Heading out on safari is one of the main reasons tourists decide to visit the epic continent of Africa. It’s a chance to see some of the world’s most amazing animals, such as lions, elephants and giraffes. If you are planning a safari holiday, here is a checklist of the ‘Big 5’, along with others, and where to find them.
Viewing prides of lions in their natural surroundings is one of the most rewarding things about going on safari. Although lions used to roam in large numbers, since the 1950s populations have declined and today, less than 21,000 remain. A guided tour in one of the National Parks is your best chance at safely finding and approaching lions on your holiday.
See them in: Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania
African leopards are one of the most difficult animals to spot on safari, particularly since they hide high up in the trees and are mainly active at night. Leopards can mostly be found in the sub-Saharan regions of the continent. They are highly versatile creatures, with the ability to climb trees, swim and run at speeds of 35 miles per hour.
Did you know that in eastern Africa leopards’ spots are round, but in southern Africa the markings are square?
See them in: Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Like the leopard, the rhinoceros can also be hard to find on safari and many rhinos (especially black rhinos) are in danger of becoming extinct due to frequent poaching. Both white and black rhinos dwell in various areas around the continent, but they will mostly be found in protected reserves located in South Africa. Although their eyesight is poor, their sense of smell and sound is exceptional, so you need to keep your wits about you when around them!
See them in: South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, and Zimbabwe
An African holiday is not complete without seeing a wild elephant, and these huge mammals can usually be found anywhere water exists, including rainforests, woodlands, and the savannah. African elephants can weigh up to six tonnes and can be very dangerous. Make sure you are with an experienced guide if you want to go elephant viewing.
See them in: Almost anywhere! South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and more
Cape Buffalo are one of the ‘Big 5’ due to their sheer size. They tend to reside in huge herds of 1,000 animals plus, and often prove to be one of the lion’s most powerful adversaries. With an estimated total population of well over 900,000 you are sure to spot a Cape Buffalo on your trip. Dwelling near water holes, they can be found in many regions throughout Africa.
See them in: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa
Moving on from the ‘Big 5’, giraffes are one of Africa’s most iconic animals and – as you may have guessed – they are also the world’s tallest mammal. Giraffes are generally easy to spot in Africa thanks to their unique appearance and their propensity to hang about tree-filled grasslands in small herds. Fast on their feet, giraffes can gallop of speeds of up to 56 kilometres per hour!
See them in: South Africa, Kenya, Somalia, Botswana, and Namibia
Mountain gorillas are declining in large numbers and an African holiday can provide travellers with one of the last opportunities to glimpse these incredible creatures. An individual gorilla tour or safari will usually need to be organised, as gorillas mainly dwell deep in the mountains in the centre of the continent and a guide is most definitely needed.
Remember! You’re not guaranteed to spot these reclusive animals, but you’ll have fun trying!
See them in: Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo
Sharks and Whales
Commonly included in Africa’s ‘Big 7’, the Great White shark and the Southern Right whale are also easily viewable during your holiday. Whale viewing tours are common, as are swimming with shark experiences. Cage dive anyone?
See them in: The coastal waters of South Africa