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Coupled with a vibrant and award-winning wine region, surf beaches along the Garden Route, private games reserves, and cosmopolitan Cape Town and Table Mountain, are the major reasons travelers head ‘Mzansi’ meaning ‘South’ on a South Africa wildlife tour.
Located at the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa offers visitors 2798 km of coastline touching both the Atlantic to Indian oceans. Home to 57 million South Africans, this multiethnic country is home to an incredible variety of different cultures, religions, and recognizes 11 languages as the official languages.
In addition to its favorable temperate climate, the nation draws millions of tourists each year to join wildlife tours and to witness its iconic animals first hand. From elephants to lions, and rhinos to wildebeests, these are just a few of the animal species you’ll see on a South Africa wildlife tour.
Widely regarded as some of the most majestic animals in Africa, the African elephant is the largest of the elephant species in the world. The African elephant is divided into two forms: the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant. The two differ in size, with the African bush elephant towering over the forest elephant. Both forms of elephants are grouped together on the IUCN list as vulnerable.
Where to visit to see elephants:
Kruger National Park is one of the most famous game parks for safari experiences and is one of the best places to see elephants year round. In some parks throughout Africa, elephants are rarely seen during the wet season. The elephants at Kruger enjoy a variety of habitats including open plains, sandy river beds, and forests.
Consider a week-long self-guided tour of Kruger National Park & Johannesburg with Bamba Experience and take the guesswork out of planning your own experience!
Nearly anyone who goes on an African wildlife safari aims to see lions in the wild. Recognized by people all over the world for their thick manes, sleek physique, and powerful roar. They are also the only big cat that lives in large groups (prides) that can consist of more than 40 members. Most members of any pride are lionesses and cubs, and the majority of hunting is done by the females. Lions are considered vulnerable with decreasing numbers, according to the IUCN list.
Where to visit to see lions:
To see lions in the wild, your best bet is on safari. The operators will know where to locate lions on a day to day basis – if there are any around, helping ensure your game viewing is on point. Kruger National Park is a well-known game park where visitors can frequently and reliably see lions.
Learn more about lions and aid in important volunteer work with SAVE Volunteering at their wild cat project.
Great White Sharks
South Africa is home to some of the world’s most thrilling experiences, and for many, that includes diving with Great White Sharks. Sharks remain some of the most intriguing sea mammals in the world, and South Africa is the go-to destination to see them. While some might see them as dangerous predators, Great Whites are quite misunderstood. Joining a responsibly run cage diving experience or volunteer program is a great way to learn more and understand these creatures.
Where to visit to see Great White Sharks:
Great White Sharks are generally found at the southern tip of South Africa. Gansbaai and Mossel Bay are two of the most well-known areas where you can join tours, volunteer programs, and internships dedicated to understanding the Great White Sharks and other marine life species.
Consider joining International Marine Volunteers in Gansbaai on their Great White Shark & Marine Wildlife volunteer program. You can stay as little as 1 week or up to 12 weeks on this life-changing program.
The fastest of land mammals, the cheetah, is found in South Africa. The cheetah can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h in short bursts, an incredible sight for those lucky enough to see! In South Africa, the cheetah is classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN list, and are also a protected species. They typically hunt smaller animals when they are solo and larger prey including wildebeests in groups.
Where to visit to see Cheetahs:
Like the other animals above, Kruger National Park is the best bet to see a cheetah in the wild as the largest populations inhabit this area. There are few groups of cheetahs scattered through other national parks and nature reserves, but they are fewer and more difficult to find.
Join a unique opportunity to observe and research cheetahs alongside researchers with GVI on this 2-week conservation & research project.
When travelers think of Penguins, South Africa may not come top of mind as a destination to see them, however, this couldn’t be less true! The African Penguin inhabits several islands and beaches along the southern coast of Africa from Namibia to Port Elizabeth. The African penguin was once plentiful, but due to several factors including human interference, habitat loss, and climate change, their numbers are declining.
Where to visit to see Penguins:
There are a few places you’ll want to visit when seeking penguins including Boulders Beach, St. Croix Island, Stoney Point, and Dyer Island near Gansbaai.
As part of the Great White Shark project, International Marine Volunteers also work to conserve penguins, so the above-listed project includes this experience and more!