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Top 32 Animals To See On Safari – A Photo Guide

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Animals on a safari: wildebeest in the Ngorongoro Crater

Just look how close you can get to the animals on safari!

If you’re a wildlife or animal lover, going on a safari in Africa will be a dream come true. You’ve probably watched nature documentaries and the Lion King and wondered what it might be like to go to Africa and see these amazing creatures for yourself. Maybe you’re wondering what animals you will actually see on safari? How close can you get?

To answer all your questions, here’s my personally researched list of the Top 32 animals and birds you might expect to see on a safari. Every single one of these animals was photographed by me on just three African safaris – one in South Africa, one in Tanzania and one in Uganda – so you can rest assured that this isn’t propaganda from a safari tour company, this could really happen to you too!

(Why 32? Basically because I was going for 30 and kept thinking of more to add!)

Top 32 Animals on Safari

The Big Five

The Big Five are considered the top most exciting animals to see on safari. The name comes from big game hunters, who considered these five animals the five most difficult and dangerous to hunt and kill on foot. Now the term is used by tour operators to describe the top five animals to see on safari – though of course there are also loads of others to look out for too, as this exciting list will soon show you!

1/ African lion

Animals on safari: Male lion, Serengeti, Tanzania

Male lion, Serengeti, Tanzania

The African Lion is the King of Beasts, the number one, Africa’s top carnivore, and right at the top of most people’s wishlists of animals on safari. These iconic predators are the second largest big cats in the world after tigers, and the only cats that live in groups, known as prides. Pride family units usually contain mostly females with their young, as well as one or two males. Only the males have a mane, the females don’t, which is how you can easily tell them apart. The females do most of the hunting, and they hunt mostly large mammals like antelopes, zebras and wildebeest. They usually hunt in the morning and evening which is your best time to spot them; during the day they quite often rest in the shade and are harder to see. In Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park and Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park the lions climb trees, which is rare as most lions stay on the ground.

Top places to see African lions on safari

  • BotswanaOkavango Delta
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Park
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park
  • South Africa – Kruger National Park
  • TanzaniaSerengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park has tree-climbing lions
  • UgandaQueen Elizabeth National Park (especially the famous tree-climbing lions in the Ishasha sector), Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park
  • Zambia – Kafue National Park, South Luangwa National Park (especially Lion Camp)
  • Zimbabwe – Mana Pools National Park, Matusadona National Park

2/ African leopard

Animals on safari: Leopard, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Leopard, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Leopards are, in my opinion at least, the most beautiful of all the African cats, with their stunning spotted coats and piercing green eyes. Unlike lions, leopards are solitary animals so you will rarely see more than one at a time; they hunt alone, preying on anything and everything from antelopes and baboons to rodents, birds, fish and even eating carrion. Leopards are nocturnal so your best chance to see one will be in the early morning or evening, and they are strong, powerful animals who love to climb trees, so when you’re on your safari make sure you look up!

Top places to see African leopards on safari

  • Botswana ‐ Okavango Delta
  • Kenya ‐ Masai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Park
  • South Africa ‐ Kruger National Park
  • Tanzania ‐ Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater
  • UgandaQueen Elizabeth National Park
  • Zambia ‐ South Luangwa National Park

3/ African elephant

Animals on safari: African elephant, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

African elephant, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Elephants are another of the Big Five, and a big favourite amongst animal lovers thanks to their intelligence and grace. Seeing a herd of elephants calmly crossing the road just metres from your safari vehicle is one of the greatest thrills of any trip to Africa, and if you’ve never seen them before it’ll be a truly heart-stopping moment.

African elephants come in two types: savannah elephants and forest elephants. Forest elephants are smaller and hairier, and live mostly in West Africa. The type of elephant you will see on your safari is the African savannah elephant, or bush elephant, which is the largest land mammal, with the biggest males reaching up to almost 4 metres in height. They move around in big family groups led by a female, foraging daily for bark, roots, leaves, and herbs. An elephant can eat 150 kg of food a day!

