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A giraffe in Africa
1 February, 20233 minute read

7 amazing facts about South Africa's wildlife

Our South Africa holidays take you to a country full of wonder. From the welcoming people to the immense cinematic beauty that sprawls across cloud covered mountains, glistening coastlines, powdery beaches, verdant winelands and sun-soaked landscapes.

And perhaps another huge draw to this amazing destination is the wildlife. It is one of the best places on the continent to see it – where game reserves including Kruger National Park are easily accessible. There are over 300 different mammal species in South Africa, and plenty of opportunities to see the Big Five – rhino, lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard – plus plenty more.

What does a South African safari holiday look like?

We have several South African safari tours, including our South African Safari Adventure, that take you to the very heart of some of the country’s best game reserves. Staying in luxurious lodges as you watch the sun set and listening to the sounds of animals in their natural habitat is truly a memorable experience.

And, while seeing the Big Five is the ultimate wildlife enthusiast’s goal, there are so many other wonderful species that you could encounter on our South Africa tours, too. From crocodiles and penguins to whales and blue cranes, you will be overwhelmed by the sight of so many incredible animals in South Africa.

On our South Africa safari tours, you will get to meet knowledgeable and expert game guides who know all there is to know about the wildlife in South Africa. But we also wanted to share some fun and interesting facts with you, too. From finding out what is South Africa's national animal to penguins’ amazing feats, read on to discover out more.

1. The springbok is the national animal of South Africa

An endearing symbol of the South African national rugby team, the springbok is the nation’s favourite animal. A type of antelope that has long pointed ears and a slender body, it has a distinctive white face and two brown lines that stretch from its eyes to the corner of the mouth. And these cute looking animals are also one of the fastest on the planet. They can reach speeds of up to 60mph!

Running Springbok jumping high, Titan South Africa tours

2. The black mamba is super quick

The black mamba is considered one of the world’s most deadliest snakes and South Africa’s longest – it can reach up to a whopping 14m long. Black mambas can be found in savannahs, rocky hills and open woodlands. They’re actually a grey colour, but their name comes from the black/blue colour of the inside of their mouths when they rear and feel threatened. And they’re also among the fastest snake in the world, able to slither at speeds of up to 12.5mph.

3. The African elephant can be distinguished by its ears

The African elephant is the world’s largest land mammal and on our Africa safari holidays, you should get plenty of opportunities to see these wonderful creatures. Males on average can measure up to 3m high and weigh up to six tonnes. And it’s not just adults, calves can weigh as much as 19 stone! But how do you tell the difference between two species of elephants? There are two – Asian and African, but the ears of the African elephants are much larger, and they are also shaped like the African continent. African elephants also have two ‘fingers’ at the tip of their trunks, while their Asian cousins only have one.

Closeup view of African Elephant, Titan South Africa tours

4. Giraffes have blue tongues

The tallest land mammals in the world, giraffes like to roam open plains and woodlands seeking leaves from their favourite acacia trees. And because they are constantly grazing for vegetation, their tongues are now a blueish purple colour, so they don’t burn in the African sun. They’re also really long – and can grow up to 53cm! Giraffes also have the same number neck vertebrae as us – seven. Although theirs are much longer, of course – over 10 inches long.

5. Penguins are ‘jackasses’

At Boulders Beach in Cape Town, you’ll be smitten by the penguins who happily waddle along the beach. There are over 3,000 birds here, and it will be easy to spend a great deal of time watching the African penguins as they nest, protect their young and swim in the waves. But even though penguins don’t fly, they are incredibly agile and can jump really high. In fact, they can leap up to six feet from the water back on dry land. However, did you know that African penguins are also referred to as jackass penguins? The nickname refers to the braying cry that they make and how it sounds very similar to a donkey!

Penguins at Boulder's Beach, South Africa

6. Humpback whales like to sing

On some of our South Africa tours we will get to visit Hermanus, which is considered one of the best destinations to go whale watching in the world. It’s a pretty coastal town, and from June until November, there are solid possibilities of catching sight of these awesome marine mammals. Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to warmer waters – and you can recognise their distinctive humps and long pectoral fins. They also like to sing – males in fact, can sing for hours and hours, and their songs are audible up to 20 miles away.

7. The Blue Crane is a national treasure

Having appeared on South Africa’s five cent coin up until 2012, the blue crane is the country’s national bird. They’re large birds that can grow to up to 47in tall. They have distinctive white spots on their heads and their long wing feathers almost touch the ground. They can also move up to high speeds with the help of short toes. There were once thousands of blue cranes but over recent years, numbers have begun to fall due to chemical farming and obstructions from powerlines.

Blue cranes with Zebras in the background, Titan South Africa tours

Have our South Africa safari facts inspired you to book an adventure of your own? Browse our collection of South Africa holidays - it includes incredible safaris and epic cross-country tours.


Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.

Ting | About the author

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