African Wildlife Experiences – 10 of the Best

Serengeti, the Masaai Mara, and the Kruger National Park offer excellent and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. But across Africa, there are plenty of unusual and completely unforgettable African wildlife experiences too.

Here are 10 top wildlife destinations to consider.

Akagera, Rwanda

Akagera, Rwanda

Rwanda is magnificent and so too is Akagera when it comes to African wildlife. In the east of the tiny country, this is their flagship Big Five reserve. Birdlife is abundant and the scenery of Akagera is Edenic. Languid lakes, rolling hills, grassy plains, woodlands and marshes punctuate the 1 220km² park.

Lake Ihema in the south is vast and languid – full of hippos and crocs. As you head north there are plenty of giraffe, zebra and antelope – not forgetting the Big Five that live here too.

Driving Akagera is made more inspiring if you know that not too long ago this national park was virtually devoid of wildlife – it had all been poached. Now it’s flourishing, and the surrounding communities live in harmony with the park and its wildlife.

Andasibe-Mantadia, Madagascar

Akagera, Rwanda indri

It’s just 155km² in size, but here live unique species. Star of the park is the indri. The shrill whaling siren-like call of these piebald teddy bear lemurs can be heard early morning and late afternoon.

They live their entire lives in the tree tops, even giving birth at altitude. Tracking them in the rainforest of the park is an unforgettable and otherworldly experience. Accompanied by professional forest guides, you follow the sound of their call until you see them.

Aside from the enchanting indris, there are another 13 lemur species, 50 types of reptile, over 80 different amphibians and hundreds of bird species. Many of the bird species are endemic too, like the Madagascar baza, Madagascar wagtail and the Madagascar yellowbrow.

There are also boa constrictors, plenty of zany leaf-tailed geckoes, and the giant Parson’s chameleon which can reach a body size of 60cm and weigh in at a hefty 2kg. Guided night walks are well worth doing to see a completely different perspective of African wildlife in the park.

Damaraland, Namibia

Damaraland, Namibia

Tracking and finding rare desert-adapted elephants is a wildlife bucket list item. Deep in Damaraland is a good place to start. There is just a handful of these unique elephants and they traverse a vast area, so finding them is difficult.

The local bush telegraph often alludes to where they may be, relative to where they were last seen. There are two groups of desert elephants, one group living between the Hoarusib and Hoanib rivers and the other between the Huab and Ugab rivers. Together they total under 200 animals.

After hours of driving, we found the Huab-Ugab group, calmly browsing on the banks of a dry river bed. A few of the herd were sleeping on the ground – which is very unusual for elephants – but they were exhausted from walking through the night.

We watched them carefully feeding, but not too much from each tree, before moving on. These are the same species of elephant found in South Africa, but they have adapted to their arid environment.

They tread lightly, conserve the environment, drink less water, have devised ways of cooling themselves in the desert heat and are also slimmer than savannah-living elephants. They are true desert specialists.

Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

These mountains are high, very high, like up to 4 000 metres high, but here lives rare African wildlife. The park is the stronghold to three endemic mammal species: the charismatic Ethiopian wolf, handsome mountain nyala, and mischievous Bale monkey – and there are 1 300 plant species here too, of which 160 are endemic.

Most visitors come here to see the sleek, red Ethiopian wolves, the only wolf in Africa. On the Sanetti Plateau atop the Bale Mountains the air is thin and cold. Grey heather bushes dot the landscape along prehistoric looking giant lobelias; it’s an ethereal place.

It’s also remarkably easy to drive around and track Ethiopian wolves from your vehicle. They rise late, often after 9am, when the sun warms the air a little. Then they head out hunting for giant mole-rats for breakfast.

This means the wolves are most often seen on the trot and diving for their prey. Aside from red wolves are also mountain nyala, Bohr reedbuck, servals, warthog, golden eagles, tawny eagles, bearded vultures – and giant mole-rats of course.

Kgalagadi, South Africa

Kgalagadi, South Africa

True wildlife enthusiasts rate Kgalagadi tops. It’s rugged and real and inhabited by oryx, springbok, wildebeest, cheetah, leopard, meerkats and of course iconic black-maned lions.

In Kgalagadi you head out early for a long drive, stop for a picnic lunch, and continue for the rest of the day during the winter. Summers are too hot during through the day, so early morning and late afternoon drives are best.

African wildlife is plentiful and animal encounters are intriguing. This is also Africa’s first transfrontier park and it’s shared with Botswana – and the Khomani San and Mier bushman communities who traditionally lived here.

Take along binoculars and bird books and soak up the magnificence of this red dune desertscape.

Kibale, Uganda

Kibale, Uganda chimps

If tracking and seeing chimps is on your bucket list, Kibale National Park offers a great chance of realising this dream. These intelligent and charismatic primates live peacefully in the Kibale forest and some of the groups are relatively easy to see.

There are options of a shorter morning trek or a full day of chimp immersion, where you can watch and photograph them at leisure. The experience of hearing a chimp screech in the trees right above you and then crashing though the treetops is unforgettable.

Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Lake Nakuru, Kenya

In the rainy season between November and May, lesser flamingoes turn Lake Nakuru pale pink. They come to feed on the abundant algae in the lake, and in so doing provide a fantastical pink feathery spectacle.

The highest number of flamingoes recorded on the lake is 1.5 million. However, numbers are dwindling courtesy of climate change.

Lesser flamingoes may be the star attraction, but there are also plenty of other long-legged water birds to see along with ungainly white pelicans. En route from the park gate to the lake, the fever tree forest traversed is also touted as one of the good places in Kenya to spot leopard.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The vast crater floor is a self-contained African wildlife Eden. While Serengeti may have vast numbers of wildlife, Ngorongoro has diversity. Virtually if you can name it, it lives here.

The steep crater walls encircle the wildlife as if protecting it from the outside world, which is exactly how it feels when you are in Ngorongoro. It feels cocooned and separated from the rest of earth.

There are salty lakes on the crater floor where a sprinkling of pink flamingos live; there’s plenty of fresh drinking water for wildlife too. Head into the crater – down the steep road via the rim – for the day and immerse yourself in an authentic African wildlife experience.

Lion, buffalo, antelope, zebra and more, abundant bird life and excellent animal interactions can be witnessed on the crater floor.

Nyika Plateau, Malawi

Nyika Plateau, Malawi

It’s called Africa’s Scotland and it certainly is. The vast rolling high altitude plains and hills that are Nyika could easily be the Scottish Highlands, but for the wildlife that roams there.

Amidst swathes of bracken fern are zebra, roan antelope, waterbuck and more. Elephants are here too, along with over 400 bird species and over 200 types of orchid. From November each year, Nyika is ablaze with wildflowers and orchids of all sizes.

It’s also cool up there, with frequent rolling mist and low cloud. Again, it’s just like Scotland but for the traditional sacred lake and iron age site – and the friendliest folk in Africa: Malawians. Getting to Nyika is a rough drive, but absolutely worth it. It is true old Africa.

Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Wildlife doesn’t have to be terrestrial; marine life can be highly evocative. The Quirimbas Archipelago in northern Mozambique is a string of islands in topaz blue waters that are conserved and protected.

Fish and bird life here are prolific, so bring goggles and a snorkel and binoculars too. You will be enchanted by the vibrancy of life below the ocean surface.

Sailing through the tepid waters here, dolphins and flying fish are often seen alongside the boat. Some locals even ‘call’ the dolphins by gently tapping the side of their dhow and calling ‘suki’ – the local lingo for dolphin.

They regularly appear, as if answering to their name.

Story By Keri Harvey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive latest travel stories, destinations, travel packages, competitions and more!