African Animals

Read about the wild animals of Africa, watch them in action and even hear their roars and squeaks here, including all creatures from the Little to the Big Five.

  • Riding in Cars with Lions

    By Tamlin Wightman |

    I’m a little infatuated with lions right now. I could sit with them for hours. And by sit with them I obviously mean in a vehicle beside them. Because I’m not the bravest soul, just one wholly fascinated with these fierce creatures and at the same time terrified beyond the point of being able to keep my camera cocked. Several times on our last safari at Zarafa Camp in the Selinda, Botswana, a metre from two males, the blood, the breath, all the feeling in my body dropped through me like a lift falling several floors to a crashing halt at the bottom. I could not move. I blame our ranger but obviously that’s not fair. I didn’t see the lion flinch, I didn’t see him flicking his tail while his eyes locked onto me. I didn’t realise I shouldn’t move too quickly in the vehicle – I thought lions saw us as one whole and that as long as I stayed within closed doors he wouldn’t pounce. But the look of terror in my ranger’s eyes said otherwise. "Tam, just keep still. Don’t move." The lion’s tail continued flicking. I dared not turn my head to meet his gaze. I dared not capture this on camera – when this is exactly the moment wildlife photographers should be ready to shoot in spite of any internal fear, any external threat. The gaze of a lion when he’s not happy with you – even when you only see it through the eyes of your ranger – separates the brave from the weak. I didn’t do a great job at proving my bravery but maybe I needed that – maybe I needed a reminder of my own fragility. When Naude, still filming away in the seat in front of me, said, "Tam, it’s ok. You can move now. Just do it veeeerrry slowly," I thought to myself, "It’s okay. I’ll just wait until you’re done. I don’t need to see this. You just finish and then let’s drive off slowly, very slowly, to safety." But I turned my head, subtly, to look at my male lion and when our eyes locked I felt as light as a sprinkling of talcum powder, light with terror, my skin tingling so intensely it felt as though it could burst into flames at the smallest breath of wind. But then the lion turned away, his tail immobile, and flopped down onto the earth, bored with us. Ready for nap time. When we met with two females later, I was slightly braver, shimmying slowly around the vehicle to get the best position for photographs. Zarafa provides guests with a Canon 5D Mark II and 100-400mm lens to use. It isn’t light. I rested the lens on my knees to steady the shot as one female climbed a fallen tree about three metres before us. When it truly sinks in just how real and wild tracking lions in the bush is, you approach the moment with a respect and humility that reminds you to put down the camera from time to time to experience it all through your own eyes, not through the lens, not through the ranger. I realised how alone I was too, how alone I am. If the lion decided to have a go at me – which he wouldn’t, my ranger says, he’d only charge the vehicle, which sounds scary enough to me – there’s nothing anyone else can do. It’s just him and me. Lion and man. Or rather woman… You’re forced out of that protective bubble we all dreamwalk through the city in. And nothing shakes you right to the bone as much as that moment. Looking back at the photos I did manage to take, my heart returns to that moment of fear and thrill, gripped like a mouse between a lion’s paws. It's a feeling a lot like falling in love. And on that note... In next week's story, meet the lion cub we fell in love with... Find out more about Zarafa Camp, the first Relais & Châteaux accredited property in Botswana, and the Great Plains Conservation over at

  • The Mindful Approach to Saving Rhinos | World Rhino Day 2014

    By Tamlin Wightman |

    There is a movement quickly gaining momentum at present. While rooted in the East, in Buddhist philosophy, it is rearing its head (or mind) more and more in the West - in our yoga studios, offices, high schools, prisons... Its name is Mindfulness. The creation of a mindful society can only be a good thing - imagine a world run on compassion rather than competition. Consideration of others and awareness are central. A greater awareness of not only our thoughts, actions and values, but of our interconnectedness as humans with the rest of the planet. On World Rhino Day, this movement is especially significant - serving as a reminder that Homo sapiens are not separate from the other life forms we share earth with. This World Rhino Day, Wildlife ACT are focusing on the importance of instilling a love of wildlife and nature in our youth and in increasing their awareness of the state of our rhinos. This year the world will hear the voices of the youth as they speak out against rhino poaching at the World Youth Rhino Summit, held at KwaZulu Natal's iMfolozi Game Reserve, from 21-23 September 2014. Wildlife ACT is a non-profit group of on-the-ground conservationists, dedicated to saving Africa's endangered and threatened species from extinction. We have been supporting them for many years and were happy to have been able to commit half a million rand towards the Wildlife ACT Fund this year alone, to help sponsor collars, tracking equipment, vehicles and field staff salaries. We met up with Christie Morgan and Dr Simon Morgan from Wildlife ACT to find out more about what they have been up to regarding all things rhinos. Take a look at our infographic [open in new window to view full screen] and read our special Simon Says below.

