Wildlife & Animals – South Africa

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

Philip is the author of the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

South Africa is a prime wildlife destination. All main safari animals are easily seen. Kruger National Park offers excellent general wildlife viewing, and the KwaZulu-Natal parks are the best places to see rhino. In Sabi Sand, the main focus is on seeing the Big Five; it is famous for its habituated leopard. Seeing these normally shy cats is almost guaranteed here. Wildlife is scattered in Kgalagadi, but sightings in this arid environment tend to be exciting.

Abundant
Common
Occasional
Rare
None
ElephantAbundant
GiraffeAbundant
HippoAbundant
BuffaloAbundant
ZebraAbundant
WildebeestAbundant
LionCommon
LeopardOccasional
CheetahOccasional
HyenaOccasional

Wildlife Highlights

The Cape Mountain zebra is endemic to South Africa and can be seen in Mountain Zebra National Park and some other parks in the Cape. The rare black wildebeest is also endemic to South Africa and can be found in some grassveld and Karoo reserves. Some dry-country specials can be seen in the Kalahari habitat. These include meerkat, gemsbok, springbok and bat-eared fox.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

South Africa can be visited any time of the year, but wildlife viewing is best in the Dry season (May-September). The end of the Dry season (August-September) is especially rewarding as water is scarce and animals can be found near waterholes. The middle of the Dry season (June-August) is mid-winter when early morning and afternoon drives in open vehicles can be very cold. The Cape area, in the south of the country, has a different weather pattern; the rainy season is in winter, which is opposite to the rest of the country. The majority of the parks are in the summer rainfall region.

Wildlife Rating

Recommended Wildlife Books

  • Stuarts' Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa
    Chris Stuart
  • Pocket Guide: Mammals of Southern Africa
    Chris Stuart

Wildlife Photos

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