Top places to see African elephants on safari

  • Botswana – Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta
  • Kenya – Tsavo National Park, Masai Mara National Park, Amboseli National Park, Samburu National Park, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park, and you can see desert elephants in Kaokoland and Damaraland regions
  • South Africa – Addo Elephant Park, Kruger National Park
  • Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park
  • UgandaMurchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park

Read more: 19 Easy Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners

4/ Rhinoceros

Animals on safari: Southern White Rhino, Uganda

Rhinos are top of many people’s wishlists of animals to see on safari

The name rhinoceros comes from Latin and means ‘nose horn’, though the word is often shortened to ‘rhino’.  There are two species of rhino that you might see on your African safari: the critically endangered black rhino, and the southern white rhino, which is more common. Confusingly both types are actually grey – the ‘white’ rhino is said to get its name from the Afrikaans word ‘weit’ meaning wide, referring to the animal’s square-shaped mouth. Rhinos can weigh over 1000 kg and live to an age of about 40-50 years old. A rhino’s skin can be up to 5 cm thick!

Rhino numbers have been decimated over the course of the last century due to poaching, and there are now fewer than 30,000 left. But you should still stand a reasonable chance of seeing one, particularly if you visit a game reserve or rhino sanctuary. It’s quite rare to see a rhino in the wild – I did see one in Kruger National Park in South Africa but it was a veeeery long way away!

Top places to see rhinos on safari

  • Kenya‐ Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Lake Nakuru National Park, Meru National Park, Masai Mara National Park
  • Namibia ‐ Etosha National Park
  • South Africa ‐ Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg National Park
  • Uganda – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • Tanzania – there are just a few left in Serengeti National Park
  • Zimbabwe ‐ Hwange National Park

Read more: A Visit To Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

5/ Cape buffalo

Animals on safari: Cape Buffalo, Serengeti, Tanzania

Cape Buffalo, Serengeti, Tanzania

Last on the Big Five list is the African or Cape buffalo, which might not seem as exciting as a lion or a leopard, but is actually one of the most dangerous safari animals in Africa due to its enormous strength and extremely bad and unpredictable temper.  This is why buffalo have never been domesticated like cows. Buffalo can reach up to 1.5 metres tall and weigh 750 kg, and both males and females have horns, though on the males the horns are fused together in the middle while on the females they are more on the sides of the head.

You’ll easily see buffalo moving around in huge herds, and they can also often be found wallowing in lakes and watering holes. If you’re staying in a campsite in one of the national parks they sometimes wander into the camps at night to graze, so be careful when moving around after dark.

Top places to see Cape buffalo on safari

Other carnivores

6/ Cheetah

Animals on safari: Cheetah, Serengeti, Tanzania

Cheetah, Serengeti, Tanzania

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal in the world, accelerating from 0 to 60 miles an hour in just three seconds and reaching a top speed of 75 miles an hour.  To be able to do this they’re much smaller and lighter than lions and leopards. They can’t keep up this speed for long though, which is why they stalk their prey through the long grasses, trying to get close enough before they pounce.

Seeing a cheetah on the hunt is one of the dream sights of any safari. And while there are no guarantees, it is possible, because unlike leopards, cheetahs are daytime hunters. I saw the one above on the prowl in the Serengeti in Tanzania – it was one of the most thrilling moments of the trip, even though it didn’t catch anything.

Top places to see cheetahs on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta (Chitabi area), Linyati Reserve, Kwando Reserves
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Reserve, Samburu National Park, Kora National Park, Meru National Park
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park, Several Cheetah Conservancies
  • South Africa – Phinda Private Game Reserve, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  • Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve
  • Uganda – There are very few cheetahs in Uganda; Kidepo Valley National Park is the only place to see them
  • Zambia – Kafue National Park

7/ Hyena

Animals on safari: Spotted Hyena, Serengeti, Tanzania

Spotted Hyena, Serengeti, Tanzania

The hyena is not one of the Big Five, but is sometimes referred to as being one of the ‘Ugly Five‘. There are three species of hyena (spotted, striped and brown) but the spotted is the most common and can be found all across sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike most mammals the females are actually bigger and heavier than the males, weighing up to around 80 kg, and it’s the females that dominate the pack.  Hyenas are not endangered because they are extremely intelligent and adaptable, eating just about anything, from large animals like zebras and antelopes to birds, fish and lizards. But although they have a reputation for being scavengers, hyenas also hunt in packs and actually kill most of their food, which they eat in its entirety, even the skin and bones.

