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South Africa Wildlife

With a coastline that spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean with mountains, coastal forests on the eastern coast, semi-arid wilderness deserts of the Kalahari in the northwest and everything else between, the variety of wildlife in South Africa will not disappoint.

The big five can be seen in various parks throughout South Africa including the world-renowned Kruger National Park, the flagship of South Africa’s wildlife safari parks and a dramatic landscape covering 2 million hectares, rich in prides of lion and herds of elephant. You will find fast predators such as cheetahs, lions and leopards in the Phinda Game Reserve, wild dogs in Madikwe Game Reserve or head to Cape Cross to see seals in huge numbers on the coast. Other animals you are likely to see include zebra, antelope, wildebeest, giraffe, but there is so much more beyond this, with 336 tree species, 49 fish species, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals in total.

African Lions

This apex predator is known for their strength and power. South Africa is home to two subspecies of lions, the Southern African lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) and the East African lion (Panthera leo nubica). The Southern African lion is found in several of the country's national parks, including Kruger National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and Addo Elephant National Park. Living in prides, lions are social animals that will rest and conserve energy during the day and are active during the night.

African Elephants

South Africa is home to both savannah and forest elephants, which can be found in several of its national parks and reserves. The largest land mammal in the world is led by a matriarch, elephants are social animals living in herds and are known for their emotional capacity, intelligence and incredible strength. They are herbivores that consume up to 300 pounds of vegetation in a single day.


One of the 90 species of antelope, the Springbok is the National animal of South Africa. These small, slender antelopes are social creatures that can be seen in herds of up to several hundred. Adapted to dry, barren areas and open grass plains, they can absorb moisture from leaves instead of drinking water if it's not available. They have distinctive white fur on their faces and bellies, and a dark stripe running down their back.

SAF Shutterstock Southafrica Gemsbokfighting Johanswanpoel


The Garden Route is a popular natural haven and picturesque stretch of coastline that winds its way from cosmopolitan Cape Town to Knysna, passing through spectacular bays such as Mossel Bay, which offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the country between May and December, as southern right, humpback and killer whales join the notorious great white shark to hunt for prey around Seal Island. Southern Right Whales can be seen from June to November along the Western Cape coast, while Humpback Whales are usually seen from June to November along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Cape Buffalo

Also known as African buffalo, this large and powerful animal can be found in several national parks and reserves across South Africa, including Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. Living in herds of up to several hundred, cape buffalos are known for their massive horns that can grow up to five feet long. Their fierce and unpredictable nature means they will attack humans and animals if they feel threatened and can be aggressive and dangerous, if provoked.