graceful, they are extremely dangerous when frightened, hence you need to steer clear of riverbanks when camping. The best hippo experience is at Mzima Springs in Tsavo West National Park Kenya, where tourists get into a glass cage in the middle of the river to view hippos right in their habitat.