Must-see African animals
Africa is an animal lovers paradise. Big game beasts roam the plain in their natural habitat, making for an experience that cannot be replicated in any zoo in the world. Seeing some of the most majestic mammals in their element can only be done on a genuine African safari. From colossal cats to grand grey elephants, seeing some of the African wildlife is an experience full of excitement, adventure and awe.
Prides of lions
There's no other opportunity to see cats as big as these traveling in packs. In fact, lions are the only species of cat that travel in groups. They can weigh up to 420 pounds and grow up to 6.5 feet long, making them one of the largest cats in the world. Hearing a lion roar in the wild is satisfying enough for many, but some safari-goers are fortunate enough to get within just a few feet of lions, which lay out in the sun and shade for a majority of their day. The easiest place to spot a lion is in the Serengeti in Tanzania.
They say an elephant never forgets, and nor do humans after encountering and African elephant. Seeing an elephant at a zoo simply does not do this massive mammal justice. African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth, growing up to 13 feet tall and weighing up to 14,000 pounds. Often succumbing to the African heat, elephants frequent watering holes and cool themselves with a spray of water from their long trunks. Although notoriously hard to domesticate, some tours provide lucky travelers with rides on the backs of several of these huge creatures.
Spotting these stealthy cats is quite the feat, but several Tanzanian tours boast being able to put travelers within picture range of these powerful felines. Leopards use their spotted coats to blend in with grassy plains and treetops. Despite their size, leopards are natural climbers and will often bring the spoils of their hunt into high tree branches to avoid scavengers. The leopard is near threatened, so spotting one takes patience and a great deal of luck. Seeing one of these animals in the wild is the experience of a lifetime.
The endangered rhino
The rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal, after the African elephant. With its great size and enormous front horn, the rhinoceros is quite the sight on the African plains, but its rarity makes it an even more desirable sight for safari-goers. Both the white and black rhino - both of which are actually grey in color - are extremely rare sights in the wild because of their level of endangerment. While the white rhino has been classified as "near threatened" because of its growing population, only about 5,000 black rhinos exist. The rhino had been poached for decades because of the value of its horns. Only through careful protection has the white rhino population grown to roughly 20,000.
Hailed as the tallest mammal on Earth, the giraffe grows to heights between 14 and 19 feet tall. Traveling in groups of around six, giraffes travel looking for food. One giraffe can eat hundreds of pounds each week, and finding the necessary trees can be difficult. Giraffes are commonly known for their size as well as their unique fur pattern.
Seeing exotic animals is an inspiring experience for many, and it does not have to stop in the plains of Africa. The endangered giant panda is a rare, but tourists can see them in their natural habitat in China on a panda adventure tour. Explore bamboo forests and see these natural climbers up close and personal.