It’s the grazers that make up the vast majority of Africa’s wild mammal population. Millions of them roam across the land, from wildebeest on the Serengeti to springbok in the Cape. They provide food for predators of course, so almost all the ungulates subscribe to a theory of safety in numbers.
Most are easy to find and a constant throughout every safari. It’s beautiful watching herds on the move as you take in the interactions between family members. And it’s heartbreaking to see the emotional aftermath of a hunt.
While you will spot great herds on game drives, ungulates are skittish and easily scared (unsurprising given that they are prey for many). A noisy vehicle often scares these animals away, however, you may get much closer on a walking safari, or something very unique like a bike or horse riding safari.
Most spend the days grazing, usually out in the open with spotters on alert for predators. Then they rest at night, hoping to stay away from danger.
Zebra and Warthog
Elegant and abundant, zebra are one of Africa’s most common safari sights. Plains or Burchell’s zebra thrive across the continent, an iconic sight that makes it really feel that you are in Africa. Also look out for rarer Grevy’s zebra and wild mountain zebra.
Warthogs are another incredibly common animal, adaptive pigs that scurry all around. Sometimes they stare straight back at you before turning and galloping away.
Almost all Africa’s reserves and national parks are dominated by antelope. Many dozens of sub species exist and most of these have a very small range. In South Africa you’ll see innumerable springbok and kudu, while in Tanzania there’s no escaping blue wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle.
It takes a few different safaris before you start identifying one from another. But they are all different, notably in size, horns and colour.
Search for a bongo in Central Kenya, find a photogenic nyala in South Africa, then look a little harder to find a tiny dik-dik, Africa’s smallest antelope. There are 22 different species of duiker across Africa, but only one eland, the largest of the antelopes, weighing in at almost one ton.
Gerenuk are highly unusual, a slender antelope with a giraffe’s long neck. Large hartebeest are easy to spot and memorable for their amber colour, while impala resemble the preconception of an African antelope.
Also look out for klipspringer jumping between rocks, great herds of lechwe in Southern Africa’s swamps, then the striking appearance of roan and sable antelope. Some antelope are very elusive, like suni, blesbok, oribi, beisa oryx and sitatunga. Then some are truly abundant: wildebeest.
One wildebeest isn’t that impressive, resembling an enthusiastic cow with a flapping black beard. But there’s never one. You can spot hundreds or thousands of them together, sometimes hundreds of thousands together during the great wildebeest migration.