    "We can fight this" Simon Says

    A message from Dr Simon Morgan, Wildlife ACT

    "It is hard working in the conservation world and really being able to see a positive light at the end of the dark, gloomy and, for many of the people working on the front lines, treacherous tunnel. There seem to be so many dark stories, what with poachers being found with grenades to booby trap rhino carcasses and young rhino calves found with machete wounds, it is hard sometimes to think of rational and reasonable ways forward. This is why the public are forever baying for blood and wanting poachers strung out to dry. However that is not where our real problems lie. There will always be poor people who can be coerced and bribed with large sums of money to do dreadful things, but what is the driving force behind this? Who are the entities willing to pay the money for this bribery, corruption and death? People are quick to jump at it and point fingers at the end-users - and bay for their blood or sanctions against their countries. But have we stopped to understand who is using rhino horn and ivory products and whether they have an inkling of what is happening here in Africa? Do they know that in Africa rhino are being tranquilised and having their horns cut off and left to bleed to death or that more than 80 poachers were shot and killed in the Kruger park alone since the beginning of 2013... I don’t think so.  I think the only ones who have the full picture is a small group of greedy, powerful, rich middle-men who are orchestrating this whole thing. They are feeding lies to both ends of the scale - poor poachers with the allure of money and end-users with the allure of status and well-being. Keeping them both in the dark about how much they are benefiting from this immensely profitable and relatively risk-free supply-chain they have created. They feed the demand with false-information and clever word-of-mouth marketing skills, backed by influential people with money and power. We can fight this. We need to show people from the poor, rural poaching communities the greater truth about the number of their family members which have been killed or jailed and how they are being coerced into supporting and making powerful a small group of middle-men with theirs and their families lives. We need to redevelop that emotional connection and revere that the people from Africa had for their wildlife. We need to show people who are using rhino horn as a status symbol or ivory trinkets as business gifts the truth behind where these products come from - that not only animals, but people are being slaughtered weekly for these products. That the status they are wanting to achieve is currently at risk in the rest of the worlds eyes and potentially to their peers when they discover the truth. We need to let these people know that they have an amazing opportunity and the power to turn the tide on one of the most appalling scenes occurring throughout Africa, elevating their own status to ones of protectors and saviours. We need to let them know that they are being swindled into thinking that these animal products which they so valuably prize are worth even a fraction of the amount they are paying for them and that a small, few, greedy group are gaining from this profiteering and making a fool out of them. Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I think we need to make sure that we are shining that light on the right group of people. We have to show people on both ends of the scale the truth and show them the bigger picture. They need the information so that they can start making informed decisions and realise the consequence of their actions and how they could flip the switch and gain from this opportunity - we just need to present it to them."
    Keen to find out more about all things rhino? Dig in to these debates...

