September 15

Where to See Safari Animals in the Wild

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September 15, 2023

From regal lions to lengthy giraffes, our captivating continent boasts a menagerie of creatures. Join us as we unveil the crème de la crème of destinations where you stand the best chance of encountering these extraordinary African safari animals.

Hippo pod wallowing in water

What are your favourite safari animals?

1. Cheetahs

Hold onto your whiskers because we're about to embark on a wild sprint alongside the magnificent cheetahs – our favourite (and fastest) feline safari animals of Africa! These sleek big cats are the epitome of grace and swiftness. And let us tell you – they're no ordinary kitties!

Get front-row seats to the cheetah's high-speed agility by venturing into the vast plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania – where the land stretches as far as the eye can see. Amidst the golden waves of grass, you'll witness the cheetah's jaw-dropping hunts that'll leave you saying, "Did you see that!?".

Two cheetah

The Maasai Mara boasts sweeping savannah plains, making it ideal hunting grounds for cheetahs, Image Credit: Thorsten Hanewald

2. Elephants

The titans known as elephants effortlessly capture everyone's gaze as they gallivant through the land. To see these colossal safari animals, we highly recommend venturing to Chobe National Park in Botswana, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa. Within these regions, where pachyderms reign supreme, you'll observe their captivating social dynamics, indulgent bathing rituals, and, of course, impressive tusks!

Elephants drinking water from the river

The Chobe region is known for its thriving population of elephants

3. Buffaloes

Buffaloes (the bad boys of safari animals in Africa) are masters of endurance, popping up in all sorts of habitats. But we'll share a secret with you – they're thirsty fellas! So, as long as there's water nearby, you bet your boots they'll be there strutting their hooves not too far away. 

They've taken quite a liking to the prestigious Kruger National Park in South Africa. However, they're the ultimate Botswana regulars, constantly shuttling between the Chobe region and the Okavango Delta. It's like a buffalo transit system. In fact, they're so prominent that they're practically the third wheel of the antelope species around these parts.

Buffalo in Kruger National Park

See the Cape buffalo in their droves throughout Southern Africa

4. Chimpanzees

Prick up your ears for a sensational serenade as you step into chimpanzee country. Listen closely, and you'll catch the faint rustles in the lush forest canopy, the telltale signs that our charismatic friends are on the move. Our top pick to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat is Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda. When you come upon these charming chimps, prepare to be captivated by their playful antics and expressive personalities. 

Close-up of a chimpanzee in dense forest terrain

Nyungwe is renowned for 13 species of primates and spectacular chimpanzee trekking

5. Giraffes 

For guaranteed giraffe sightings year-round, Kenya's renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve is a great choice. However, don't overlook the lesser-known Samburu National Reserve, which also offers an astonishing supply of these majestic creatures. And don't forget Giraffe Manor – where giraffes will literally join you at the breakfast table!

Kruger National Park remains a popular choice, but our top recommendation is Tanzania's Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous). This predominantly untouched wilderness is so densely populated with giraffes that it has earned the endearing moniker of "Giraffic Park."

Giraffe walking along a vast plain of dry grass

A safari simply doesn’t feel complete without seeing giraffes in Africa

6. Gorillas

Swing into the whimsical world of our fuzzy cousins, the mighty gorillas! Deep within the mystical rainforests of Rwanda and the Republic of Congo lies their hidden kingdom. If you're up for a Gorilla Trekking excursion, journey to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or the mystical Odzala Kokoua National Park in Congo.

Here, you'll traverse through thick foliage, guided by forest wizards (ahem, experienced rangers), and encounter these gentle creatures. Get ready to witness their power and graceful antics – a truly extraordinary experience that will tickle your primate-loving soul! 

Meet majestic gorillas in Africa

Meet majestic gorillas in Africa

7. Hippos 

Seeking a rendezvous with the not-so-average semi-aquatic dwellers? Make your way to iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, the enchanting Zambezi River meandering through Zambia and Zimbabwe, or Lake Kariba. These splendidly diverse reserves serve as the hippest hideaways for hippos! Watch as these colossal creatures wade in the water, showcasing their mighty presence and oh-so-serious territorial antics.

Many hippos basking in murky waters

Search rivers, lakes and even pond-like puddles for bobbing hippos

8. Lemurs

Well, we're sure you've all seen these creatures in the famous animated movie "Madagascar", right? So, it's safe to say that we need to venture to the magical island of Madagascar! Here, deep within the island's rainforests, these charismatic critters steal the spotlight with their vibrant personalities and quirky behaviours.

