From elephants overturning safari vehicles to poisonous snakes, Africa has many different kinds of dangerous animals. The most dangerous depends on where you are and what you are doing!
According to statistics, mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals in Africa. By spreading malaria and other diseases they are responsible for almost half a million annual fatalities.
Hippos are responsible for killing more people than any other wild African mammal, around 500 every year!
Lions can also be the most dangerous animals in Africa, considering they are the apex predator out on the African savannah.
Or you can argue that black mambas are more dangerous, because a single bite contains enough venom to take out 25 people!
But let’s not get too caught up in who is the biggest and baddest African animal. They can all be dangerous, so let’s celebrate the incredible powers that make them menacing.
Read on for the ten most dangerous animals in Africa, fully updated for 2019 – 2020 with a guide on how to avoid getting injured in any confrontation. Then you can decide which is Africa’s most dangerous animal.
Think of a hippopotamus and you may think it is a very clumsy animal. Beware of misconceptions! This 2 ton marvel can run at speeds that exceed 30 kph, and will charge you in no time if felt threatened. Hippos are highly territorial, and should be approached with extreme caution, especially old bulls and cows with calfs.
Believe it or not, hippos are responsible for more deaths than any other mammals in Africa. Check its teeth out! The incisors can measure up to 1 m long.
Hippos feel threatened when anything or anyone comes in between them and the water. And they may be Africa’s most dangerous animal because they’re so belligerent and aggressive. A hippo doesn’t think twice – if something gets in the way they charge.
How to get away from a hippo: The only way to outrun a hippo is to run uphill. However, if you are chased by a hippo it means you got too close. So rule number one is to keep your distance.
How to avoid a hippo on the water: Incidents on the water are more common so think twice before getting too close to these “sea horses” of the African bush. When in the water, tap the side of the boat to indicate where you are. And when a hippo makes any movement towards your boat, retreat immediately, not just when the hippo starts chasing.
2. Nile Crocodile
Quick and agile, meet Mr. Nile crocodile. Most rivers and lakes of Africa are infested with these prehistoric creatures. They are vicious, and will do almost anything to catch their prey. They have acute smell, excellent hearing, and with a flick of a tail can catapult themselves onto riverbanks to reach their potential meal.
Every year, the Nile crocodile is accountable for hundreds of human casualties around African villages and small towns. These giant predators are not picky eaters and will happily ensnare any potential meat along the riverside, usually drowning their victims.
Nile crocodiles have a jaw that’s eight times stronger than a great white shark – how’s that for the most dangerous animal in Africa? Read more about the Nile crocodile here.
How to avoid a Nile crocodile attack: Don’t splash in the shallows of any river known to be home to crocodiles. These predators hunt from the water. You will often see crocodiles sunbathing on the riverbank. When you can see them you are probably safe. But when crocodiles lurk below the water you may be in danger!
There’s an entire myth around hyenas. People often see them as being evil creatures, and are sometimes associated with witchcraft in a variety of African countries. But they are fabulous and fascinating animals.
Hyenas are very well organised and highly intelligent animals. They have impressive eyesight, great smell and impeccable hearing.
While hyenas are mainly nocturnal animals, you can usually see them scampering around on a daytime game drive. One of the best places to encounter them is Serengeti National Park.
People mainly fear these strange creatures because of their loud shrieks, moans and weird laugh. They are incredible to listen to in the midst of the night.
Hyenas are mainly scavengers, but will hunt occasionally. They have incredibly powerful jaws, capable of cracking even the leg bones of a giraffe, or going through crocodile skin.
While they don’t kill as many people as hippos, hyenas can still claim to be the most dangerous animal in Africa, or at least the most vicious. There are various reports of hyenas slashing the skin off human faces. They’re dangerous because they can travel large distances and approach a camp unannounced.
How to avoid a hyena attack when camping in the bush: Hyenas can become very bold when hungry and will happily approach camp. However, they don’t like fire, so a healthy fire is indispensable when sleeping under the stars. And remember to close your tent if you hear hyenas howling at night.
4. African Elephant
Being the largest land mammal on planet Earth, the African elephant is a marvel of science. However, its colossal size means that it will go wherever it wants. Ever tried stopping an elephant? Nobody would be that stupid!
Elephants can weigh up to six tons and require enormous amounts of fodder every single day. In fact, they will eat as much as 250 kg of vegetation, and can drink over 100 liters of water in a single go.
While these pachyderms are “relatively” harmless in national parks, once they step outside of reserves it’s another story. This is especially true when they meet local villagers or trespass fields. More often than none, this leads to fatal casualties. Both elephants and humans suffer the consequences.
Older bulls can also be problematic, primarily when they go through what’s called “musth”. During this sexually active time they become extremely unpredictable and aggressive. They’re also highly identifiable, as a thick liquid secretion comes out from the temporal glands on the sides of the head.
Take heed: an elephant charge is something you won’t forget! However, many people on self-guided safaris believe elephants to be cute and friendly animals. They flash their cameras and agitate one of Africa’s most dangerous animals. Elephants can easily flip a safari truck and won’t stand anything in their way.