Top places to see hyenas on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta, Savuti Reserve (Chobe National Park), Kalahari and Makgadikgadi (rare brown hyenas)
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Reserve, Ambroseli National Park
  • Namibia – there are brown hyenas in the southern Namib desert
  • South Africa – spotted hyenas are not so common in South Africa but can be found at Skukuza in Kruger National Park and in Kalahari Gemsbok National Park
  • Tanzania – Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park
  • Uganda – Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls or Kidepo National Parks
  • Zambia – Liuwa Plains

8/ Jackal

Black-backed jackal, Serengeti, Tanzania

Black-backed jackal, Serengeti, Tanzania

There are three species of jackals in Africa: the common jackal, black-backed and the side-striped jackal. Jackals are closely related to dogs, and like the hyena they’re omnivorous, hunting small rodents, insects and reptiles but also scavenging whatever they can find. Unlike other types of wild dogs, however, they don’t move around in packs but tend to operate alone or in pairs.  You’re most likely to spot one out looking for food on its own in the morning or evening, or if you see a buffalo or wildebeest carcass there may well be a jackal nearby.

Top places to see jackals on safari

The three different species prefer different types of habitat.  You’re most likely to see black-backed jackals on your safari because they prefer open savannahs and are more active during the day than other kinds of jackal. Jackals can be found throughout sub-Saharan, east and southern Africa, including in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

9/ Mongoose

Animals on safari: Dwarf mongoose, Serengeti, Tanzania

Animals on safari: Dwarf mongoose, Serengeti, Tanzania

The mongoose is one of Africa’s smallest carnivores, and is part of the same family as the much-loved meerkat. There are 34 different kinds of mongoose, including the banded mongoose, Egyptian mongoose (the largest kind, reaching up to 60 cm), and the smallest, the 17 cm-long dwarf mongoose. Mongooses (the plural is mongooses, not mongeese) are active during the day and mainly eat small rodents, reptiles and insects. They live in burrows and some, like the banded mongoose, are social creatures and live in large communities, just like their meerkat relatives.

Top places to see mongooses on safari

You can find mongooses in most parts of Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. They live in a variety of habitats ranging from forests and woodlands to savannah areas.  Look out for the telltale holes in the ground that are their burrows.

Read more: The Amazing Animals Of Uganda: A Photo Guide

Herbivores

10/ Zebra

Animals on safari: Plains zebras, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Animals on safari: Plains zebras, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Zebras are one of the most photogenic animals on safari – with their eye-catching stripes they really do look great in photos! There are three species of zebra – plains, Grevy’s and mountain – but the one you will most likely see on your safari is the plains zebra. Zebras are closely related to horses – and scientists think they evolved stripes to confuse predators and make it hard to pick out a single individual from the herd. Every single zebra’s stripes are unique and help them to recognise each other. While they may look calm, zebras can actually be quite aggressive and a well-placed kick from a zebra can kill a lion.

Top places to see zebras on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Park, Tsavo National Parks, Lewa Conservancy (Grevy’s Zebra)
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park
  • South Africa – Mountain Zebra National Park, Kruger National Park
  • TanzaniaSerengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater
  • Uganda – Lake Mburo National Park
  • Zambia – North Luangwa National Park, South Luangwa National Park

11/ Giraffe

Giraffes, Serengeti, Tanzania

Giraffes are a very popular animal to see on safari

With their glorious patterned skins and long necks, giraffes are the tallest living land animals, reaching around 5.5 metres in height. Giraffes are herbivores and their favourite food is the leaves of the acacia tree. You will often see them gracefully feeding, wrapping their long tongues around the branches to pull off the leaves. Giraffes are quite sociable and hang around in groups – and a group of giraffes is called a ‘tower’.

If you’re very lucky, you may get to see giraffes fighting. The pair in the picture above are not courting, they’re both males and they’re about to beat each other up, which they do by bashing each other with their heads. This is known as necking and is a way for males to assert dominance over each other.

Top places to see giraffes on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta
  • Kenya – Meru National Park
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park
  • South Africa – Kruger National Park, Wildlife Reserves
  • Tanzania – Selous Game Reserve, Arusha National Park
  • UgandaMurchison Falls National Park (there are over 1000 here).
  • Zambia – South Luangwa National Park
  • Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park

12/ Hippo

Animals on safari: Hippo, Kazinga Channel, Uganda

Hippo, Kazinga Channel, Uganda

Hippos are the largest land mammal after elephants, weighing up to three tonnes, and surprisingly they cannot swim! Instead, they walk along under the water, where they are able to hold their breath for up to five minutes. Although they look peaceful, hippos are actually the most dangerous mammal in Africa, responsible for the deaths of an estimated 300 people every year. They’re quite aggressive too, and you’ll sometimes see them grunting loudly or showing their teeth to intimidate rival males.

