Wildlife in South Africa

Several Big Five reserves protect the more charismatic large mammals associated with the African savannah. Foremost among these is the Kruger National Park and abutting private reserves, but other key safari destinations include iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Madikwe, Pilanesberg, Addo Elephant National Park and a variety of smaller and more exclusive private reserves.

These premier reserves all support healthy populations of lion, elephant and buffalo. South Africa stands as the world’s most important stronghold for rhinos (around 90% of the global population of white rhino and black rhino is concentrated there), while the private reserves bordering Kruger have few if any rivals when it comes to intimate leopard encounters.

Wildlife in South Africa_Leopard Leopards are elusive and shy animals so spotting one on safari is a magical experience

Other wildlife associated with these reserves includes African wild dog, cheetah, spotted hyena, giraffe, zebra, warthog, baboon and vervet monkey. The country supports around two dozen species of antelope, ranging from the outsized eland and stately spiral-horned greater kudu, to the gregarious blue wildebeest and impala, to arid-country specialists such as gemsbok and springbok and the diminutive forest-dwelling red and blue duikers.

Wildlife in South Africa_wild dog The African wild dog is one of the most endangered predators in Africa, but also the most efficient hunters in the bush

A number of large mammal species are endemic to South Africa. The black wildebeest and blesbok are associated mainly with grassy habitats in the highveld, while the Cape mountain zebra and bontebok are fynbos-dwellers more-or-less confined to the Western Cape.

Wildlife in South Africa_Zebra Karoo National Park The iconic Mountain zebra in the Karoo National Park

Marine wildlife is a strong feature of South Africa. The clifftop town of Hermanus offers the world’s finest land-based whale-watching, while other marine wildlife attractions range from caged shark dives at Mossel Bay and turtle-nesting excursions in iSimangaliso to the penguin colony at Cape Town’s Boulders Beach and dolphins that frequently visit many of the country’s bays.

whale watching in South Africa A Southern right whale breaks the water near the coastal town of Hermanus in the Western Cape

South Africa is a key bird watching destination. The national checklist comprises around 840 species, and includes the world’s largest bird (ostrich) and what is reputedly its bulkiest flying species (kori bustard) along with a dazzling variety of bee-eaters, turacos, parrot, rollers and waxbills. Around 35 bird species are more-or-less endemic to South Africa (some have a range extending into the small bordering kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho) and several more are near-endemics with a range that extends a small way into Namibia and/or Botswana. Avian variety is greatest in the southern summer (Nov-Mar) when several resident species assume a colourful breeding plumage and dozens of migrant species arrive from Europe or elsewhere in Africa. There are several sites in South Africa, most notably perhaps Kruger, where a moderately skilled birder could tick 100 species in a day.

Wildlife in South Africa_Birds_Knysna Turaco The Knysna turaco is confined to the lush forests of Southern Africa


You might also like

Honeymoon safari South Africa

You can expect an intimate and luxurious retreat on a romantic vacation in the bush | Credit: Singita Ebony Lodge Lodge, Kruger National Park South Africa is a wonderful destination for honeymoons and romantic holidays, especially for those who want to mix up the romance with outdoor pursuits such as game viewing and walking. If it’s bush luxury you are after, look no further than a…

Medical requirements for South Africa

Malaria is absent from most parts of South Africa, and it is nowhere as prevalent as it is in much of equatorial Africa. Exceptions are the eastern lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which is classified as a moderate-risk malarial area, and coastal KwaZulu-Natal north of Richard’s Bay, which is regarded to be low risk. Transmission is more-or-less confined to the rainy summer months.…

South Africa in September

Spring marks the start of the annual wildflower takeover along the West Coast of South Africa Johannesburg and the highveld is warm by day, cold at night, and dry. Cape Town and the Western Cape is mild by day, cool at night and receives regular rainfall. The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, mild at night, and dry. September is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian…

South Africa in March

The Golden oriole travels from Asia to South Africa in March Johannesburg and the highveld is warm and mild by day, cool at night and receives occasional rainfall often in the late afternoon. Cape Town and the Western Cape starts cooling down with regular windy spells, cooler evenings and crisp early mornings. The Kruger Park and surrounds is still hot during the day, cooling down at…

Changing money in South Africa

The South African rand (ZAR) trades at very favourable rates to most international currencies. There’s no need to bring large amounts of hard currency cash or to buy Rands in advance. Major international credit/debit cards (for instance Visa, Master and to a lesser extent American Express) can be used to draw local currency at 24-hour ATMs throughout the country (the one exception…

Medical emergencies in South Africa

If no other assistance is at hand, call a medical emergency service. The government-run emergency number for ambulances in South Africa is 10177. Private 24-hour national emergency and ambulance services include ER24 (084 124), which is linked to a private network of 50-plus MediClinic hospitals, and Netcare 911 (082 911). The police flying squad can be reached at 10111. ...

Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa Safari Adventure (19 days)

Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa Safari Adventure (19 days)

This Southern Africa safari adventure will take you to the tip of the African continent...

 | Luxurious Cape Town and Victoria Falls Tour (8 days)

Luxurious Cape Town and Victoria Falls Tour (8 days)

Two countries in 8 days may seem like a lot but with this well thought out itinerary you will see some of the regions most iconic destinations without feeling like you are rushing through it…

 | South African Midlands Meander (15 days)

South African Midlands Meander (15 days)

Explore the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and KwaZulu Natal...

 | South African Bush and Beach Journey (10 days)

South African Bush and Beach Journey (10 days)

Explore the magic of Cape Town followed by the Scenic Garden Route and finally the Big Five members at the Kruger National Park...

 | Walking the Wild Coast of South Africa (8 days)

Walking the Wild Coast of South Africa (8 days)

Designed to offer a traditional hiking experience, but without the heavy bags, this "slackpacking" adventure is great for small groups or families. ...

 | South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

Explore the southern-most city on the African continent, before jetting off to spot the Big Five...

Romantic view | Deluxe Honeymoon Safari in Cape Town, Kruger and Victoria Falls (10 days)

Deluxe Honeymoon Safari in Cape Town, Kruger and Victoria Falls (10 days)

Combine three of Southern Africa's most loved destinations into one romantic getaway and you'll share the memories forever...

 | Cape Town to Kruger Luxury Holiday (8 days)

Cape Town to Kruger Luxury Holiday (8 days)

Explore two of South Africa's most desirable locations in this whirlwind safari tour...

 | Affordable Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls Luxury Safari (10 days)

Affordable Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls Luxury Safari (10 days)

Visit the most popular destinations in Southern Africa on this luxury tour for the budget-conscious...

 | Kruger to the Mozambican Coast (7 days)

Kruger to the Mozambican Coast (7 days)

Combining the bush and the wildlife found in the famous Sabi Sand in the Kruger National Park with a tropical stay in one of the sublime lodges of Mozambique's Ponta Mamoli...

Ready to start your adventure?

+27 (0)21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    Mon - Fri: 8AM - 9PM GMT+2