Prepare for an adventure in Ranomafana National Park, where the air resonates with the echoes of lemur calls. Additionally, the island's Andasibe-Mantadia National Park beckons with its ancient trees, offering a sensory feast as lemurs serenade you with their wild melodies. Lights, camera, lemur action!

Four lemurs are sitting on a branch

There are 50 different species of lemurs in Madagascar

9. Leopards 

If you dream of seeing a leopard in the wild, look no further than Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Not only does this offbeat private reserve boast an impressive array of African safari animals, but it has also gained fame for its extraordinary leopard sightings. It's a boundaryless playground shared with the majestic Kruger National Park that grants leopards the freedom to saunter at will. 

Leopard mother with her cub

If you're looking for leopards in abundance, few other African destinations can compare to Sabi Sand

10. Lions 

In the kingdom of the wild, where nature's crowns are worn, lions reign supreme. They're the unrivalled monarchs of the savannah, the true VIPs of any safari extravaganza. When it comes to a lion safari and catching sight of these regal predators, two places stand tall; the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kruger National Park. These sanctuaries boast sprawling open plains, a prey buffet, and an address that screams "prime real estate" for the lion elites.

Two lionesses in the Sabi Sands

You'll find lions all over the show, but some places in Africa are more densely populated

11. Meerkats

Jack's Camp in the Makgadikgadi has been pioneering a meerkat habituation project for a while now. These cheeky creatures are still a bundle of untamed energy, but they absolutely adore dropping by to say hello. Imagine the delight of being in their company as they scuttle and scamper around, showcasing their mischievous personalities.

Now, let's journey along the Garden Route, where Route 62 leads us to the De Zeekoe Guest Farm, just outside Oudtshoorn. This charming property offers a plethora of outdoorsy activities, but we must say that their habituated meerkat tours steal the show. Sit quietly near their meerkat burrow right before dawn. And, as the sun rises, these pint-sized scallywags emerge from their cosy abode and begin their daily routine of foraging and frolicking.

Meerkats in the Kalahari of Botswana

Meerkats out and about getting up to all sorts of antics

12. African Wild Dogs

Catch a glimpse of the wily and endangered furballs of the safari kingdom! Yes, we're talking about African wild dogs! These endangered safari animals, known as the "painted wolves," are bundles of boundless energy, always on the move, making sightings a game of luck and patience. 

Visit Nyerere National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, where packs of African wild dogs find solace and sanctuary. Additionally, the mighty Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa is also a great choice. And let us not forget the legendary painted wolves of Mana Pools National Park, stealing the show in the BBC's Dynasties series. However, the real star of the wild dog kingdom lies in Zimbabwe's majestic Hwange National Park, home to not one but twice the number of these captivating creatures.

A group of African wild dogs in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

The African wild dog is one of the world's most endangered mammals

13. Zebras

Hold onto your stripes because zebras rule the African savannah! Follow the Great Migration as wildebeest boldly chase rainbows between the Maasai Mara and Serengeti, with thousands of zebras joining the party. But hold on tight, our zebra-loving comrades, because the ultimate extravaganza awaits in Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans.

Picture up to 30,000 zebras swarming the southwest in December. They take a siesta at the Boteti River from April to September, only to journey to the Kalahari when the rain beckons. And guess what? In December, they return to the southwest like clockwork. Talk about a never-ending zebra odyssey!

Zebras migration in Makgadikgadi

The zebra migration in Makgadikgadi

14. Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Step into a land where time slows down and ancient reptiles roam. Journey to the idyllic islands of the Seychelles, where the giant tortoise reigns as a living relic of the past. These magnificent creatures have graced our planet for centuries and are Seychelles' oldest residents.

The Aldabra Giant Tortoises, named after the Aldabra Atoll, where they originate, are the ultimate chilled-out behemoths and are one of the largest tortoise species on earth! Take a leisurely stroll and venture into the realm of these magnificent prehistoric creatures as they amble around the island paradise without a care in the world.

Woman feeding a giant tortoise

Aldabra giant tortoises are endemic to the Seychelles, Image Credit: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Meet Your Favourite African Safari Animals

And there you have it! Your favourite wildlife and their secret hideouts. Get ready to liaise with lions, exchange whispers with elephants, and share a laugh with zebras. 

Reach out to our knowledgeable Travel Experts and start curating your own adventure with the whole cast of your favourite African safari animals!

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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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