  • The 6 Hour Battle at Londolozi - Buffalo Vs Lion

    By Tamlin Wightman |

    Epics such as this six hour battle between buffalo and lion at Londolozi Private Game Reserve are not uncommon in Africa. Such sightings quickly remind you that a safari in a private game reserve like the Sabi Sand is real and raw. Get the word zoo far from your mind. This is life untamed. It must have been a tense mix of fear and thrill – not wanting to turn away but tiring as the hours ticked on – for the fortunate travellers who watched the rumble unfold from the seats of their open game vehicle. Africa's animals, however, are no sissies... The Daily Mail article reporting on the battle explains how the two big cats targeted a buffalo bull "on a cold winter's morning in the bush, kick-starting a six-hour battle of endurance." We'd just like to interrupt this to say that some of our team missed this incredible moment by two days. Two days. "The bull was able to use its horns to flip one of the big cats into the air, but the lioness soon returned to the fray." "'The spectators sat transfixed - the whole event will remain embedded in the memories of those fortunate few who got to witness the battle,' a Londolozi field guide said." "After a six-hour struggle, the buffalo was able to stand up, shake of the lionesses and make a run for it." ...Best the young cats pick on someone their own size. In the ranger's words, "'The evolutionary arms race was playing itself out - this was truly the survival of the fittest." Londolozi is not new to being in front of the videocamera - its name has been celebrated in the numerous documentaries filmed in the reserve by Londolozi co-founder and acclaimed wildlife filmmaker and conservationist, John Varty, whose camera has captured the antics of the leopards for which the reserve is renowned. Other great epics caught on film in the South African bush include the Battle of Kruger in 2004 - an eight-minute amateur video showing a confrontation between a herd of Cape buffalo, a pride of lions and a lone crocodile at a watering hole in the Kruger Park. Posted on YouTube in 2007, it currently has 74,517,335 views. It even won awards - the Best Eyewitness Video in the 2nd Annual YouTube Video Awards. National Geographic covered it in a 2008 documentary. Such is the cinematic potential of the African wilderness. Best we get back to the airport, nose pointed north... The bush is calling.

    Read our recent blogs on Londolozi: Winter’s Secret Weapon and No place like the African bush.

    Watch our video on Londolozi and contact us to find out about heading to the reserve for your own safari.

  • The Most Endangered Mammal of Them All

    By Matthew Sterne |

    Every family has one. The black sheep that the rest of the clan hasn't quite figured out. Outliers exist in the animal kingdom too and among primates, there is no contest of who earns the title: lemurs.  These endearing creatures are known to digress from the established practices of their kind. A perfect example is the fat-tailed dwarf lemur who bucks trends by gorging on fruit, insects and flowers, storing fat in their ballooning tails so that, when food is scarce, they can sink into a hibernation that no other primate enjoys. And when this little creature hibernates, it does it proper job of it; recent research has shown that they are the only known animals to fall fully asleep during their hiatus. Continuing the pattern of offbeat lifestyles, the ring-tailed lemurs relish in a pastime that - much to Baz Lurhamnn's disapproval - we humans also indulge in: sunbathing. These charismatic fellows resemble goofed yogis, warming up in the morning light. In their leaders too, lemurs defy the norm by flipping the standard on its head and adopting a matriarchal structure in their tight-knit families. They've also got some habits that are just plain weird - the ring-tailed males partake in 'stink fights', using their tails as a conduit to disperse scent at their opponents. Having mastered the art of intense looking without really seeing, lemurs are also not afraid of having a little starring match whenever the mood strikes. The sifaka lemurs maintain the quirky habits of their counterparts with their graceful - and very odd - dancing. With their array of eccentricities it is no surprise that their Latin inspired name translates to 'haunters', giving them the reputation of 'the spirits of the night'. In short, lemurs let their freak flag fly and for that we love them. A map showing the whereabouts of lemurs on the globe is a waste of space; five empty continents and then - all lit up in red - an island floating in the Indian Ocean. It’s not a waste of time though because the depiction demonstrates the scarcity of habitat - the absolute dependency on this small piece of land. Of the 103 species that live in Madagascar, a staggering ninety one percent are considered threatened, earning lemurs the eerie title of the world’s most endangered mammal. The tropical forests that they call home continue to be encroached upon by illegal logging and hunting. Their cuteness is also partly responsible for their downfall as some are snatched from their natural habitats to become reluctant participants in the pet industry. With the odds stacked overwhelmingly against them, you may think that hope for their survival is dwindling, but you'd be wrong. To halt the looming extinction of lemurs, a task team of some of the world’s leading experts was assembled to put together a three year action plan to turn the crisis around. According to this panel, the best chance for lemurs' survival rests in a combination of ecotourism and conservation efforts. Similar strategies have been used with great success in Rwanda and Uganda in the promotion and protection of their mountain gorillas. Visitors to the island have the ability to create the economic incentive necessary for local communities to get behind the protection of lemurs. The injection of funds from increased tourism will also help to maintain, manage and increase the number of the protected areas in Madagascar. The strategy appeals to us because Madagascar is one of our favourite destinations not least because we’re constantly in awe of the abundance of wildlife that calls it home. And so, we’re throwing our efforts behind the drive to encourage more travelers to visit Madagascar, not only because we adore the 4th largest island in the world, but also because it will help our precious lemurs.