Hippos spend their days lounging in the water in lakes and ponds, and come out of the water at night to graze on grass.  So you’re most likely to see them on a boat trip, or in a watering hole in one of the many national parks or game reserves. If you’re staying in a campsite near a river or lake, they sometimes even wander into the camps at night, so be careful!

Top places to see hippos on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Reserve
  • South Africa – Kruger National Park
  • Tanzania – Selous Game Reserve, Katavi National Park, Serengeti
  • UgandaMurchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, especially the Kazinga Channel.
  • Zambia – Zambezi River
  • Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park

Read more: A Boat Cruise on the Kazinga Channel, Uganda

13/ Warthog

Animals on a safari: Warthog, Tanzania

Warthogs are a commonly-spotted animal on safari

If you’ve seen the Lion King you’ll probably remember the character of Pumbaa – he’s a warthog. Warthogs are related to pigs, and as their name suggests they are medium-sized, pig-like animals with warty growths on their faces. These are not actually warts, but patches of thick skin to protect the animal’s face when it gets into fights.  There are two types – common warthogs and desert warthogs – and you may see both on your African safari. They live in burrows, normally occupying abandoned holes dug by other animals like aardvarks. Warthogs are sometimes thought of as quite aggressive – and they can be – but they are actually herbivores and more often than not will run away at any sign of danger.

Top places to see warthogs on safari

Warthogs are found in all national parks and reserves throughout southern and east Africa. Top places to see these animals include the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Read more: Behind The Scenes On Safari In Tanzania

Primates

14/ Mountain Gorilla

Animals on safari: Mountain Gorilla, Uganda

Mountain Gorilla: only a very lucky few get to see one of these incredible animals on safari

Gorillas are one of Africa’s rarest and most thrilling animals to see on safari. There are fewer than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world, and they all live in a small area of forested mountains on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorillas live in family groups of around 10 individuals, and scientists have spent years gradually training some of these families to accept the presence of humans so that they can study them – a process called habituation.

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world, with the biggest males reaching over 1.5 metres tall and 180 kilos.  Just like humans, they communicate with both gestures and vocalisations and have 16 different types of call, including short barks, roars or hoots. Mountain gorillas mainly eat leaves and shoots, but have also been known to eat insects, and they can spend a quarter of their day eating.

Top places to see gorillas on safari

You won’t see gorillas on a regular safari – you have to buy a special permit and hike into the forest, where you will be able to spend up to 1 hour in their company.  Here are the only places you can see these animals in the wild:

  • Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
  • Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo – Virunga National Park

Read More: Gorilla Trekking in Rainy Season

15/ Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee, Kibale Forest, Uganda

Chimpanzee, Kibale Forest, Uganda

Chimpanzees are our closest animal relatives (they share 99% of our DNA), and are incredibly intelligent. They can learn and understand words,  show emotions including empathy, regret, and friendship, they can recognise faces, remember things, and they can make tools.

There are around 300,000 chimpanzees in the forest of equatorial Africa, living in large groups of up to a few hundred animals led by an alpha male. Chimps spend their day in the treetops resting, grooming, and eating; they also sometimes come down to the ground to feed, drink or hunt. At night they sleep in nests that look like large birds nests made of leaves.

Top places to see chimpanzee on safari

Chimpanzees can only be found in central and western Africa. There are none in the south. The best place to see them in the wild is Uganda’s Kibale Forest, but you can also find them in Kalinzu Forest and Kyambura Gorge near Queen Elizabeth National Park, Budongo Forest (Murchison Falls National Park), and Semuliki Wildlife Reserve. Gombe National Park in Tanzania is the first park in Africa specifically created for chimpanzees.

If you want to find out more, I wrote about chimpanzee trekking for Lonely Planet.

Read More: Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale

16/ Baboon

Animals on safari: Olive Baboon, Uganda

Olive Baboon, Uganda

Baboons are the world’s largest monkeys. Like most monkeys they can and do climb trees to sleep, eat and keep lookout, but they tend to spend most of their time on the ground, making them particularly easy to spot. They’re also not afraid of humans and often approach urban areas to scavenge. They frequently come into conflict with farmers by eating crops.

Baboons live in groups, called troops, of around 50 members. Since they’re not really afraid of humans, having a big troop of baboons surrounding your safari vehicle can be pretty intimidating!

Top places to see baboons on safari

There are five types of baboons living in different parts of Africa. You can see olive baboons in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, yellow baboons in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Botswana, and Chacma baboons in South Africa and Zambia.

