These Less-Popular Animals Seen on an African Safari Are Just as Interesting
By Kate Francesca
When people think about an African Safari – they immediately think of pursuing the Big 5 in a safari Jeep across the African plains!
Whenever I read the words ‘The Big 5’ I feel empathy for the hundreds of amazing African wild animals that aren’t on tourists’ Hit List. After all, there are over 1000 different animal species in Africa!
Whether these animals are big or small, they still make a huge contribution to our world and the ecosystem.
They are just as pretty and legendary as the Big 5. Needless to say, these well-known animals are called the Big 5 for a reason and their bold characters and impressive appearances entice a world of people to travel to see them.
Tourists to Tanzania
Tanzania and Kenya are two of the most popular safari regions and with so much beauty, land and vastness – it’s not a wonder why so many tourists flock here. It’s the capital and focal point of the most awesome wild animal observations in the world. Throughout Africa, there are various pockets of areas where different animal species exist.
Traveling to Kenya and Tanzania was one of my favorite and most poignant trips. I was stunned by the magnificence and the beauty. It’s such a gentle and friendly place. The spirited wild animals add a uniqueness to this incredible place that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
The second time I traveled to Africa, I wanted to see more and became increasingly interested in seeing what other wild animals Africa had to offer. Once I got to discover more, I was surprised at how my unexpected favorite wild animals got overlooked as they are brimming with just as much personality and character.
African Wild Dog
The African wild dog is no ordinary dog. I first learned about this special dog (also called the Painted Wolf) through a charity I supported. They are critically endangered but pretty magnificent creatures. Before I went on safari, I mistook them as being related to the same family as the Hyena.
However, the African Wild Dog is actually a distant ancestor to the Jackal and the Wolf. The African Wild Dog is a much gentler version and extremely interesting to learn about and observe. Their vibrant colored coats of sunset orange and pure black are a beautiful sight to behold.
They are hard to see and find on your average safari because there aren’t many left but if you get the chance to go to a conservation center then you’ll be able to observe these amazing dogs from afar.
I was surprised to find out that Ostriches have eight hearts! That’s a lot of beats in one minute. As our careless safari guide drove through the midday heat of the Serengeti plains at high speed, there she was in the distance. Standing graciously at the side of the dirt track, observing our vehicle driving quickly towards her kicking up dust as we drove.
The guide had no concern for this magnificent bird, had only one thing on his mind and that was fast-tracking to see the Big 5. Ostriches are unable to fly because they are the heaviest living birds, but they definitely hold their own and don’t seem to be frightened in the slightest. They have a piercing gaze, a robust feathered body, and powerful legs.
I’d be frightened to come eye to eye with an ostrich. It was pretty rare to see one on our journey. I have only seen one ostrich in the two times I have traveled to Africa. So if you get to see one, be sure to slow down the vehicle and take a picture.
These tenacious creatures are not only tough but they pack a punch when it comes to charm and charisma. Warthogs are plentiful in the Serengeti and whilst concentrating on the Big 5, you’ll probably occasionally hear your guide say “Oh there’s a Warthog”.
The problem with the Warthog is that they blend into the background and they are pretty short so it’s tough to observe them. They are dynamic little things and move very fast on their feet. They are even known to outrun animals like lions as they gain a speed of 30km per hour.
Topis are one of my favorite animals to see on an African Safari. I first gazed at these beautiful creatures on my adventure in the Serengeti. They are bountiful there and you’ll run into dozens if you go to Tanzania or Kenya. They are prey animals so are quick to jump and flee but are extremely mellow and delightful creatures to observe.
It’s not easy to witness a crocodile as they spend most of their time underwater or on the banks near the African rivers and lakes but we got to see some whilst on our journey in Tanzania. Lazing on the banks sunning themselves in the glaring sun, these long and strong creatures have a look of prehistoric nature. Safe in our safari van, it was a pleasure to see such a famous reptile.
Learning all about the African Crocodile, I understood why these quiet, creeping animals can stop the greatest migration in its tracks. The river crossing of many herd animals that partake in the Great Migration is extremely dangerous, for there are plenty of Crocodiles waiting to kill them for their next meal.
Pangolins, Pangolins Pangolins! They take my breath away. Not only because they are such amazing creatures, their hard shell appears like a small dinosaur but these gentle creatures are actually mammals.
I haven’t got the chance to see a pangolin as they are extremely endangered, but my heart is set on seeing one on my next African adventure. Pangolins come out at night and sniff their way to food as their eyesight isn’t very strong. I loved to learn that Pangolins actually eat small rocks and pebbles which sit in their stomachs and help chore their food down.
Pangolins are fascinating creatures and if you are able to do a nighttime safari drive, then be sure to ask your guide if you can find one. It would be my dream to see one, one day.
Kate Francesca resides in Illinois, USA, and is a keen traveler. She uses her love for travel to create unconventional adventures for her travel company BornWild. She has created ground-breaking adventures in Scotland, Africa and France. She also enjoys writing about her global experiences and supporting the conservation of wild animals.