    Explore Madagascar in our video...

    If a beach holiday with an abundance of wildlife sounds like your ideal adventure then contact one of our travel consultants to start planning your trip to Madagascar. In choosing Madagascar as your next destination you will help kick-start the movement towards ecotourism. And if the stars from the animation film Madagascar are not enough to convince you that it’s worth a trip, these photographs should: [click to enlarge]

  • My Trip| Lori explores Zimbabwe and Botswana

    By Matthew Sterne |

    If the English-speaking population were to choose a single quote to attest to the virtues of travel and it came down to a popularity contest, it would be a landslide. I wouldn't have to look at the results to tell you the winner. Mark Twain was, unarguably, a clever man. A wise soul who is respected the world over. So revered in fact that when someone happens upon an eloquent quote and doesn't know who wrote it, they tend to attribute the words to the great scribe. The creator of Huckleberry Finn wrote beautiful prose but the most celebrated travel quote of all time does not form part of his collection: The real author is Jackson Brown's mother. Not the musician who co-wrote "Take It Easy," with the Beatles or belted out "Somebody's Baby." That was Clyde Jackson Browne. I'm talking about H. Jackson Brown, the American author of "Life's Little Instruction Book." For those who are feeling a little heartbroken about discovering that Mr Twain did not pen the words, perhaps the touching story behind the quote will ease your hurt. H. Jackson Brown's mother loved to write him and his sister letters. Each letter ended with a P.S. followed by an anecdote of humour or advice and then a declaration of love. As a young boy Jackson was impatient to get to the good bit so he skipped the meat of the letter, greedily reading the P.S. first."Twenty years from now," was one of the gems sitting between his mother's P.S. and her "I love you." In the spirit of giving credit where it is due, I'd like to acknowledge Lori Ann Graham for the beautiful photographs and words that follow. If you haven't cast your eyes across Lori's other adventures, have a peak at 'Namibia through Lori's lens' and 'Lori captures the Victoria Falls'. For those who have been waiting with bated breath for more from Lori, it's safe to exhale now:

    Botswana and Zimbabwe...

    [caption id="attachment_23646" align="alignnone" width="550"] "There is really no way to show how exciting and moving it is to be on safari, I think it was Karen Blixen that said something about champagne and bubbles and that feeling. And I have to agree. The land and sky that go on forever, the animals wild and timeless in their natural surroundings, the smell when walking or driving through the bush, falling asleep in a tent to the sounds of hippos grunting or lions calling. Anticipating what or who you will meet and see next... If safari means to journey and life is one too, then I'm glad to do just that..."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23691" align="alignnone" width="550"] “So, since pictures do really tell more than words, let me introduce some of the many friends we met on our safari to Zimbabwe and Botswana…”[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23581" align="alignnone" width="550"] "This little lilac-breasted roller was spotted on our first game drive. Our guide had stopped to see a herd of lovely Impala, but my view was blocked by a bush. My husband said, "Look honey." I whispered, "Okay, but the bush is kind of in the way." He nudged me softly and said "Not there,” pointing out on the veld, “there," he said, pointing to the bush. Right in front of my face, in the bush was this little beauty here. And I remembered right then that if you can't see the forest for the trees, then look in the trees...thank you little Roller for helping me to see...”[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23642" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Male antelope fighting for dominance, only one can be the head of a herd."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23644" align="alignnone" width="550"] "We saw this gorgeous Martial Eagle fly by."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignnone" width="550"] "A beautiful Goliath Heron fishing, then flying away."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23605" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Hwange Giraffe nodding hello."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23609" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Lovely big ellie on the shores of Lake Kariba."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23584" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Hippo welcoming committee on the Zambezi River."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23586" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Fabulous zebras came to meet us on a runway."[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23590" align="alignnone" width="550"] “He is so smart, he tears a bunch with his nimble trunk, then swishes it through the water in order to clean it. We learned that the elephant is born with a set of teeth, when each set wears out, a new one comes in, kind of like a conveyor belt of teeth. So, when he cleans his food, there is less wear and tear on his teeth, and he can live longer. Because when the last set is worn out, he dies.”[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23593" align="alignnone" width="550"] "We still see you, baby dear!"[/caption]

