Wanderlust Readers' tales: African wildlife sightings

From cheeky baboons to close encounters with elephants, our readers' reveal their most spectacular, terrifying and unexpected experiences when wildlife watching in Africa...

3 mins

Elephant encounters

Elephant encounters (Shutterstock)

Elephant encounters (Shutterstock)

We were on a Safari at the Mkuze Falls Lodge in South Africa in Sept. 2016. On this particular game drive we had stopped to view the scenery, and also a group of elephants, when this massive bull elephant approached our vehicle and promptly raised his trunk and proceeded to caress my wife's face. my wife was transfixed and didn't breath for what seemed ages but was only a matter of seconds. When we got back to base she was referred as the Elephant Whisperer.

Eric Parry, Worcester

I will never forget the sight at dawn of a matriarch elephant leading the herd down to drink at the waterhole at Treetops in Kenya it brought tears to my eyes money cant buy memory.

Sarah McCarthy, Rochdale

We had a rather interesting encounter with a family of elephants whilst on safari in South Africa. The family of elephants including a new born were adorable until the mother charged the group when she thought we were too close. It was a scary few seconds and really highlighted the power of these magnificent animals.

Adam Bradbury, Horely

Monkeying around

Family of baboons in Kruger (Shutterstock)

Family of baboons in Kruger (Shutterstock)

I was on a family holiday to the Masai Mara when I was about 11 years old. We were staying in a lodge and on my way from breakfast one day I heard the loudest scream I had ever heard coming from the other pathway. Turns out my little sister - about 7 y/o - had smuggled away a donut from the breakfast buffet for later. The food had attracted a monkey wanting a bite and in true mother-bear nature, my mother fought off the monkey to protect my little sister.  

Tessa Saehlbrandt, London

In 2002, my fiancee and I took our parents on one set of grandparents on a tour of the Kruger National Park. It was a wonderful holiday and also included the most embarrassing moment of our lives when two baboons began mating on the bonnet of our people carrier and my grandmother, 83 years old, exclaimed "oh do get a room !" as the painful shocked silence was broken by our hysterical laughing.

Richard Pakenham, Bangor

My father and I trekked through the mountains in Drakensberg and was confronted by a very angry Baboon he was bigger than us both put together and appeared to want to attack.  We tried moving as quick as we could and luckily a passing vehicle stopped and picked us us as they could see it was looking very aggressive.  I was 11 at the time and still remember it clearly.  

Gemma Van Geffen, Kettering

Look out for lions

Spotting lions on a safari (Shutterstock)

Spotting lions on a safari (Shutterstock)

Back in 2006 I was on my honeymoon and opted to do a self drive safari in several areas of Tanzania. We started off early one morning in Mikumi National Park and had already seen lots of amazing wildlife such as a family of elephants, several giraffe, some bathing hippos and many other great species. However not long before we were coming to the end of that mornings drive I spotted what looked like a lion mane sticking just above the surrounding grasses. I stopped the 4WD around 10 metres away and tried to get a better look. I could see 2 lions laid down and seeming to be eating some prey. In an attempt to get better pictures I climbed from my window and onto the roof of my 4WD. Within 20 seconds the male stood up and roared - not sure my heart has ever beaten faster as I scrambled back into the car. I did manage some great pictures though!

Ian Gray, Grimsby

I went to Kenya whilst serving in British Army in 1987, after a long March, my feet were covered in blisters so I missed the live firing the following day much to my amusement that I could have day off sunbathing. Instead I was placed on a dirt track junction in middle of Masai Mara Park no other humans for miles. I just had to sit guarding this junction on the off chance a vehicle appeared that may have gone down road.

After laying out a sheet, I stripped off, applied sun lotion and caught some rays, it was literally the middle of nowhere and I could hear the gunfire faintly miles away. I soon fell asleep. When I awoke there were vultures circling above me obviously thinking I was dead. I stood up, shook myself awake in the horrendous heat and started walking around a bush to wake myself u. Something caught my eye through the bush, only to see a lion walking along also circling me! I grabbed my rifle and continued walking on high alert walking constantly around the bush as I was told not to leave the junction. I was so hot, the lion wasn't bothered but I didn't know that. Hours later when the convoy finished the live firing and came by and picked me up I was shattered and severely dehydrated whilst all the lads were fresh from the BBQ and beers they had at end. None of them believed me!!!

Grant Williams, Littlehampton

Great giraffes

One reader came face-to-face with a giraffe (Shutterstock)

One reader came face-to-face with a giraffe (Shutterstock)

I was on a safari in Kenya/Tanzania with a small group of people. We were sitting in a safari truck happily looking at the giraffes and zebra when I turned away from the open window to speak to someone only to turn back a few seconds later and come face to face - and almost nose to nose - with a curious giraffe who had just about stuck it's head in the window. I don't know who was more startled - me or the giraffe.

Helen Carson, Castle Douglas

I used to run a charity partnership project in eSwatini, so have been to Southern Africa a few times. I've been fortunate enough to do a few self-funded safaris while there and I've come to the conclusion that leopards don't exist. If they do exist, they're competing in the World Hide and Seek Championships, as they have eluded me on every occasion.

