Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (2023)

Kenya has been attracting explorers for centuries, and even more so after the book was publishedmovie Out of Africadepicting Karen Blixen's life in Nairobi. Famous for its savannas, rugged mountains and vibrant Maasai culture, these safari animals add a sense of adventure to one of the world's most fascinating tourist destinations.

Get up close (well, in a jeep) with a white rhino at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

There is no other travel experience than seeing animals in their wild natural habitat. When you head out to nature reserves, national parks, and/or conservatories in a 4x4 jeep with a knowledgeable (most of them licensed) guide, it's surprising how close some animals will come to your vehicle, seemingly undisturbed by nearby humans.

Click here to getFREEcomplete planning guideSafari holidays in Kenya!


The Loisiba Wildlife Conservancy works with local Samburu villages

Poaching, land expansion and climate change have put Kenya's safari animals at risk. Populations of elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, cheetahs and Grévy's zebras have declined significantly compared to before.

However, with the help of the Kenya Wildlife Service, progress has been made. Safari camps such asElewana Collectionestablish cooperation with reserves such asLewa Nature ReserveiLoisaba Nature Reservework with local tribal communities. Their goal is to protect the future of wildlife and open spaces by educating about the immediate benefits it brings to the community.


The nickname "Big Five" was coined during the heyday of safari trophy hunting to classify some of Africa's finest wildlife that was the hardest to hunt and catch on foot. Today, the term is more associated as a marketing term for safari trips.

1 Lew

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (1)

Starting with the Beast King makes sense. Lions are the largest and most sociable of the big cats. Prides consist of two to twenty lionesses accompanied by up to three males (although only one dominant).

The lionesses mainly hunt while the male lions defend the territory of the pack. Lions prefer to hunt and eat wildebeest, zebras, buffaloes and antelopes, although they are lazy predators and would rather steal dead prey killed by other animals than kill their own prey.

Lions hunt mainly at night and only when hungry, seeking shade and resting during the day. It is quite common on a daytime safari to get close to the lions if the safari vehicle is stationary and the people inside remain motionless and silent.

2 Elephant

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (2)

Weighing up to seven tons, the African elephant is the largest living animal and undoubtedly one of Africa's most fascinating safari animals.

The most distinctive part of an elephant's anatomy is its trunk, which is made up of 100,000 different muscles. The torso is actually a long nose, used for smelling, breathing, honking, drinking, and grabbing.

Due to the fact that their ivory tusks are almost worth their weight in gold, poaching is a common problem in Kenya. With their numbers declining due to the demand for ivory (primarily sourced from China), elephant poaching is now illegal, but that hasn't stopped poaching. A hundred years ago, there were about 3,000,000 elephants in Africa; now there are only 450,000 of them. Without the help of conservationists and charities, the dwindling number of elephants could be completely exterminated in a few decades.

It would be a shame. Elephants play an important role in the African ecosystem. They dig waterholes that other animals use; they trample bushes and create paths and open meadows for feeding; they trample their own dung and spread manure all over the savannah.

Elephants are very sociable animals and may be the originators of "Girl Power". Females and their young live in breeding herds, often with the oldest female as their mother. Although males are often rejected, they are never far away as elephants usually have mating partners for life - whom they remember, because the old saying is true: an elephant never forgets!

Known for their intelligence and wisdom, elephants share more than 90 parts of the human genome. Elephants, like dolphins and whales, show signs of intelligence and empathy thanks to a highly developed and complex neocortex. They mourn their dead by returning to places where friends or family members have died and have been observed picking up and dropping bones to the ground as part of a mourning ritual.

They have six rows of teeth that grow one after the other. When they lose their last set of molars, they instinctively know they're going to die soon and begin to drift away from the herd.

Elephants speak their own language, using their trumpets to make a variety of sounds. Sounds, screams, honking, rumbling and chirping. Studies show that as many as 70 different calls with various meanings have already been identified.

