What animals can I see on my African safari? There is a wealth of wildlife on this magnificent continent, and Africa is so diverse in what it has to offer its visitors. From the arid desert regions, to the world-heritage site of the Okavango Delta, the montane forests of Uganda’s jungle regions and the rolling savannahs of Kenya; Africa most certainly provides endless natural habitats for an array of species. To summarise, tourists to Africa can see : the big five in southern Africa, the famous wildebeest migration of East Africa, and the chimps and gorillas of Uganda.
Before we unpack what each country has to offer its visitors, we need to understand that Africa is a huge continent and is NOT a country. You will need to narrow down the countries within Africa that you’d like to visit. Do you want to see the big five? Do you want to see chimpanzee and gorillas? Do you prefer hippos and elephants? Do you only want to see the rare “lifer” birds? There really are so many questions to ask yourself before embarking on the safari of a lifetime. The areas we’ve covered are the most popular regions for a safari.
Kenya and Tanzania
The main reason people visit : The main reason people visit these two popular countries in East Africa is for the wildebeest migration. Herds numbering in their thousand migrate through the plains of the Serengeti and the herds are closely followed by powerful predators. It’s an opportunity to see one of the world’s famous migration routes, and to see predators conducting mind-blowing kills. The Masai Mara region is actually one of the top reserves for lion, leopard and cheetah sightings. Kenya and Tanzania never disappoint when it comes to game viewing.
Of course, both countries offer exquisite landscapes, coastal splendour and a fascinating geography of mountain peaks and rift valleys.
Main animals to see : lion, leopard, rhino (black and white), hippo, elephant, cheetah, wildebeest, African wild dogs, spotted hyena, jackals, bat-eared fox, plains game (lechwe and sitatunga are common in these parts), and the black-and-white colobus monkey. In total, there are 25, 000 species of wildlife to spot making it near impossible to list all of them in one blog post. To date, Kenya actually has one of the highest mammal density of any country on the African continent.
In terms of birding there are 1000 species of bird to spot, making both Kenya and Tanzania two of the world’s top birding destinations. The coastal areas have a wealth of marine life, including marine turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and a host of colourful reef fish.
Endemic or Rare Wildlife to See : Maasai giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe in Kenya’s northern reaches, Thomsons gazelle, reticulated giraffe, tree-climbing lions, Giant forest hogs and the rare roan antelope. In Tanzania’s tropical island of Zanzibar we suggest looking out for the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. One of the most rare antelope occurs in north-east Kenya and that is the hirola. There’s also the mountain bongo (found in forested areas) which looks similar to the nyala.
The main reason people visit : Tourists flock to Uganda to track chimpanzee and trek with mountain gorillas. In the ancient montane forests carpeting dormant volcanoes there are also rare forest elephants, bonobo and colobus monkeys, and reptiles to be spotted. Although gorillas and chimps are the major drawcard for tourists, another best kept secret of Uganda is the tree-climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The many national parks and lakes dotted across Uganda’s landscape provide the perfect habitat for a plethora of wildlife. The 29 islands of Lake Bunyonyi provide the ideal destination for avid birders, while the rest of the country offers staggering concentrations of wildlife. While you’re meandering your way past forested areas while en route from destination to destination, look out for the rare great blue turaco bird and the colobus monkeys.
Main animals to see : Crested crane (Uganda’s national bird), elephants, hippo, Nile crocodile, lions, gorillas, chimps, over 1000 species of bird, golden monkey, leopard, cheetah, serval, mongoose, hyena, 38 different kinds of carnivores and 364 species of mammal.
Endemic or Rare Wildlife to See : The wild forest elephants, shoebill, the great blue turaco, oribi, Shelley’s crimsonwing and the Uganda cob.
South Africa is a diverse destination that offers sweeping coastal regions, winelands, lush forests and arid savanna landscapes. The main safari destinations in South Africa are the Greater Kruger and the Garden Route. Small mammals, birdlife and marine predators can be seen in the “non-safari” regions.
Main animals to see : Great white sharks, killer whales, southern right whales, the big five (rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard), cheetah, African wild cat, impala, kudu, waterbuck, wild dog, Nile crocodile, hippo, side-striped and black-backed jackal, serval, genet, civet, giraffe, hippo, vervet monkey, baboons, porcupine, Sharpe’s grysbok and honey badger. South Africa also has the highest concentration of ostrich in the world. There are 299 mammal species in South Africa, 100 species of land reptiles and over 850 recorded species of birds.
Endemic or Rare Wildlife to See : grey rhebok in the mountainous regions, dassie, springbok, ground pangolin., Cape cobra, black mamba, blue crane and the aardvark.
Botswana has such contrasting landscapes and visitors to the country are encouraged to visit the world-heritage site of the Okavango Delta, the mighty Chobe Riverfront, the community run Moremi Game Reserve, and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Botswana is the country for both a water and land based safari; but is mostly known for its thousands-strong elephant herds.
Main animals to see : hippo, Nile crocodile, leopard, lion, hyena, rhino (still rare and recently introduced back into Botswana), elephant, serval, Sharpe’s grysbok, cheetah, Kalahari gemsbok, wild dog, tsessebe, impala, sitatunga, and 170 species of mammal. There are over 600 species of bird in Botswana, with plenty of raptors and waders found in the Okavango Delta.
Endemic or Rare Wildlife to See : Black-maned lions, African fish eagle, flamingos in the Makgadikgadi salt pan, ground pangolin, red lechwe.