African Safari Animals and Where to Find Them [Infographic]

The diverse landscapes of the African continent comprise many different habitats, creating an ideal home for a dazzling diversity of wildlife and bird species. This makes the list of African animals you could see on a safari enormous, from the renowned Big Five to endangered species such as the mountain gorilla, pangolin and Ethiopian wolf. Whatever you’re keen to see, plan carefully as not all national parks and game reserves are home to all African safari animals. We’ve selected some African animals to see, together with recommendations of some of the best places to find them on safari. There are also plenty of other African safari hot spots where many of the Big Five species can be found. Check out our infographic, followed by some further information.

African Safari Animals and Where to Find Them

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Big Five African Safari Animals

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African Lion

One of the most majestic safari animals, lions are mostly found in the open woodlands, grasslands and scrub of sub-Saharan Africa where plenty of water is available. A member of the Big 5, and one of the largest big cats, lions are very social animals who typically live in a pride consisting of up to three adult males, several females and their cubs. Known as the ‘King of the Jungle’ these regal felines are most active at night and are known to rest for up to 20 hours a day. It’s a thrilling experience to catch a glimpse of this predator in its natural habitat, whether its resting or during an active kill. So, if you want to hear lions roar or witness how they stalk their prey, then below are a few suggestions where you can see the African lions.

Best Places to see African Lion

Recommended Safari

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African Leopard

Leopards are the most elusive of the Big 5. They are solitary animals, not nearly as social as lions, as well as being nocturnal predators, which makes them particularly difficult to see. Graceful and powerful members of the big cat family, particularly known for their ability to climb trees and swim, leopards are primarily located throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They are also lightning quick and very well camouflaged which makes them excellent hunters. Being exceptionally strong ensures that they can kill prey much larger than themselves. They are territorial and fiercely protective of their young and communicate through distinctive calls.

Best Places to see African Leopard

Recommended Safari to see African Leopard

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While the white rhinos prefer the open grassland and savannah, black rhinos prefer desert, scrub and bush land. Black rhinos are critically endangered and the white rhino is near threatened  This is predominantly due to widespread poaching for their horns. Rhinos are considered the second-largest land mammal after elephants, making them a must-see African animal. Rhinos are herbivores and are also generally considered to be solitary animals, although some rhinos do live in pairs or a group called a ‘herd’ or ‘crash’ of rhinos. On an African wildlife safari, rhinos can be fairly easy to spot as they spend most of their days and nights grazing, sleeping only during the hottest parts of the day.

Best Places to see Rhinos

Recommended Safari to see Rhinos

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African Elephant

These lumbering giants are a favourite African safari animal that travellers love to see. The world’s largest and heaviest land animal, elephants are found in a wide variety of sub-Saharan habitats, including open savannah, forests, lush wetlands and arid deserts. Like rhinos, elephants are herbivores and will eat all manner of vegetation. They are social animals, led by a matriarch in groups ranging from 10 up to 100 individuals. Generally peaceful by nature elephants can be dangerous if provoked. A commonly known fact about the African elephant is that their ears are much larger than their Asian counterparts. Elephants use their ears as a means of keeping cool by radiating heat from blood vessels and flapping to generate cooling air currents. A lesser-known fact is that their tusks continue to grow throughout their life.

Best Places to see the African Elephant

Recommended Safari to see the African Elephant

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Cape Buffalo

One of the most dangerous animals in Africa, the Cape Buffalo is known for its unpredictable and aggressive nature. Commonly seen in water-rich game reserves, they can be found in different habitats like lowland rain forests, semi-arid bush land and coastal savannah. The only desert-adapted rhinos are found in Namibia. Cape buffalo congregate at a water sources and are excellent swimmers. Being herbivores the bulk of their diet consists of grass. The temperamental Cape buffalo are reported to have killed many people in Africa and are on a par with hippos as being the most dangerous large animals. They are also known to kill lions, especially when protecting their young. It’s important to give these volatile animals a large dose of respect whilst on a safari.

