Hyenas, cheetahs, hippos, zebras, giraffes and wildebeest, among others, are part of the diversity that makes Africa an invaluable destination for anyone who knows how to contemplate natural beauty.
Every horse rider knows that the Big Five are the great attraction in the African continent, which you can find in our horseback safari The Big Five. However, that is not the end of it. In fact, what impacts those who embark on a safari in Africa is not the rhino or the lion as isolated species: they remember the ecosystem, the palette of colours, their interaction as pieces of a perfect clockwork that is nature. In this note, we will describe the wild species that we can find in the different landscapes and that are, without a doubt, signs of the African identity.
This animal provokes a mixture of apathy and humorness. Hyenas run through the reserve at all times, to feed on the leftovers of lions and cheetahs’ prey. Even if they seem to be comfortable during the day when they are looking for food, they generally hunt at night. Watching their clumsy activity can be a very entertaining spectacle. Besides, it is almost assured that we will hear their wicked laughter at night. The best place to find them is in the swamps that surround the famous Serengeti.
This is the fastest terrestrial animal on earth. Cheetahs can run at speeds that can exceed 110 kilometers per hour. This agility is an advantage since, unlike other predators, they usually hunt during the day. It is not an animal that can be seen easily, but, without a doubt, they represent a visual luxury with their exotic and colourful fur.
This is a semi aquatic animal who loves water and tends to remain in it during the day, in the backwaters of the reserves. However, during the night, hippos leave the water to graze in the meadows and spend long hours walking.
Contrary to that docile and lazy image that these animals portrait while being exhausted in the waters of a swamp, hippos are one of the most dangerous species. Although they are herbivorous, they can turn out to be more lethal than lions. Due to their huge size, their strong mandible, and their aggressive nature, they are animals with the highest human death toll in the African continent. Still, from a pruden distance, watching these great mammals can result in a great spectacle as they roll around the mud of the swamps, or they raise their heads over the surface of the lakes of rivers. The Delta is a great place to find them. See the horseback safari in The Delta.
This species belongs to the family of antelopes, although they have a much heavier complexion and with large forequarters. This animal is the mammal that abound the most in national parks. Their main attractive feature is the long migratory journey they undertake between June and July along the plains of the Sereneti towards the Maasai Mara. In this thrilling and unrivalled event, we can also see how crocodiles prey on the wildebeest while they cross the Mara River, waiting for the weakest to die when facing the fast-flowing stream of the river.
Following the steps of the wildebeest, a great number of zebras will also migrate alongside. These rare and remarkable looking creatures are a feast for our cameras, and above all, our eyes. As it happens with our fingerprints, each of these animals have a unique and incomparable pattern of stripes. It is said that their fur pattern allows them to camouflage from predators. How? By making it difficult to recognize their individual silhouette amid a herd and distorting at what distance they are during sunset or sunrise. But hunters will not be the only ones to fall for this optic illusion: we will fall into it too.
A unique species of these animals that is only found in Africa is Grevy’s zebra. Because they are an endangered species, the herds are protected within the Laikipia Conservation Area, a place that we can go around on horse in Laikipia: Private journey through the Laikipia plains and plateaus. These kinds of zebras are one of the strongest and biggest ones, therefore receiving the name of “royal zebra”. Another fundamental difference lies on their fur: they possess vertical and narrower stripes than the rest, with the belly and the base of the tail white, while a thick black line crosses the back. They have this wonderful characteristic of gathering with normal zebras: admiring this monochromatic image made up of the mix of species is hypnotizing.
A second mammal that will accompany them, in a lower number though, is the gazelle. They are friendly antelopes that move with a particular grace. Its beauty lies in the elegance of its colors and its contexture. Of medium height and long legs, they possess a great variety of stiprs and marks that accentuate the beige colour of their skin. In turn, they have thin ring horns considered as coveted game pieces. They are usually found in open spaces and the plains looking for grass, plant shoots and leaves. This is why they also are easy prey for predators. However, they rarely fall in the trap given that they are extremely swift animals. Thanks to their light legs, they can speed up very fast, reaching 80 kilometers per hour.
In the reserves we can find two species that possess a singular appeal. On one hand, the Thompson’s gazelle, with a more compact body and reddish fur on its upperparts that contrast with their white belly and black limbs. On the other hand, we find the Grant’s gazelle, one of the largest of this genre, which has a particular outline of black hair on its face that resembles a mask.
The oryx is one of those animals that you will not be able to avert your sight from once you see it. These big antelopes radiate elegance with their sober yet contrasting range of colours, their stamped silhouette and long mythical horns.
This species is only found in the most arid places of the continent, and it is the banner of Namibia, due to its courage, pride and distinction. The fascinating thing about them is that they have learnt to adapt and face the hardships of the desert. There where water is scarce and the sun is blinding, these creatures have developed the capacity of getting hydrated by the plants they eat and the fog that appears in the atmosphere. They can be found in large quantities during the horseback safari Namibia: More than Sand.
We cannot forget to mention the giraffe -although we will not be able to forget them once we find them. These slim and elegant mammals are the tallest terrestrial animals on earth. They generally inhabit the savannah and usually become part of the background in the picture taken to other animals as their long necks stand out while they look for food on the tree tops. There are many horse rides that include getting in contact with giraffes; one of them is The Mythical African Mountain.
If we change the ecosystems, in the thick of the most humid jungles we will find numerous species of rare forest primates. Among them, we find one of the largest and most majestic genera – the gorilla. There are only three places in the world where these apes can be seen in the wild, Uganda is one of them. There we will find a subspecies of Mangabeys with gray cheeks that only inhabit the Mabira forest. Meeting a family of these primates is an unforgettable experience.
Now, on the other side, if we talk about small animals, we will mostly find the meerkat. These nice animals are from the mongoose family. We will come across them especially during our horseback rides in Botswana. It is not unusual to find numerous specimens scattered throughout the Kalahari desert. These salty lands give us a unique setting with these creatures running free along their golden meadows in search of scorpions or some other prey. Something fascinating about these creatures is that, although they are wild by nature, they have adapted to the human presence and easily sympathize with whoever approaches them: it is not uncommon for some of them to climb on our shoulders.
But not everything is at the level of our eyes. Above in the sky and on the branches of trees, the avian fauna glows. In the African reserves we find an endless and exclusive number of birds. And, under the depths of its seas, lakes and rivers, this continent hides unique marine treasures, from gigant legendary species to the smallest fishes of the most extravagant colours.
Finally, we should remember that this is part of the diverse and incalculable fauna we will come across in our way. In fact, this is not about isolated animals, but animals sharing the same territories, therefore, being normal to come across a lot of them in the same panorama. Depending on the area, it is possible to witness the coexistence of different species, mixed and scattered along the land, either in tune with their herds, interacting with other animals, or even hunting and running from each other. Going to what it looks like a live documentary, very close to our location, is one of the most intense and authentic exhibitions of the wildlife in action.
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