17/ Monkeys

Colobus Monkeys, Uganda

Colobus Monkeys, Entebbe, Uganda

There are over 100 species of monkeys in mainland Africa, so they’re not hard to spot! Commonly-seen types include vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, patas monkeys and the ones above, which are black and white colobus monkeys. Monkeys are divided into New World Monkeys (those from the Americas) and Old World Monkeys (those from Africa and Asia). The main difference between the two is that New World Monkeys have prehensile tails which they can use to grip things, while none of the monkeys in Africa and Asia have this skill.

Most monkeys are omnivorous, meaning they eat everything from leaves, fruit and grass to insects, birds and small rodents. Apart from baboons, most monkeys in Africa spend the majority of their time in the trees, so you’ll need to look up and keep your eyes peeled if you want to spot them.

Top places to see monkeys on safari

You can see monkeys in every safari country – in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania you’re most likely to see vervet and colobus monkeys. There are only 2 species of monkey in South Africa.

Read more: Things To Do In Entebbe, Uganda

Antelopes

There are over 70 antelope species in Africa, of which 21 alone live in Kruger National Park and 16 live in the Serengeti in Tanzania, so it would be impossible to list them all here!  ‘Antelope’ is a term used to describe any deer-like animal, and includes things like impalas, gazelles, springboks, elands, kudus and many more – though unlike deer which shed their horns every year, antelopes keep them all the time. You will definitely see hundreds of of antelopes on your African safari, and below are just a few of them.

18/ Wildebeest

Wildebeest, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Wildebeest, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Wildebeest (which are sometimes also known as gnus) may look like cows but they are actually a kind of antelope. The Afrikaans called them ‘wild beasts’ for their powerful build and sharp horns, and you certainly wouldn’t want to cross one, but these animals are no match for the lions, leopards and hyenas that rely on them for prey.

The famous wildebeest migration is one of the greatest spectacles in nature, and if you’re lucky enough to see it on your trip to Africa you really will be in for the experience of a lifetime. Every year, more than two million wildebeest, followed by large numbers of zebras, antelopes and predators, migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya and back again, in search of grazing grounds and water. This is a constant cycle of movement, and many safari companies track the migration to make sure you have the best chance to see it.

Top places to see wildebeest on safari

The absolute best places to go are the Serengeti or Masai Mara during the migration, but if that’s not possible then you can also see wildebeest in plenty of other places, including…

  • Botswana – Chobe National Park
  • Kenya –  Amboseli National Park
  • Namibia – Etosha National Park
  • South Africa – Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg National Park, Golden Gate National Park
  • Tanzania – Selous Game Reserve
  • Zambia – South Luangwa National Park
  • Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park

19/ Hartebeest

Animals on safari: Hartebeest, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Hartebeest, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Hartebeests are one of the fastest antelopes, capable of reaching speeds of up to 45 mph.  Their name means ‘tough ox’, and you can recognise them by their short, twisted horns on both males and females, long faces, and pointy ears. Hartebeest are very social animals and often group together in herds of up to 300.

Top places to see hartebeest on safari

With an estimated 360,000 hartebeest living in Africa, you should have no trouble spotting some of these animals on safari. Look out for them in any savannah national park or reserve, including the Serengeti in Tanzania, Masai Mara in Kenya, and parks in Uganda, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.

20/ Waterbuck

Waterbuck, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Waterbuck, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Another type of antelope you may see on your safari is the waterbuck. Its name comes from the fact that when threatened it will often run and hide in water, sometimes submerging almost completely until the threat has gone away. The waterbuck is recognisable by its shaggy coat and very long, impressive horns, which only the males have, and which can grow up to a metre long. The horns are so long and sharp that sometimes males fighting for territory can end up killing each other. A waterbuck’s skin gives off an oily secretion, thought to be for waterproofing, but which is also quite strong-smelling.

Top places to see waterbuck on safari

As the name suggests, you’re most likely to see waterbuck close to lakes and rivers, in groups of up to about 30.  Their territory is more towards east Africa and the east side of Southern Africa, in places like Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

21/ Impala

Animals on safari: Impala, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Impala, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Impalas are one of the most graceful and elegant antelopes, with their glossy, short coats and long, elegantly curving horns up to a metre long. They’re a key prey for lions and hyenas, so they practise safety in numbers and congregate in herds hundreds strong. Impalas are amazing jumpers, able to leap a distance of 10 metres or clear an obstacle three metres high. When running away from predators they often jump clear over bushes and shrubs rather than running round them.