    A word of thanks from Lori...

    "It's been my great pleasure to share our epic journey to Africa with all of you, thank you for coming along."
    If you love Lori’s photographs and stories as much as we do, why not plan your very own adventure to Botswana or Zimbabwe, or both. Contact one of our expert consultants to get started. For more of Lori’s photographs and stories, take a look at Lori times five.

  • Where Great Whites Roam

    By Matthew Sterne |

    The best places in the world are wild. There’s a kind of magic that only exists in unpredictability. It’s easy to forget that the sea is one of those places because she often pretends to be tame: impersonating a giant swimming pool, lapping the shore like a coy lake, all seahorses and starfish. Sooner or later she reminds us of her true nature: regurgitating a giant squid from her depths, swallowing a cruise ship, unleashing a tsunami, displaying the sharp fins of a giant shark. For most of us, our first ‘encounter’ with a great white did not take place in murky water but in our living rooms to a soundtrack that has become synonymous with a shark gliding through the water: da nuh, da nuh, da nuh, da nuh da nuh da nuh. Jaws did not leave viewers with a warm fuzzy feeling. As far as debuts go, great whites made a pretty gruesome one. The reputation stuck like white on rice and for the next few decades great whites struggled to shake their infamy. Biting the occasional swimmer didn’t help their case. It took a while for our curiosity to sidle up to our fear and ask it to politely shift over so that it could assess the creatures for itself. It was our inquisitive natures that pushed us into the cages where we witnessed the majesty of sharks beneath the surface and our more dramatic selves began to marvel at the sheer power it takes to breach the water in pursuit of prey. And then there was the antithesis of Jaws: Finding Nemo. Bruce, the Australian great white, spoke of the PR battle great whites have faced when he declared, “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself.” Perceptions began to slowly change but the truth is that our fear never left. It matured, put on goggles and had a look at great whites with more sympathetic eyes. It was through this new perspective that researchers discovered that great whites aren’t travel shy. They’re not afraid of a little excursion between continents. Studies show that some over-achievers do laps between South Africa and Australia. In this sense, we share our whites with Australia. Now some South Africans may be thinking – thanks but no thanks – Australia can have the whole lot them. I confess, I’ve had my share of those days. The 26th of January 2014 was not one them. In response to the increase of shark attacks in the last 3 years, Western Australia has began a culling campaign. Any tiger, bull or great white that's over 3 metres long runs the risk of meeting its end. On 26 January, a tiger shark received four shots to the head. When I watched the footage my first thought was that the brutality belonged in a foregone era. Many Australians agree. Sharon Burden whose son was attacked and killed by a shark in 2011 is one of them. Though I’m not going to enter the intricacies of the debate, I would like to add my voice to the objections and take a moment to salute those valiant Australians who are fighting the good fight. The theory of Pangaea contends that there was once a ‘supercontinent’ - a jigsaw puzzle of all the continents we know today. Hypothetically, if we were living during such a time and one of our rhinos ventured far, far from home, we wouldn’t keep quiet about our neighbour popping four bullets in its head. Our response shouldn’t be any different when it comes to our sharks. We need to protect our own. This is Africa – rhinos trot on our plains and sharks trawl our coast. Therein lies its beauty. No matter how hard anyone tries, there’s a part of it that will never be tamed. We wouldn’t want it any other way. It is a wild place. All the best places are.

    If the idea of getting up close and personal with a great white appeals to you then start planning your trip to Cape Town by contacting one of our expert travel consultants. We have a list of luxury hotels that offer shark cage diving. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.