Meeting an elephant in the wild can be quite scary. They are gigantic creatures that can outrun any human (reaching speeds of 40 mph). However, it is rare for them to attack unprovoked, with the exception of some male bulls that can be aggressive. These aggressive males are usually easily identified by safari guides who will keep safari tourists away from them. By the way, our guide stated that elephants are the second most dangerous animal in Kenya, after buffaloes, especially during must, a period of sexual activity when their testosterone levels increase dramatically.

3 Rhinoceros

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (3)

Rhinos, one of the oldest animals in Africa, are also the most endangered, and extinction in the wild is almost inevitable unless additional drastic measures are taken to protect them from poaching.

Rhinos have two horns, one long just above the upper lip and a shorter one above it. In addition to this unifying feature, there are differences between the two rhino species in Kenya.

When it comes to behavior, black rhinos are mostly solitary, with both males and females preferring to live alone. This partly contributes to fewer black rhinos. Here's why: when females are in estrus (7–14 days), it's hard for males to notice, making it difficult to mate and repopulate. Unlike humans, most animals mate for repopulation, not for pleasure. Black rhinos are also known to have violent tempers. White rhinos are more sociable, keeping in groups of 8-15 individuals, and it is easier for males to recognize when females are in estrus.

The physical difference between the two types is (1) the shape of the mouth and (2) the bumps on the back. White rhinos have three bumps on their backs, while black rhinos have a smooth back.

White rhinos have wide mouths that are always close to the ground because they are constantly grazing (sounds and looks a bit like a lawnmower!). The black rhino has a hook-shaped snout that is higher off the ground to eat leaves from bushes.

According to our guide, the classification of these two types of rhinos has nothing to do with their color. The white rhino was not so named because it is white; it was named for its wide grazing mouth, but the Afrikaans language couldn't pronounce the word "wide" - it was pronounced "white" and it stuck.

Like elephant tusks, rhino horns are prized and have led to terrible, illegal poaching and a drastic decline in their numbers.

4 Leopard

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (4)

Larger than the spotted cheetah, the leopard is nocturnal and the most elusive of the big cats, inhabiting mountain forests, grasslands and savannahs. They are excellent hunters, tracking and pounce on their prey rather than running after it. They often drag dead prey up a tree to eat it.

5 Buffalo

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (5)

The largest (1,000 lb) African buffalo, the Cape buffalo is considered the most dangerous of the Big Five for hunters. When injured, they will ambush and attack their pursuers. They are grazing animals, most active in the evening and early morning, and are never too far from a water source.

Cape buffaloes have a strange friendship with Woodpecker birds, which can often be seen perched on their backs.

The buffalo's massive horns and exceptional size provide considerable protection. A buffalo herd, when threatened by a lion attack, will form a defensive semi-circle, protected by bulls on the outer flank, with cows and calves grouped in the center of the formation.

The Cape Buffalo is the only Big Five animal that is not considered endangered or endangered.

Due to the huge number of animals to see in Kenya, anAfrican safari with childrenit's a holiday you'll never forget!


5 Hippopotamus

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (6)

Hippos are the third largest land mammal, weighing up to 4,400 pounds. They spend almost all day underwater just below the surface to stay cool, as they have thick skin but no sweat glands. They can stay underwater for up to seven minutes. Their eyes, ears, and nose are on top of their heads, which makes it easy to lift part of the head up before submerging again.

They come out of the water at night to graze near a water source. Due to their vile temperament, aggression and size, hippos are not usually preyed upon by other animals.

Surprisingly, despite its huge size and short, short legs, the hippopotamus can run at speeds of up to 30 km per hour. They have powerful jaws that can open up to a terrifying 150-degree angle, revealing giant incisors and molars that have tremendous crushing power.

7 Giraffe

Possibly the most beloved of all African safari animals, reticulated (long-necked) giraffes living in national reserves and wildlife sanctuaries are extremely social and curious creatures. They inhabit wooded meadows, and their favorite food is leaves from the tops of acacia trees, which they can reach thanks to their long necks. They can remove thorns from leaves with their 18-inch black tongues and thick saliva.

