The Circle of Life – Animals in Africa

I did not know what to expect on my safari drives in Africa.  It was breathtaking to see so many animals wander around in the wild.

The mighty lion

I kept thinking back to the opening of the Disney film, The Lion King, with all the animals surrounding the large rock where they present the baby “Simba.”  Especially for the skeptics of Disney movies, The Lion King actually teaches Swahili words with the character names. Some examples include:

  • Simba: Lion
  • Nala (Simba’s friend): Gift
  • Rafiki (baboon): Friend
  • Pumbaa (warthog): Foolish, Silly

Oh how wonderful movies can be. Through my 45-day camping tour through Intrepid, we visited various national parks which include: Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania), Chobe National Park (Botswana), and Etosha National Park (Namibia)

We encountered numerous animals in Africa and here is a sample:

The Big Five Animals

The big five, coined originally by the white settlers, are the five most difficult animals to hunt:  elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino, and the lion.  Elephants typically travel in herds and therefore, it was somewhat easier to spot them in the wild.  The majority of the buffaloes we encountered appeared to be constantly grazing in the fields.

Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Buffalo in Chobe National Park, Botswana

The most difficult animals to spot were the leopard and the rhinoceros (“rhino”). In total, I saw two leopards which were lounging around in separate trees in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.  It is actually quite easy to confuse a cheetah with a leopard.

Leopard in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Here are some differences between the leopard and cheetah:

  • Leopard has rosette-shaped spots. Cheetah has solid round, or oval, spots.
  • Leopard does not have a “tear” line. Cheetah has a black “tear” line running from the inside of the eye to the mouth.
  • Leopard has a cat-like body and is larger and stronger than a cheetah. Cheetah has a grey-hound-like body and is slimmer and taller than a leopard.
  • Leopard tends to drag its prey into a tree. Cheetah hunts during the day and tends to chase its prey at speeds exceeding 60mph.

We were quite lucky to spot two rhinos fighting each other at a permanent waterhole inside the Etosha National Park in Namibia. Many of us from the Intrepid tour group decided to spend a night on a bench in the viewing areas in front of the waterhole (which is safely gated from the viewing areas). From these benches we saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, and gazelles.  I would highly recommend bringing a warm sleeping bag if you plan to sleep outside on the benches.

Some amazing animals seen on the safaris were the lions; unfortunately, they slept the entire time.  All they do is sleep.  Perhaps this lifestyle could be quite enjoyable for humans.

Do you know who hunts for the pride?  Lioness, the female lion, does the majority of the hunting for their pride, (group of lions), as they are smaller and swifter.  When I would see a male lion on our safari drives, I would think, “What a pretty mane. What a pretty lion. Lazy.”

Lioness,female lion, in Etosha National Park, Namibia

The Other Animals (Air, Water and Land)

There were many animals found on our safaris and even on our campgrounds.  In the beginning, I was so excited to see a giraffe or a zebra in the wild.  After seeing about thirty giraffes, I felt like they were part of my every day life.  Oh, another giraffe.  Quite sad I have to say.

Air Bound

There were many birds we encountered. Here are a few examples of such of the birds we saw on the safari.

  • Kori Bustard (which I thought Bustard was pronounced Bastard) is mostly grey in color, with a black crest on its head and yellow legs.
  • Guinea Fowl is dark and grey with dense white spots.
  • Black Kite is a bird of prey and tends to be a scavenger.  We encountered a few in Ngorongoro Crater that would take food straight from people’s mouth.
  • Ostrich is a large flightless bird and lays the largest egg of any bird.  The feathers, meat, and skin (used for leather) are highly marketable.
  • Starling is a medium-sized bird and is brightly colored.

Water Bound and Land Bound

Besides taking a river cruise to see some hippopotamus (“hippo”) and crocodiles in Chobe National Park in Botswana, we also had a chance to see many animals through various safari drives.   Some land-based animals we viewed were: giraffes, monkeys, zebras, and gazelles.  Here are some pieces of information I found interesting with a few four-legged creatures.

  • Hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
  • Thomson’s gazelle is one of most common type of gazelle in East Africa and is found in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
  • Hyraz, a rat-like creature, share numerous features with elephants, such as small tusks and sensitive pads on their feet.  It is sometimes described as being the closest relative to the elephant.


About Jan

In 2004 and 2010, I set aside time to travel the world in 3 parts. In 2004, I traveled to Thailand, Europe, and Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. In 2010, I traveled to 3 continents: Asia, South America, and Africa. I am not sure if I have a fascination with the number 3, but I seem to be constantly traveling by numbers.
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2 Responses to The Circle of Life – Animals in Africa

  1. Shu says:

    Love the lions, gazelles, and elephants!!! The baby elephants are so cute.

  2. Benita says:

    Interesting facts on these animals!

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