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  • 40 Incredible African Safari Animals with Photos and Tips from Locals

    10 min read

    40 Incredible African Safari Animals with Photos and Tips from Locals elephant walking toward camera

    40 Incredible African Safari Animals with Photos and Tips from Locals

    Did you know: The animal kingdom in Africa is an amazing place. The continent houses over one million species, including some of the tallest (The girraffe) and heaviest land animals (the Elephant) on earth! There's no telling how many more undiscovered creatures exist untouched by civilization yet.

    Classic African Savannah Scene

    The Safari Animal bucket list you wont regret filling

    If you believe safari animals should live free and wild in nature, you truly love nature, and experiencing its full beauty should not be left as a bucket list dream.]

    Africa is home to many wild animals and bird species unique to the continent. Nature has provided the optimum habitat for Africa's wildlife by shaping the land into different biospheres and making them more conducive to the survival of certain animals.

    There are swelteringly hot and humid valleys, green coastal areas, water scare plains, deserts, thorny bushland, tropical rain forests, cold and foggy highlands, lush green plains dotted with amazingly tall trees, and in between, there are crossover biospheres like the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.

    Your ultimate African safari depends on you, and you can plan your dream safari around the African wildlife you'd like to experience in the wild. 

    Almost everything you've ever dreamt about, an African safari is possible. You can opt for a self-drive safari, rough it in "Out of Africa" style tents, or choose affordable luxury accommodation, including houseboats.

    The list of wild animals and birds below is a tiny sample of what is to see, but it will help you create a clearer picture of your ultimate African safari. 

    There are over 1 100 mammal species and over 2 600 bird species. The list is compiled in no specific order as preferred animal sightings will differ among those who safari in Africa.

    Safari Animals - Tree silhouette of African sunset

    The Big Five and the Little Five complete a safari on their own.

    Everyone should be familiar with Africa's big five Safari Animals, and to make things a bit more interesting, we've added Africa's little 5, the namesake of the big 5, to spice things up a little.

    #1 LION

    Africa's top carnivore and known as the king of the beasts. Female lions do most hunting, and each Lion's pride will have one or two males for security and procreation. Lions typically hunt at dust and dawn when temperatures are more bearable.

    #2 ANT LION

    Ant lions whirl conical sand traps to catch ants and termites. Their predator-like behavior helps these lion-like larvae develop into a winged insect resembling a dragonfly. 

    Safari Animals - Lion

    #3 LEOPARD

    Leopards are solitary cats and are primarily nocturnal hunters. They are very territorial and only get together to mate. The rest lie in tall trees for security and a vantage point to view the terrain around them. Leopards are also fond of mountainous regions, caves, and rocky outcrops. 

    Safari Animals - Leopard


    The markings of the leopard tortoise shell resemble the spotted leopard pattern of these big cats.   

    Safari Animals - Leopard Tortoise


    The Cape buffalo is considered the most dangerous of the big five due to its unpredictable temper and enormous strength. A large herd of buffalo is a sight to behold. Buffalo is fearless and very protective. Interestingly, the herd only moves as fast as the slowest buffalo. 

    Safari Animals - Buffalo

    Image: Tim Tee


    A dark little bird with a bright red beak. They are poor at nest making and art, among other weaver species. These sloppy housekeepers congregate in flocks of up to 30 birds. 

    Safari Animals - Buffalo weaver


    A single elephant in the bush or a herd of elephants at a water hole remains an incredible sighting. These gentle giants are intelligent and express emotions much like humans do, making them truly majestic. Elephants move very quietly through the bush and communicate in low rumbling sounds. 

    Safari Animals - Elephant

    Image: Joey-Makalintal-from-Pennsylvania, USA


    A single elephant in the bush or a herd of elephants at a water hole remains an incredible sighting. These gentle giants are intelligent and express emotions much like humans do, making them truly majestic. Elephants move very quietly through the bush and communicate in low rumbling sounds. 

    Safari Animals - Elephant eared shrew

    #9 RHINO

    The black rhino is a highly endangered species due to poaching, while the white rhino is more common. To see a rhino in the wild, you will need time or will have to visit a rhino sanctuary with 24/7 active anti-poaching units. 

    Safari Animals -Rhino

    #9 RHINO

    The black rhino is a highly endangered species due to poaching, while the white rhino is more common. To see a rhino in the wild, you will need time or will have to visit a rhino sanctuary with 24/7 active anti-poaching units. 

    Safari Animals - Rhino Beetle

    Image: Len Worthington Trichogomphus-mongol 60 mm Rhinoceros Beetle male


    The black rhino is a highly endangered species due to poaching, while the white rhino is more common. To see a rhino in the wild, you will need time or will have to visit a rhino sanctuary with 24/7 active anti-poaching units. 

    Unusual safari animals and birds of Africa you must see in the wild.

    Our safari continues with some of the more unusual safari animals you may encounter on your safari.

