South Africa is one of the world's natural gems; a treasure nestled at the southern tip of the abundant African continent. Visitors from all around the world descend on the country to take advantage of the stunning climate, accommodation, hotels, game reserves, natural attractions, and, of course, the huge variety of wildlife.

The landscapes of South Africa offer the full spectrum of habitat types (from dense green forests to arid deserts, and everything in-between), making them ideal for thousands of species. These include exciting predators, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and a huge variety of fascinating insects. These different species are found in plentiful abundance in the game reserves and national parks of the country, as well as in the wild and natural countryside, where they live free.

The Big 5 is one of the main attractions to South Africa in terms of its wildlife. This group includes the African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Black Rhino, and Leopard. This combination of predator and mighty terrestrial mammals makes for a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of some of the worlds most impressive species.

  • African Wild Dog
  • Mountain Zebra
  • White-tailed Rat
  • Blue Whale
  • Fin Whale
  • Sei Whale
  • Giant Golden Mole
  • Gunning's Golden Mole
  • Juliana's Golden Mole
  • Marley's Golden Mole
  • Van Zyl's Golden Mole

Want to see South African wildlife in their natural habitat?
Although the whole country is renowned for its proliferation of wildlife species, there are certain parks and reserves that are must-sees for those wanting an up-close-and-personal experience with these animals in their natural habitat.

South Africa's Big Five


The African Elephant is the largest living land mammal, one of the most impressive animals on earth. The Elephant's muscular trunk serves as a nose, hand, extra foot, signaling device and a tool for gathering food, siphoning water, dusting, digging and a variety of other functions. The long trunk ...


Buffalo are extremely large, ox-like animals. Standing approximately 65 inches at the shoulder, adult males have a mass of up to 1760 pounds and females weigh up to 1650 pounds. To support the large body, the legs are very heavy. Front hooves are larger than the hind because of the extra mass they...


Lions are the second largest members of the feline family in the world. Lion are tan in colour and have a slightly white under-body, with a tuft of black hair at the end of their tails. Most cats live a solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork...


The rhinoceros is a large, primitive looking mammal that in fact dates from the Miocene era millions of years ago. In recent decades rhinos have been relentlessly hunted to the point of near extinction. Since 1970 the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent, with five species remaining in the world...


The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the larger cats and is capable of killing prey far larger than itself. The coloring of the leopard varies from white to bright golden brown, spotted with black spots and...


There are about 230 mammal species to be found in South Africa, which include a collection of impressive predators. These make for fabulous sightings on any game drive or safari. Of these hundreds of species, there are two that are critically endangered (De Winton's Golden Mole and the Riverine Rabbit) and 11 that are endangered (including the African Wild Dog, the Mountain Zebra, Sei Whale and Blue Whale). These numbers are in line with the IUCN statistics.

Endemic mammals include the Cape Elephant Shrew, Cape Mole-rat, Cape Grysbok, Bontebok, Cape Kudu, Springbok and the Cape Horseshoe Bat.

Marine mammals are a major draw-card to South Africa, thanks to its extensive shoreline. Dolphins can frequently be seen frolicking along the coast, swimming in schools of up to 200 or 300 individuals. Whales (such as the Humpback and Southern Right whales) appear along the local coast between July and December, and promise fabulous performances for those on the shore or on formal whale-watching tours.

Bird Life

South Africa is home to approximately 175 endemic bird species, as well as hundreds more species. Notable endemic varieties include the Black Oystercatcher, Blue Crane, Cape Parrot, Cape Vulture, Forest Canary, Ground Woodpecker, Jackal Buzzard, Knysna Turaco, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Protea Seedeater, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Whitebacked Mousebird, and the Yellow-breasted Pipit.

Avian enthusiasts are well-rewarded when they visit this country, and are reminded to bring their binoculars and identification aids.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The wild side of Africa is intriguing and wondrous, presenting fascinating species. Some look prehistoric, others frightening, but all are important contributors to the local biodiversity. The reptiles that are endemic to this country include the Geometric Tortoise, Speckled Padloper, Southern Adder, Giant Girdled Lizard, and the Cape Legless Skink.

Amphibians that can only be found in South Africa include the Table Mountain Ghost Frog, Knysna Spiny Reed Frog, and Mistbelt Chirping Frog.

South Africa Travel

Start planning your wildlife adventure to South Africa here: Accommodation on is presented complete with reviews, photo galleries and online booking functionality, but allows you to deal directly with each establishment represented. You will be spoilt for choice as the options for accommodation in South Africa are varied and include excellent hotels, game lodges, guest houses, smaller B&Bs and and many self catering options for you to choose from, such as holiday homes, cottages and apartments. Enjoy your travel planning.

To learn more about the individual wildlife species that can be enjoyed whilst visiting a game reserve in South Africa and enjoy the wildlife photos in the galleries please use the menu on the left or browse through the information provided above.

Find Game Lodges throughout South Africa

For a wildlife experience, we recommend

Most Popular National Parks & Game Reserves

South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.