Skip to main content

The African continent boasts an abundance of natural wildlife, making it a captivating destination for visitors seeking to witness these magnificent animals living undisturbed in their natural habitats.

In this article, we shall take a look at the African Safari animals - and briefly talk about them. While there is so much more than the animals, they are the biggest part of Africa's tourism - and have always been even in the colonial period many decades ago.

This is a very comprehensive article and to make it easy to read and digest, we have grouped the animals according to their environmental habitat. Not geographical (countries) range - as that would add some complexity.

We have added many relevant links throughout the article so that you can learn a bit more about these animals. These are links to our content on this website, created with the same careful attention to detail.

Another important thing to remember is that we have not included any birds, fish, insects or smaller reptiles. Those would have made this article endless.

African Savannah Animals

The African Savannah climate is characterized by grassland and scattered trees. This includes the much drier semi-arid and arid areas.

1. Lion

two grown male lions

As the king of the jungle, the lion is one of the popular savannah animals that people like to encounter on an African Safari. While there are plenty of lions in the zoo, the lions in the wild are not friendly and still live by the rules of the wild.

Lions are found in almost all savannah national parks in Africa. Tanzania has the biggest concentration of lions in its parks, but you will see lions in pretty much every safari national park below the Sahara desert.

Related article: Interesting facts about lions.

2. African Bush Elephant

addo elephant np

There are 2 kinds of African elephants - the African Bush elephant and the forest elephant (discussed later). The African bush elephant is the biggest land animal and can weigh up to 7 tonnes (7,000 kg).

The African Bush elephant is bigger than the forest elephant in size, and the tusks of the African bush elephant curve outwards and upwards.

Related article: 22 fascinating facts about elephants

3. Cheetah

cheetah in kruger np

The Cheetah is another African animal worth adding to your bucket list. Apart from being the fastest land animal, cheetahs are good hunters who stalk their prey nearby until they can pounce. 

Additionally, cheetahs look adorable, with those black tear streaks on their small head. Take a look at our article on cheetah facts to learn more about these fast animals.

4. African Buffalo

kazinga buffalos

The African Buffalo is regarded as one of the most dangerous animals of the African continent. Buffaloes have a temper especially when they feel threatened. As a member of the Big 5, the threat of a buffalo is serious.

Buffaloes do look like regular cows with slight differences and can be found in most of the savannah national parks.

Related article: Facts about the African Buffalo 

5. Giraffe

giraffes in Murchison Falls NP Uganda

The Giraffe is the tallest land animal thanks to its very tall legs and neck. The giraffe's height helps it spot predators in a distance as well as eat from the tops of trees for very fresh leaves and twigs.

A giraffe is not an easy target in the jungle and a single kick with any of its legs could kill a lion. 

Related article: Interesting facts about giraffes

6. Leopard

leopard laying in the grass

The leopard is probably one of the best animals when it comes to isolation. The leopard's dotted skin is perfect for hiding in plain sight and this makes them hard to see. Leopards are more likely to be seen in the early morning, evening, or night game drives to catch them as they go hunting.

Related article: Fascinating facts about leopards

7. Rhinoceros

ziwa rhinos

The White Rhinoceros found in Africa is the second biggest land animal after the African Bush Elephant. Rhinos are known for their thick skin and the horns on the head.

While rhinos used to roam all over Africa in large numbers, they are now endangered and the remaining rhinoceroses in the wild live in wildlife-protected areas around Eastern and Southern Africa. Check out our article to learn some interesting facts about rhinos.

8. Hippopotamus


Hippos are one of the savannah animals which don't like the relentless heat and sunshine. This is why they spend much of the daytime in water and feed during the night. 

Hippos are also very unpredictable and highly regarded as more dangerous than lions.

Related article: Why are hippos so dangerous?

9. Zebra

resting zebras

Zebras are close cousins with domestic horses and the urge to walk up to a zebra and pet its mane is serious. Zebras are probably the easiest of all animals to identify, even for children and seeing them is always a treat.

These adorable black and white animals are very easy to see. Zebras are found in many national parks in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Related article: 38 fun & interesting facts about zebras.

10. African Wild Dog

painted dog

The African wild dog - also called the painted dog is by a large margin the best hunter of all wild animals in Africa. Due to their stamina and cooperation, African wild dogs have a hunting success rate that is better than lions or leopards. 

Besides being great hunters, African wild dogs are also great caretakers who look after their puppies in so well. Seeing a pack of these painted dogs on a hunt would be among the best safari experiences you could hope for.

Related article: Facts about African wilddogs

11. Meerkat

meerkats on look out

Meerkats are the small adorable surprises that welcome visitors to Southern Africa's arid parks such as Kalahari and Mkadikadi in Namibia and Botswana - respectively. Seeing a clan of meerkats going about its day burrowing, playing and being vigilant is a fun experience.

The fact that meerkats are immune to scorpion venom is quite mind-boggling, but that is the wonder and marvel of the African wilderness.

Related article: 12 Interesting facts about meerkats

African Forest Animals

As the heading suggests, these are some of the animals that live in predominantly forested environments. If you love forests, you can expect to see some of these animals, depending on where you will be.

12. Chimpanzees

chimp in Kibale np uganda

Chimpanzees are the closest animal relative to man. We share more than 98% of our DNA with chimps. As close relatives, chimpanzees are intelligent animals and their complex social structures can be observed in the wild.

Chimpanzees are found in many zoos all around the world, but you will only see them in their natural world if you visit tropical countries of western and Eastern Africa.

Related article: Fun facts that make chimpanzees captivating

13. Gorillas

gorilla with baby on its back

Gorillas are the biggest primates on the planet. They share around 97% of Human DNA and are therefore intelligent. Like chimpanzees, gorillas have complex social structures with the males (silverbacks) at the head of each family.

There are 2 species of gorillas - the western (lowland) gorillas and the Eastern (mountain) gorillas. Both species are critically endangered.

Related article: Where do mountain gorillas live? - in the wild.

14. Golden Monkey

golden monkeys in the rain forest

Golden monkeys are only found in the Virunga massif of Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC. These small and very playful monkeys have a distinct golden-orange patch of hair on their back.

15. Monkeys

black and white colobus monkey

Apart from golden monkeys, there are more than 13 other species of monkeys spread in the various forests of Africa. The most common species will be the colobus monkeys which are common in many countries.

Related article: What monkeys eat in the wild

16. African Forest Elephant

african forest elephants

Unlike the massive African Bush Elephant, the African forest elephant is smaller and more adapted to live in forests. The African forest elephant has darker skin and downward-pointing tusks as an adaptation to the forest environment.

Forest elephants are quite elusive but that makes seeing them even more exciting.

17. Okapi

okapi walking

The okapi is a striking and unique animal found only in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They have a horse-like body with a long neck and legs but also have a distinctive striped pattern on their hindquarters, similar to that of a zebra. Okapis are shy and elusive animals and are difficult to observe in the wild.

Final Thoughts

Those are the African Safari animals that people see when they go on an African Safari holiday. As you know, not all places have all animals and so you would have to choose a country or region that gives you most of what you want.

While these are the commonly seen animals, the guarantee of seeing them is not an absolute rule. Wild animals don't follow our plans. Similarly, you may see other animals not mentioned here. As mentioned at the start, detailing all the animals could be endless.

Related Articles