The view of the running tower (herd) of giraffes is one of the most beautiful, if not peculiar, sights in the savannah. Reaching an average height of about 5-5 meters, the giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world. Weight up to 2000 pounds. with spindly legs, their center of gravity is high, giving them a graceful appearance. They walk by moving both legs on one side of their body at the same time and can reach sprint speeds of up to 60 km/h.

Giraffes have skin-covered bumps called ossicones on top of their heads, used to protect their heads when males fight, which involves flapping their necks at each other, called "necking".

Unfortunately, giraffes are considered endangered. Overall, giraffe numbers have declined by 40% since 1985, and the population of reticulated giraffes has declined by nearly 80%.

8 Zebras

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (7)

Zebras are one of Africa's most distinctive and fascinating animals. Derived from the Swahili word for "striped donkey", Kenya has two species - the common zebra and the Grévy's zebra (named after French President Jules Grevy).

Our guide told us that there is an old folklore that the Grévy's zebra is white with black stripes while the common zebra is black with white stripes, but embryological evidence shows that in both cases the background color is black and the white stripes and white bellies are extras. The stripes of the common zebra run almost all over the belly, while Grévy's zebras have a white belly. While there is no scientific consensus on the evolution of stripes, it is believed that they serve as camouflage from predators. The juxtaposition of the black and white stripes is also thought to cause air to move around the zebra, which may help cool the zebra.

The Grévy's zebra is at high risk of extinction due to habitat loss, limited access to water, and poaching. Fewer than 2,500 Grévy's zebras may live in the wild.

A herd of zebras is called a revelation - quite an apt term!


9 Impala

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (8)

In my opinion, the impala is the most beautiful of the antelope family. They are medium in size (something like a cross between a goat and a deer) and have absolutely gorgeous curly, ridged horns that extend outward from their heads. They have black stripes on their foreheads, ears, and tails, which is said to help them recognize each other.

The impala can jump up to 3 meters high and use this and many other agility tactics to confuse predators.

Young males are usually kicked out of the herd by the alpha male. Bachelors usually band together (our guide called them suckers!) for protection, but they often fight among themselves.

10 Water Bucks

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (9)

One of the most numerous animals of the savannah, the water goat has eyes on either side of its mouth, allowing it to see predators on either side. Another of their defense mechanisms is a strong scent, which is off-putting to predators, which only hunt the waterbuck when no other animals are available.

Water bucks, as the name suggests, stay near a water source and feed on plants and grasses.

11 Dik Dik

Dik Dik is the smallest species of antelope, growing to only about 14 pounds. Their large eyes give them a cute look, but actually allow them to have better eyesight to escape their numerous predators. Like other antelopes, it feeds on grass, leaves and fruits. You will most often see them in groups of two as they mate for life.

12 Gnu

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (10)

Known as the main animals on the annual "Great Migration" between the Maasai Maya in eastern Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania, wildebeest are constantly on the move in search of water and fresh grass. They cover great distances at a slow, rolling gallop.

Wildebeest were originally known as wildebeest, and while they look more like a buffalo, they actually belong to the antelope family. Their name is Afrikaans for their wild and intimidating appearance. Interestingly, their appearance does not protect them from hunting lions and other predators.


13 Beard

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (11)

The name of the black-backed jackal comes from the band of black fur that runs along its back. They are scavengers, active both day and night. They are opportunistic omnivores, eating many different species of animals and birds, but when meat is not available they resort to plants, berries, fruits and insects. Jackals are one of the few animals that mate for life.

14 Hyena

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (12)

Opportunistic hunters and scavengers, the spotted hyena exploits the remains of the carcasses of almost everything that once lived and will prey on weak or sick animals rather than healthy ones.

Hyenas can reach speeds of 60 km/h and have the dubious advantage of attacking running prey with their powerful jaws and removing their internal organs while they are still alive.

15 Cheetah

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (13)

Lean and muscular, considered the fastest animal in the world (up to 60-75 miles per hour). They mainly hunt smaller animals such as impala.