    Safari Animals - Bat eared fox

    Photo - Yathin-S-Krishnappa

    #1 Bat Eared Fox

    The Bat-eared fox is found in the African savanna, the bat-eared fox uses its ears to thermoregulate, so overheating is hardly ever a problem.

    Safari Animals - Pangolin ant eater

    Photo - David Brossard ground pangolin

    #2 Pangolin 

    These scaly anteaters live in sub-Saharan Africa and are sadly the most trafficked safari animals globally because of mythical beliefs that the

    Safari Animals - Shoe billed stork

    Photo: Hans-Hillewaert shoe billed stork

    #3 Shoebill Stork 

    The Shoebill stork is A large grey bird with an unusually large beak resembling the shape of a shoe. They have large eyes and can stand between 3 and 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 feet.

    Safari Animals - Okapi forest girraffe

    #4 Okapi Forest Giraffe 

    Known as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe, or Zebra Giraffe, is native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It looks like a zebra but is more closely related to a giraffe.

    Safari Animals - The greater Kudu

    #5 The Greater Kudu

    The Kudu is one of the larger antelope species found in the woodlands of eastern and southern Africa. Numbers are in decline due to deforestation. 

    Safari Animals - Bush baby

    Photo: a galago or bushbaby near the Kruger National park Ph - Wegmann

    #6 The Bushbaby

    Also known as Galagos or nagapiesthese cute nocturnal primates are native to sub-Saharan Africa. The name bushbaby comes from the sound of their cries. 

    Safari Animals - civit cat

    Photo: Николай Усик / http://paradoxusik.livejournal.com/

    #7 African Civit

    Similar to a raccoon and is nocturnal. It looks like a cat and is a carnivore but also feeds on toxic termites and millipedes.  

    Safari Animals - Hammerhead bat

    Photo: Sarah H. Olson ,   Gerard Bounga,   Alain Ondzie,   Trent Bushmaker,   Stephanie N. Seifert,   Eeva Kuisma,   Dylan W. Taylor,   Vincent J. Munster,    Chris Walzer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

    #8 Hammer Headed Fruit Bat

    Native to West and Central Africa, this bat is massive with a three-foot wingspan and feeds mainly on fruit.  

    Safari Animals - Pygmy Hippo

    Ltshears, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    #9 Pygmy Hippopotamus:  

    These little hippos are nocturnal forest creatures of West Africa, and there are only about 3 000 that still exist in the wild.


    Safari Animals - Gerenuk

    #10 The Gerenuk  

    The Gerenuk is Known as the giraffe gazelle for its long thin neck and is found in the horn of Africa and drier parts of east Africa.


    Safari Animals that influence human behavior, and you can find out why

    Here are a few unique safari animals and birds that have influenced human societies across the globe.

    Safari Animals - Cheetah

    #1 Cheetah

    Part of the cat family, the cheetah is the fastest land safari animal, capable of up to 120km/h in short 500-meter bursts. The cheetah accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3 seconds but overheats relatively fast. They love sitting on anthills to watch for prey and predators alike. Lions avoid cheetah cubs because their coat markings resemble the dreaded and fearless badger. Superfast athletes are often associated with the cheetah. 

    Safari Animals - Giraffe

    #2 Giraffe

    Widespread over sub-Saharan Africa, these gentle giants feed off the succulent leaves of tall trees and spread their legs awkwardly when drinking water. The giraffe is considered a gracious and docile safari animal, yet they fight viciously with their long necks. What makes the giraffe so unique is the print of its hind, which in the wild are like human fingerprints. We have used Giraffe print to create unique garments in our fashion houses. 

    Safari Animals - Hippo

    #3 Hippo

    Found in many of Africa's rivers, dams, and lakeshores, these large animals mostly emerge from the water at night to graze. The hippo needs to surface to breathe, so they tend to avoid deep water. They are territorial and can be very aggressive. Hippos are responsible for the highest number of human attacks of all the safari animals. Oddly enough, the hippo is used in many ads with size and how wide hippos can open their mouth.

    Safari Animals - Zebra

    #4 Zebra

    These are the black and white striped horses of the wild. Zebra graze on the top grass and leave the lower grass for other grass grazers. Their stripes fend off tsetse flies and mosquitoes and cause a visual illusion when running in a herd that confuses predators. The zebra pattern is used in fashion and is one of Thula Tula's safari animal print blanket print designs

    Safari Animals - Meerkat

    #5 Meerkat

    Meerkats are sociable safari animals who work together to burrow dens and protect each other from predators by posting sentries at lookout points. They live in communities of up to 50 and are part of the mongoose family. They are omnivores and feed on eggs, insects, and small reptiles. The Meercat also has excellent eyesight and can spot predators up to 300m away. Their sentry posting ability and taking care of your neighbor are part of military training. 

    Safari Animals - Honey Badger

    #6 Honey Badger

    These black and white creatures are relatively small with short legs but are the most ferocious safari animals in Africa. They have been known to attack buffalo, lions, and even humans when threatened. They feed on almost anything, but their favorite treat is honey. The badger is primarily nocturnal and somewhat difficult to spot on daytime game viewing safaris. Many companies use the badger as a company crest that signifies determination.