On one of my earlier trips, a friend and I did a horseback safari in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. We spent some time watching a hillside in the distance and waiting for the perfect shot of the giraffe we'd spotted. An hour or so (and several hundred deleted photographs) later, I caught the picture I'd been waiting for. Regaling tales of our adventure that evening, the guide advised that there were no giraffes in the park. Initially confused, he could see the likeness in my photograph, but concluded we'd spent an hour or so stalking a distant tree, blowing in the wind.

Ross McDonald, Newcastle

More wildlife wonders

Hippos can be aggressive (Shutterstock)

Hippos can be aggressive (Shutterstock)

We were on a canoe safari in Zambia.  I was (as usual) more focused on taking pictures than paddling.  Up popped a hippo metres from our (suddenly very small) canoe, mouth agape in a proper show of aggression.  We'd been told not to get between a hippo and deep water and guess where we were?!  Suddenly the camera is forgotten and we are fully concentrating on our guide's instruction to paddle.  Backwards.  Hard.   Danger averted.  Until the charging buffalo incident...gotta love Africa!

Vickie Sampson, Cranbrook

Not the African wildlife that comes to mind when one thinks of Africa (lions, elephants, rhinos and the like), but my most memorable wildlife experiences have been on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. With family from there, it has rendered as somewhat of a second (very far away) home for me. From more frightening encounters such as a Macaque monkey trying to enter my grandma's kitchen through the window (the same ones that steal all the lychees from her tree in the summer); to squealing with excitement after spotting various tropical fish species and corals when snorkelling in the Indian Ocean; to picking up a pretty shell on the beach only to discover it was home to a very tiny and confused hermit crab (leading to a favourite hobby of mine of discovering hermit crabs along the beach, big and small, and of course always replacing them). Flying fox bats stark against the dusk sky, darting between the palm trees; an incredible range of native plants and flora; and little green day geckos are just some of the other wildlife I have encountered in awe. Mauritius' wildlife is colourful, vibrant and varied. Watching the magnificent Mauritian kestrel soar across a vast green valley in the Black River Gorges (a huge conservation success story after being brought back from near extinction in 1974 when only 4 were left in the world), reminded me of the importance of protecting, respecting and honouring our wildlife, from the small to the mighty, and appreciating the beauty of this planet and its inhabitants.

Ana Lenoi, Berkshire

In 2018 we went to the Zimbabwe/Zambia border to visit the Victoria Falls. As it was part of a longer trip, we booked the cheapest hotel (A Zambezi River Lodge) in the Victoria Falls town on the Zimbabwe side. It was a short distance from the town centre, but there was a regular free shuttle from the hotel to the Falls so we didn't mind. It was also on the banks of the Zambezi River and they took guests for a ride along the river to see wildlife which was ideal for us. We also had some rather close animal encounters that we weren't expecting too though. Whilst eating at the outdoor restaurant, our table was "visited" by a couple of elephants one night who must have liked the smell of the food we were eating. At night we also had to be escorted to our room by armed patrol guards as a hippo and her calf had decided to use the hotel to sleep too and had shown aggression towards guests. We were also unable to walk into town on our own as a pride of lions had been spotted in the grounds surrounding the hotel! The hotel was a great place to stay and the staff were delightful. We had a further great animal experience at the hotel. There was a resident family of warthogs who would happily play around on the guest's balconies around the same time each day which allowed us to see the babies up close but from our open hotel window so the animals didn't feel threatened and we could stay close but safe. I'm sure some would find the warthogs rather ugly, but I thought they were absolutely adorable and fun to watch! 

Clemma Tagg, Basildon

I grew up in Zimbabwe and lived near the Matobo National Park which is a beautiful part of the country - with balancing rocks, caves with cave paintings, beautiful fauna and waterfalls as well as many animals. When I was around twelve I became a Bush Ranger and we used to travel to the Matobo National Park. One one occasion we saw White and Black Rhino which was amazing as they are rare. Sadly it was before everyone had a trusty camera phone so all I have is my memory! 

Valda De Melo Koch, Uxbridge 

Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa - on a gentle late afternoon drive as we rounded a bend a rhinoceros stood chomping the grass, his massive head and horn stretching across the road. We watched and waited for a while hoping he'd move out of the way.  Instead he ambled up to the right side of our vehicle, slowly moved his head sideward and slammed it into the metal with a resounding bang.  We didn't hang around to decide if he was curious, angry or horny.  We left - adrenalin pumping and wide eyed. An expensive trip for us but a profitable one for the panel beater!  

Debra Galvin, Al Ain

I volunteered for a children's charity in Uganda & decided on my days off to take a trip to Murchison falls to see the wildlife.The trip was amazing with lots of wildlife fabulous scenery & a real buzz from getting so close to animals in their natural habitat.The scariest thing was the amount of warthogs & hippos that came into the camp at night making it a game of jeopardy to go to the bathroom!!! 

Jenette Davies, Driffield 

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