How to avoid getting charged by an elephant: African elephants have fairly predictable behaviour. When annoyed they will stamp their feet and flap their ears. This is a show of power and aggression and a sign that you must retreat and drive away immediately.
Elephants even provide a second stamping and flapping warning. They only charge the third time. Self-guided safari goers don’t know this routine, and it is they who can turn elephants into Africa’s most dangerous animal.
5. African Wild Dog
One of the rarest and most impressive African animal, the wild dog is an endangered species built for the kill.
Wild dogs have the highest successful hit rate out of all the large African predators, so you can argue that they are the most dangerous animal in Africa. 25% is a good success rate for hunting lions. That means the pride needs four hunts for every one successful kill.
African wild dog packs have a hunting success rate of 75-85%! When they hunt they win.
African hunting dogs hunt in packs, and will run after their prey until surrendered. Their killing strategy is somewhat cruel: they dismember it, alive!
How to avoid African wild dogs: Any animal with such a superb hit rate is impossible to outrun. If wild dogs come after you the only escape is in the water. You will need to swim and tread water, hoping that someone will come to assist you, because the dogs will be waiting on the shore.
6. Black Mamba
The most feared and one of the most vicious of all the African species out there. Black mambas can strike at you with amazing precision, whether they feel vulnerable or not. They are extremely rapid, and usually go for the head by propelling themselves with their tail.
If not treated immediately, a black mamba bite can be lethal in as little as twenty minutes. A single bite is also potent enough to kill as many as 10-25 fully grown men. Ouch!
Did I mention black mambas could reach a length of up to 4.5 m? Yes, it’s a big snake!
So are black mambas the most dangerous animals in Africa? They can certainly take down the most people in a single bite. And they can slither at 20 km/h, so they’re one of the world’s fastest, most aggressive, and most dangerous snakes. Uh oh! We’re in trouble here!
How to stay alive after a black mamba bite: You can’t outlive a black mamba bite without receiving anti-venom. Unfortunately, the venom can kill in just 20 minutes. After any snake bite the most important thing to do is nothing.
Venom moves faster through your blood when you are moving. Run for help and the venom will spread. Your only hope is to stay absolutely still, thereby isolating the venom, and wait for assistance.
The king of the savannah is just pure power, speed and agility. An encounter with this 250 kg predator is only going to end one way – badly.
Lions can run at 81 km/h! They have incredible bite strength and a power to weight ratio. They are the apex predator, so have a strong claim to the title of Africa’s most dangerous animal.
How to avoid a lion attack: If you encounter a lion in the wild, don’t run. Sounds easy to say, but by fleeing your chances of making it alive are even slimmer. Once you run away, you are seen as prey. Typically, male lions ‘bluff’ and will retreat nine times out of ten. Unless they’re really hungry!
8. Cape Buffalo
Particularly dangerous when pursued or wounded, Cape buffalo can weigh close to 1000 kg and run at 56 km/h. They’re more dangerous than domestic bulls and kill more than ten people every year in Africa.
A buffalo will charge head-on, and is very difficult to stop at close range. They are herbivores but are one of the most dangerous African animals because they maul any person or animal they feel threatened by. Remember, buffalo must battle with lions every single day and they understand the importance of making a pre-emptive strike.
Cape buffalo have been known to attack hunting camps, long before any gunshots have sounded. They maul the camp and the hunters, before the hunters have time to get set and fire.
Large herds of buffalos (sometimes comprising hundreds of individuals) are usually very relaxed. The power of numbers gives them a clear advantage, so they normally don’t feel threatened as easily.
Herds of bachelor male buffalo are incredibly dangerous. All that pent-up aggression combined with a sense of insecurity makes them aggressive and one of Africa’s most dangerous animals to encounter.
How to avoid getting charged by buffalo: When Cape buffalo charge you’re only option is to run and hope that the buffalo reconsider whether you are a threat.
Mosquito bites are responsible for over one million human losses worldwide every year, and are accountable for one African child death every 2 minutes.
The disease is transmitted by the anopheles, female mosquitoes that may cause malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever.
So on statistics alone, mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals in Africa.
How to avoid mosquito bites: Cover up, wear repellent, and sleep under a mosquito net. Learn more about mosquito bite prevention here.
10. Honey Badger
Honey badgers are fearless, display considerable aggression and have a convincing bite. They are incredible hunters, and will eat almost anything: insects, rodents, birds and even deadly snakes.
Their loose skin helps them escape predators trying to get hold of them – the honey badgers literally squirm out of their skin, turn around, and attack their hunters!
These ferocious creatures will even attack humans, and have been known to bravely assault vehicles for no apparent reason.
Better left alone! But are they the most dangerous animal in Africa? Probably not, but still, give them a wide berth.
How to avoid a honey badger attack: Just don’t get too close to these predators. They may look cute but they can really attack.
What Do You Think is the Most Dangerous Animal in Africa?
The most dangerous animal in Africa is probably the one that ends up attacking you. But that should not happen. Remember, the African savanna is their realm, and we can only ever be visitors in the animal kingdom.
So keep your distance, remember that wild animals really are wild, and enjoy these incredible creatures for what they are, not what they may do to you.