Top places to see impala on safari

You can see impala all over east and southern Africa, including Kenya (Masai Mara), Tanzania (Serengeti and Selous Game Reserve), Botswana (Okavango Delta), South Africa (Kruger National Park), Zambia (Luangwa Valley), Zimbabwe (Zambezi Valley and Lake Kariba) and Nambia (Etosha National Park)

22/ Kob

Uganda kob, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Uganda kob, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Kobs are quite similar to impala but less common, and are found only in central and west Africa and Uganda. They’re identified by their ringed horns which curve backwards, and their short reddish coat. Only the males have horns. Kobs prefer flat or gently rolling countryside, close to water – but these are also ideal locations for farming so kobs frequently come into conflict with humans. They used to be common in Kenya and Tanzania but are now almost extinct in those areas due to habitat loss.

Top places to see kobs on safari

The best place to see kobs on safari is in Uganda, where the kob is so iconic it even appears on the Ugandan coat of arms.

Read more: 28 Top Things To Do and See in Uganda

Reptiles

23/ Nile crocodile

Animals on safari: Nile Crocodile, Uganda

Nile Crocodile, Kazinga Channel, Uganda

The Nile crocodile is both Africa’s largest crocodile and one of its deadliest predators. Nile crocodiles can grow to around six metres long and weigh up to 750 kilos. While they mostly eat fish they will attack anything that comes within striking distance, whether that’s small hippos, wildebeest, birds, other crocodiles, or even people. It’s estimated that about 200 people are year are killed by crocodiles in Africa.

Crocodiles are cold-blooded animals and spend many hours keeping warm by resting in the sunshine on the bank of a lake or river. While they may look sleepy and slow, they can spring into action in a split second should any unsuspecting prey come too close. The best way to spot crocodiles is to take a boat trip and look out for them on the shore or resting in the shallows by the water’s edge.

Top places to see Nile crocodiles on safari

  • Botswana – Okavango Delta
  • Kenya – Maasai Mara National Reserve
  • TanzaniaSerengeti National Park
  • UgandaMurchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, especially the Kazinga Channel
  • Zambia and Zimbabwe – Zambezi River, Tributaries in Zambia
  • South Africa – Kruger National Park

24/ Agama lizard

Male agama lizard, Serengeti, Tanzania

Male agama lizard, Serengeti, Tanzania

There are more than 30 different types of agama lizards, which are also known as rainbow lizards because of their stunning bright colours. Most of the year these animals are brown or grey, but in mating season the males develop these glorious colour patterns to attract a female. Different species turn different colours and the colour can be less bright if the animal is alarmed or has lost a fight with another male.

Males regularly show their dominance to each other by nodding, lashing their tails and opening their powerful jaws. Sometimes they fight, and you may see older males with damaged tails from previous combats. They mostly eat insects, waiting until one comes by and then snapping it up, using their sticky tongue to help hold onto it.

You’ll find agama lizards in rocky areas, either sunning themselves on the rocks or, if it’s too hot, sheltering in the shade. They’re quite small, up to about 30 cm long, but in mating season their bright colours make them easy to spot.

Top places to see agama lizards on safari

You can find agama lizards right across Africa, including in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

Birds

There are over well over 2,000 species of birds in Africa so it would be next to impossible to list them all in this blog post! Here are just a few of the most iconic or noticeable ones that you might see on your African safari.

25/ Common ostrich

Birds to see on safari: Male ostrich, Serengeti, Tanzania

Male ostrich, Serengeti, Tanzania

The ostrich is one of Africa’s most iconic birds. These huge creatures are the world’s largest bird – at up to three metres in height and 160 kilos they’re so big and heavy that they cannot fly. Instead, they are fantastic runners, reaching a top speed of over 40 miles an hour. They have long, powerful legs which can cover up to five metres in a stride and kill a lion – or a human – with a single kick.  Ostriches hang around in small groups of up to about a dozen birds led by a dominant male and female. At breeding time, all the lesser females put their eggs in the dominant hen’s nest, where she and the alpha male take turns incubating them.

There is a famous saying that ostriches bury their heads in the sand, but this is not actually true. They do, however, cower down and press their heads and necks onto to floor, which may be where the saying comes from. As well as roaming wild, ostriches are also farmed around the world for their meat, eggs, feathers and skin, which is used to make leather.

Top places to see ostriches on safari

The main places to see ostriches are Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, where you can also visit ostrich farms and get up close to these amazing birds.