    Safari Animals - Springboks

    #7 Springboks

    The springbok belongs to the antelope family and is known for agility and gracious pronk. They inhabit open plains, grasslands, and semi-desert regions. The South African national rugby team is the Springboks. 

    Safari Animals - African Fish Eagle

    #8 Fish Eagle

    There are seven species of Fish Eagle, and the African fish eagle is the national symbol of 4 African countries, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Sudan. The most significant populations can be found in Eastern and Southern Africa. Fish eagles mate for life and sing with hippos, mainly in the late afternoon, which personified the sound of Africa 

    Safari Animals - wildebeest

    #9 Wildebeest

    The great migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya and back again is an unbelievable spectacle that must be seen to be appreciated. Companies use this great migration to emphasize strength in numbers 

    Safari Animals - Nile corocodile

    #10 Nile Crocodile

    One of Africa's deadliest predators, the Nile crocodile can grow up to 6 meters long and is responsible for about 200 human deaths annually. From the time of ancient Egypt, the Nile crocodile has been a part of human mythology, and today the crocodile is an example of stealth and cunning victories. 

    Many more wild safari animals have influenced us humans and our behavior. You will come back from a safari in Africa and recall how the animals you saw at close range in the wild impacted your existence.

    Safari Animals - Animals to make your close encounter safari a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    There are so many different safari animals and birds that you will encounter on your safari, but your sighting list will not be fully complete without close encounters with these creatures of wild Africa:

    Safari Animals - Gorilla

    #1 Silver back Gorilla

    Only a very few people get to see these majestic creatures on safari as their habitat has been constantly under threat for a long time. There are currently fewer than 1000 mountain gorillas left, and they all share the same small habitat on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like humans, gorillas communicate with gestures and vocalizations, including barks, roars, and hoots. Their primary diet is leaves, but they also insects on occasion. 

    Safari Animals - Gorilla

    #2 Chimpanzee

    Limited to Central, East, and West Africa. The best place to see chimpanzees is in selected national parks in Uganda and Tanzania due to their efficiently functional tourism industry. These primates are a treat to see in the wild and will leave you questioning humanity. 

    Safari Animals - Hyena

    #3 Hyena

    There are three species of hyena, spotted, striped, and brown hyena. The spotted hyena is the most common and can be seen across sub-Saharan Africa. The females are larger than the males, and contrary to public belief, hyenas hunt in packs for their food but will not let up on the opportunity to scavenge food from other predators. Hyenas are intelligent and adaptable, which has kept their numbers up. They will eat everything from a kill, including bones and skin. Their tackle is haunting and may give you restless nights while on safari. 

    Safari Animals - Jackal

    #4 Jackal

    The jackal is a distant relative of the wolf and is most active at dust and dawn. The Jackal can be spotted around waterholes looking for an opportunity to feed. Their evening call adds to the choir sounds of the African bush. 

    Safari Animals - Sable

    Photo: Charles James Sharp

    #4 Sabel Antelope

    Sable can grow to 140 cm, and their horns can grow to about 110 cm. They typically drop to their knees and use their horns to fight. This is like old-style fencing, nature's way. They inhabit parts of East Africa from Kenya right down to Southern Africa, including a separate species in Angola. 

    Safari Animals - Sable

    #4 African Wild Dog

    Known as one of the most successful hunters on the plains of Africa. They are highly intelligent animals and coordinate their hunts to run down their prey for many miles. African Wild Dogs are also very sociable and have the most beautiful painted coats. They can be found in sub-Saharan Africa but are on the endangered species list. 

    Safari Animals - Sable

    #4 Lechwe Antelope

    There are two species, the Kafue lechwe and the Black lechwe, and both are vulnerable due to poaching. Both species are only found in specific parts of Zambia. They thrive in swamplands and are good swimmers making them more agile in the water than other antelope. 

    Safari Animals - roan antelope

    Photo : Charles J. Sharp

    #4 Roan Antelope

    The Roan antelope is another rare and stunning gem of Africa. Roan Antelope are large in structure with a light brown coat and ringed horns. They are common in the Luangwa valley but rare elsewhere in Zambia. 

    Safari Animals - Black Panther

    #4 Black Panther

    The Black Panther is very elusive and only found in the forests of Mount Kenya, situated in this east corner of Africa.  

    Safari Animals - Orynx

    #4 Orynx

    Sadly, Oryx are hunted for their meat, hides, and horns. The horns are used as charms, and back in medieval England, oryx horns were marketed as unicorn horns which are magnificent straight horns. They thrive well in desert regions and make for a picturesque sighting. 

    An interesting fact about herd antelope is that they have glands in their hooves that give off a scent that allows them to track the herd if they get separated.

    We certainly hope this shortlist of some of Africa's wild animals inspires you to start planning for a safari that will undoubtedly move your soul and leave you with fond and lasting memories.

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