Cheetahs are shy and less aggressive than leopards or lions, making them harder to spot in the wild, and often steal prey from them.

Some studies rank the cheetah as the most endangered of the three big cats, mainly due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. In 1900, over 100,000 cheetahs lived in their historic range. There are an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs in the wild in Africa today.

Insider tip:Stylish safari clothes and a complete packing list for your safari in Kenya


16 Crocodile

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (14)

The Nile crocodile is the largest freshwater predator in Kenya. An adult male can reach 5.4m in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. These fearsome apex predators are able to hunt down almost anything within their reach. Nile crocodiles have razor-sharp teeth and an extremely powerful bite that is almost impossible to loosen.

17 Ostrich

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (15)

The world's largest - albeit strange-looking and flightless - bird is found in the savannah and lives in nomadic groups of 5 to 50 birds. The ostrich's diet consists of roots, seeds and leaves, but they also eat locusts, lizards and snakes. When threatened, an ostrich will either hide by lying flat on the ground or run away. If he is cornered, he will attack with a kick of his powerful legs.

Ostriches in Kenya are listed as endangered. Although their exact population is unknown, they are believed to be declining rapidly.

18 Warthog

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (16)

Made famous by the endearing "Pumba" from Disney's The Lion King, warthogs feed on grasses, roots, berries, and bark. They live in family groups called probings. Unlike Disney characters, they are very timid and can run up to 34 mpg to avoid predators and perceived hazards - such as our jeep, which made close-up photography impossible.

19 Praise

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (17)

Smaller than gorillas but larger than monkeys, baboons live 25 to 30 years in the wild and inhabit open grasslands near wooded areas. They have long, doglike snouts, powerful jaws, and sharp fangs. They are omnivores, feeding on insects, fish, crustaceans, hares, birds, small monkeys and small antelopes.

Their main predators are Nile crocodiles, big cats and hyenas.

20 Highlanders

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (18)

Looking like rodents, the hyrax is common in rocky environments such as Elsa's Kopje in Meru National Park. They live in large groups spreading throughout the area, including in trees. They eat leaves and fruits digested by three stomachs.

21 Monkeys

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (19)

The Kenyan monkey is a herbivore with a black face and gray body hair. Sizes range from about 20 inches for males and 16 inches for females. They live in social groups of 10 to 70 individuals.

Monkeys play an important role as a model for understanding human genetic and social behavior, exhibiting traits such as hypertension and anxiety. Research has been conducted on communication and alarm links, particularly in relation to predator recognition and observation.

They can also be quite vicious. Tourists have reported that "shiny items" have been stolen from their tents, so be sure to lock up any jewelry and items you don't want to lose.

Click on the image below to enter your PIN and find this information again:

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (20)

Disclosure: The author was honored to be a guestElewana Collectionduring her stay in Kenya, however as always opinions, reviews and experiences are her own thoughts.

This article may contain affiliate/compensation links. Full details can be found in ourreservation.

about the author

Safari animals: 21 types of wildlife to see in Kenya - luggage and lipstick (21)Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of an award-winning blogLuggage and lipstick.TripAdvisorcalled her one of the20 baby boomer travel bloggers having more fun than millennials."Patti is the author of the book"Girls Go Solo: Tips for women traveling aloneand has over 150 signatures in 40 print and online publications, includingHaffington Post Office,International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine,ILadies' home diary. She has traveled six continents in search of great places and adventures for her baby boomers (and Generation X!).


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Emmett Berge

Last Updated: 09/29/2023

Views: 6003

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Emmett Berge

Birthday: 1993-06-17

Address: 787 Elvis Divide, Port Brice, OH 24507-6802

Phone: +9779049645255

Job: Senior Healthcare Specialist

Hobby: Cycling, Model building, Kitesurfing, Origami, Lapidary, Dance, Basketball

Introduction: My name is Sen. Emmett Berge, I am a funny, vast, charming, courageous, enthusiastic, jolly, famous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.