26/ Stork

Birds to see on safari: Marabou stork, Uganda

Marabou stork, Uganda

Eight of the worlds 19 species of stork live in Africa, including the yellow-billed, saddle-billed, and African openbilled stork. But probably the most common one you are likely to see is the Marabou stork, an enormous, prehistoric-looking bird that reaches up to 1.5 metres tall and has a wingspan of up to 3.7 metres – one of the largest in the world. Marabou storks are scavengers, feeding on dead animal carcasses, scraps and even the faeces of other animals, and frequently coming into towns and cities to scavenge in bins and rubbish dumps.

Many storks prefer to live in open and wetland areas, eating fish, shellfish, frogs, small birds and small mammals. They are voiceless so they don’t squawk or caw, but communicate by clattering their bills. Their nests are very large and you will often see them on the tops of buildings or high up in trees.

Top places to see storks on safari

Many storks are migratory and head to Africa from Europe during the winter months. You’ll find them all across sub-Saharan Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. If you go to Uganda you will see them in and around the capital, Kampala.

27/ Hornbill

Birds to see on safari: Red-billed hornbill, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Red-billed hornbill, Kruger National Park, South Africa

The hornbill is another creature you might be familiar with if you’ve seen the Lion King. Zazu, the king’s advisor, is a red-billed hornbill similar to the one above. There are 45 different types of hornbill, of which 24 can be found in Africa, and they’re easy to recognise because of their long, downward-curving bill which is often brightly coloured.  They’re also conspicuous because they’re relatively large birds, ranging from about 30 cm long to about 150 cm long depending on the species, and they’re quite noisy.When hornbills breed, the female makes a nest in a hole in a tree, which she then seals up with her own excrement, leaving only a very narrow opening. The male must then collect food and feed her through the slot until the chicks are ready to fly.

Top places to see hornbills on safari

Of the 24 types of hornbill found in Africa, 13 can be seen in open woodlands and savanna like the Masai Mara or the Serengeti; the rest live in dense forests and are harder to spot.  You will see different types of hornbills all across Africa, including in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa.

28/ Kori bustard

Birds to see on safari: Kori Bustard, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kori Bustard, Kruger National Park, South Africa

The kori bustard is the world’s heaviest flying bird – males can weigh up to 20 kilos and reach about 1.5 metres tall, while females are about half the size. But although they can fly, they usually live on the ground and only take to the skies in cases of extreme danger. Kori bustards are omnivorous, eating mainly insects, small mammals, lizards, seeds and berries.

Male kori bustards mate with several females. Mating lasts only a few seconds and as soon as it’s over the male starts trying to attract another female. He’s also not involved at all in making the nest, incubating eggs or raising the chicks.

Top places to see kori bustards on safari

Kori bustards are found all across east and south Africa. They are most common in Kenya and Tanzania, but you can also find them in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa among others. They live in wide, open grasslands and lightly wooded savanna, so are quite easy to spot thanks to their size.

29/ Grey crowned crane

Birds to see on safari: Crested crane, Uganda

Crested crane, Uganda

Reaching 1 metre tall, with its bright red wattle and eye-catching golden crest, the grey crowned crane is really a wonderful bird to see on your African safari. There are two subspecies: one, the crested crane, is the national bird of Uganda and appears on the country’s coat of arms alongside the kob mentioned above.  The other, the South African crowned crane, looks very similar but is only found in Southern Africa.

Crowned cranes love to dance. They have an extravagant courtship display where both males and females bow, jump, and flap their huge wings, but don’t worry if you’re not visiting during mating season – these birds put on this show all year round.

Top places to see crested cranes on safari

Since they’re the national bird of Uganda, that’s the obvious place to see them. However you can also see crested cranes in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa, where they are often found hanging out with herds of cattle which they use as cover from potential predators.

30/ Secretary bird

Birds to see on safari: Secretary bird, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Secretary bird, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

With the head of an eagle and the legs of a stork, the secretary bird is one of the most bizarre-looking birds you might see on safari. It’s said to have been given its name by 19th century Europeans, who thought that with its black knee britches and tailcoat, and its long black quills at the back of the head, it looked like an office clerk or secretary. Another theory is that the name comes from the Arabic saqr-et-tair or ‘hunter bird’.

Secretary birds are related to other birds of prey like buzzards, vultures, and kites, and are famous for their unusual hunting technique. They stamp on their prey – usually snakes, small mammals or reptiles – to stun or kill them before swallowing them whole. Scientists measured the force and discovered the deadly blow can transfer five times the bird’s own weight in a hundredth of a second.  The secretary bird appears on the coat-of-arms of both Sudan and South Africa.