Best Places to see Cape Buffalo

Recommended Safari to see Cape Buffalo

Endangered Safari Animals in Africa

Temmincks Ground Pangolin


Pangolin is one of the other wild animals in Africa that is a critically endangered species, illegally trafficked primarily for its scales which are used in traditional medicine and are in high demand in Asia. Tragically tens of thousands of pangolins are poached every year (for meat or medicine) so catching a glimpse of this solitary and nocturnal animal is very rare. Pangolins are easily distinguishable by their full armour of scales and are known to curl into a ball when confronted with potential dangers. There are four species of pangolin in Africa: ground, giant, black-bellied and white-bellied. They prefer areas with sandy soils (which are also good habitats for termites which they feed on as well as ants) in woodlands and savannas within reach of water.

Best Places to see Pangolin

  • Namiri Plains, Tanzania
  • Shindi, Botswana
  • Kalahari, South Africa
  • Central-Northern Namibia

Close Up Of A Rare And Endangered Ethiopian Wolf

Ethiopian Wolf

Endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian wolf (a rusty red jackal-like dog) is the most endangered carnivore of Africa. Found in isolated enclaves of shrub land, afro-alpine grasslands and rocky areas, there are only 360 to 440 of them left. As the continent’s only wolf species, the reason for their slow path to extinction is due to loss of habitat and diseases. The Ethiopian wolf is a carnivore that preys on rodents such as giant mole rats and common grass rats. They are social animals and live in packs of up to 12 adults but they tend to hunt alone while the pack is only used as a means to defend their territory.

Best Places to see Ethiopian Wolf

  • Sanetti Plateau, Ethiopia
  • Guassa Plateau, Ethiopia
  • Simien mountains, Ethiopia

Recommended Safari to see Ethiopian Wolf

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Mountain Gorilla

The mountain gorilla, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, was once critically endangered due to habitat destruction, poaching and civil war. However, active conservation measures were undertaken to prevent this situation from worsening and, although these gentle giants are still on the endangered African animals list, the good news is that the population is increasing due to conservation efforts and well-organized gorilla trekking safaris that help pay to protect the wildlife and their forest habitat. The mountain gorilla is one of the most powerful, intelligent and strongest living primates. With a diet predominantly consisting of shoots and leaves they typically live in a group of up to 10 individuals with one dominant male, several females and their young. Living in high mountains and surrounded mostly by impenetrable forest, a sighting of the mountain gorilla is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Best Places to see Mountain Gorilla

Recommended Safari to see Mountain Gorilla

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African Wild Dog

This endangered African safari animal is mostly found in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa. The main threats that have led to their decline include loss of habitat, diseases from domestic animals, illegal snares set by poachers and killing by livestock farmers. Also known as the Cape hunting dog or painted dog, the African wild dog is a social animal that lives and hunts in packs, which can be as large as 40 individuals. They usually prey on medium-sized animals like gazelles, but they can easily bring down large animals including antelope and wildebeest.

Best Places to see African Wild Dog

Recommended Safari to see African Wild Dog

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Rothschild’s Giraffe

One of the most iconic African safari animals, the Rothschild’s Giraffe is a subspecies of giraffe that is now on the list of the endangered animals in Africa. Their decline is a result of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and illegal hunting and poaching. These tall land mammals now face the risk of extinction and can only be seen in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. The Rothschild’s giraffe is one of the tallest of all species, growing up to 19 feet in height. They also have a unique colouring which distinguishes them from other giraffe species. They are a herbivore animal feeding on shoots, leaves and bark. What’s more, they require very little sleep, only  30 minutes a day. Even when sleeping they are usually standing up, which helps to protect themselves from predators.

Best Places to see Rothschild’s Giraffe

  • Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
  • Kidepo Valley Park, Uganda
  • Lake Mburo Park, Uganda
  • Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Recommended Safari to see Rothschild’s Giraffe

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About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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