Top places to see secretary birds on safari

Secretary birds prefer flat, open grasslands and savannah, making your chances of seeing one of these birds on safari quite high. Look out for them in Tanzania’s Serengeti, the Masai Mara in Kenya, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

31/ Vulture

Griffon vulture, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Griffon vulture, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Africa is home to 11 different species of vultures, so you’ll have no trouble spotting them on your safari. Vultures are famously natures scavengers and cleaners – they feed on dead animals and the remains left over by predators and they’re responsible for clearing away up to 70% of Africa’s carrion. Some vultures may also kill sick or wounded animals, or occasionally hunt fish or reptiles. Vultures are usually white, brown or black, and many species have a bald head and neck with a ruff of feathers around the collar.

Vultures are specially adapted to life as nature’s rubbish collectors. Their strong eyesight allows them to spot dead or dying animals from the air, while a unique balance of stomach acids helps them digest rotting meat without getting sick.

Top places to see vultures on safari

Vultures can be found in every country throughout the whole of Africa.

32/ Oxpecker

Birds to see on safari: Yellow-billed oxpecker on the back of a buffalo, Tanzania

A yellow-billed oxpecker performs a courtship dance on the back of a buffalo, Tanzania

The oxpecker, also called the tick bird, rides on the backs of large mammals like buffalo, zebras and giraffes, feasting on ticks, fleas and lice. They can eat 100s of ticks a day, and when alarmed they also hiss, warning their host of approaching danger. But this isn’t an entirely mutually beneficial relationship – oxpeckers also feed on the wounds and blood left by the ticks. There are two species of oxpecker – red-billed and yellow-billed.

Top places to see oxpeckers on safari

You’ll find oxpeckers anywhere in Africa there are large mammals for them to feast on. Look out for them taking a ride on a giraffe, buffalo, rhino or hippo – they make for great photos.

Marabou stork and black-headed ibis, Serengeti, Tanzania

Marabou stork and black-headed ibis, Serengeti, Tanzania

And there you have it! 32 amazing birds and animals to see on a safari. Of course there are literally hundreds more, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you might see!

If you enjoyed this, here are a few more posts you might like:

19 Easy Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners

28 Top Things To Do and See in Uganda

Behind The Scenes On Safari In Tanzania

Gorilla Safaris In Uganda – The Real Inside Story


If you have any questions or comments I’d love to read them. Please drop them in the box below!

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10 Comments

  • Valerie
    28th March 2020 at 11:46 am

    These photos are absolutely spectacular!! Going on a safari is one of my big goals in life. I love African animals. Especially the African elephant and lion. Oh and I wanna see giraffes and hippos and warthogs (because Pumba obviously!) and and and….all of the 32 on your list haha

    Reply
    • passportandpixels
      28th March 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you so much! And this is just the tip of the iceberg! I could have added loads more but the post was getting a bit long!

      Reply
  • Paula Martinelli
    28th March 2020 at 11:58 am

    WOW! I absolutely love your post…the pictures are amazing! I just came back from a month safari in Namibia and Botswana and seeing your article and the pictures make me want to go back again. Thanks for sharing this beautiful and super well informed article.

    Reply
    • passportandpixels
      28th March 2020 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks Paula – actually in writing this I decided that Namibia and Botswana are next on my list! I’d love to know where you went/how you organised it!

      Reply
  • Greta
    28th March 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Your photos are all so beautiful! I’ve been on a safari in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya and we got to see the Big Five which was pretty awesome. I’d love to do it again somewhere else, maybe South Africa!

    Reply
    • passportandpixels
      28th March 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks Greta! I’d love to spend more time in Kenya, only been there briefly and it’s definitely on the list! One day…

      Reply
  • galatiacy
    28th March 2020 at 1:36 pm

    absolutely stunning Images! Africa is extremely high on my bucket list, im saving this guide!

    Reply
    • passportandpixels
      28th March 2020 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you! When you go you will definitely fall in love, I know I did. If you decide to go to Uganda or to climb Kilimanjaro come back and check out my other posts!

      Reply
  • travelonthereg
    28th March 2020 at 5:47 pm

    An African safari is an experience that just doesn’t match any others, right? Beautiful photos!

    Reply
    • passportandpixels
      28th March 2020 at 6:14 pm

      Thank you! So pleased you like them!

      Reply

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