Let’s face it. There are a handful of animals, namely the famous ‘Serengeti Seven’ (lion, elephant, cheetah, rhino, leopard, giraffe and hippo), that steal the show and occupy the majority of focus and attention for most safari enthusiasts. Of course, in the Serengeti there is also the legendary wildebeest and zebra migration, which is justifiably considered one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles on the planet. With all this easily seen eye candy, one may inadvertently neglect looking out for some of the ‘not so famous’ inhabitants of the Serengeti.
However, in my humble opinion, viewing some of these rare and unusual critters while on safari can be just as rewarding as watching a lion stalk a zebra, a family of elephants breaking cover or a cheetah dashing across the plains in pursuit of a gazelle. What follows is a collage of pictures I have collected over the years from returning guests of the most rare, bizarre, quirky and deadly creatures that inhabitant the Serengeti.
Note that all of these images are genuine photos taken by guests or staff while on safari with Africa Dream Safaris. We never use any stock imagery on our website or in our brochure.
Pangolin – Only a handful of our very lucky safari guests have ever seen this bizarre animal before . The Maasai say the Pangolin will bring you 10 years of good luck. Mainly nocturnal, pangolins are also known as scaly anteaters and they specialize in tearing open termite mounds and ant hills to feast on the live insects inside. They have no teeth!
Bushbaby – A small nocturnal primate very rarely seen during the day except for one of our lucky guests who snapped this picture. They are most often seen near lodges in the early evening. Good places to see them are on the night game drives at Buffalo Lodge in the North Serengeti or Swala Lodge in Tarangire National Park.
Serengeti Rock Python – This is Africa’s largest snake and has been known in the Serengeti to catch monkeys and even small gazelles. After constricting and devouring its prey, the python can be seen high up in a tree for several months where it slowly digests its meal. This makes for easy and regular sightings for safari guests when a python has been spotted. Great places to see them are in Seronera Valley in the Central Serengeti and also the Silale Swamp in Tarangire.
Secretary Bird – This frequently seen resident in the Serengeti is the only raptor to hunt its prey on foot. It specializes in dispatching venomous snakes by jumping on them with its sharp talons.
African Wild Dog – Having been quite prolific in the Serengeti during the 1950s and 1960s, these critically endangered wild dogs are making a come back along the borders of the Serengeti and are seen from time time in the Loliondo Game Reserve and Ngorongoro Conservation (NCA), which border the Serengeti to the east and south, respectively. The best spot to see them is near Nasera Rock and Angata Kiti in the NCA during the green season. They are also spotted from time to time in Tarangire during the dry season.
Caracal – Also known as the African Lynx, this beautiful cat with its unusual ear tufts is seen from time to time in many areas of the Serengeti (Ndutu, Seronera and Grumeti West) perhaps 1 to 2 times a year. The caracal is very shy and elusive and only a handful of our safari guests have ever managed to snap a decent shot before it disappears into thick cover. There was a great documentary filmed about the caracals of the Serengeti several years ago called chasing big cats that can be purchased on Amazon.
Striped Hyena – While its more famous cousin, the spotted hyena, can claim to be the most numerous predator in the Serengeti, the striped hyena is very rarely seen. They are much more shy and elusive then the spotted hyena and typically only leave their den when it is completely dark outside. However, they are occasionally seen in the Serengeti in the early morning returning from distant hunting forays especially on the Plains in the South and East Serengeti.
Black and white Colobus Monkey – Their distribution is limited to only a relatively thin band of forest that lines the banks of the Grumeti River in the western reaches of the Serengeti. We had one guest spot one in the Makoma Hill area of Central Serengeti last year, which was one of the most bizarre sightings recorded in a long time. How it got there (perhaps hitch hiked on a supply vehicle) is anyone’s guess.
East African Oryx – Perhaps the most endangered animal of the entire Serengeti ecosystem. Rumor has it that there are still a few remaining on the harsh Salei Plains to the east of the Serengeti. They are still seen from time to time in Tarangire National Park by our guests where this picture was taken.
Lesser Kudu – This beautiful antelope is also very rare but is seen much more often compared to the Oryx. The lesser Kudu can be seen in the southwestern Serengeti (sometimes near Kusini Camp) and also in Tarangire.
Bat-eared fox – Regularly seen in the Serengeti (especially right at day break), these mainly nocturnal foxes live in small family groups and feast on insects. Some can be quite docile and habituated to tourists and can make really good photography subjects.
Serval – This medium sized cat uses its large dish antenna ears for hunting small prey. They are regularly seen on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater and also in many regions of the Serengeti.
Dik-Dik – The smallest antelope and arguable the cutest to inhabit the Serengeti Ecosystem is named after its whistling alarm call. Dik-diks are monogamous and mate for life.
Banded Mongoose – Closely related to the Meerkat, which was made popular by the Discovery TV series entitled ‘Meerkat Manor’, the Banded Mongoose is a frequently spotted inhabitant on any savanna in Eastern African. Especially good spots to see these playful animals include the Serengeti and Lake Manyara National Parks.
Crowned Crane – The mating rituals of this beautiful bird (along with the ostrich) are always quite a show.
African Wild Cat – How this small cat manages to eek out an existence on the harsh Serengeti Plains is astonishing. The African wild cat is believed to eat mainly small mice, rats and rabbits. It is spotted fairly frequently in the Serengeti and especially out on the Plains.
Nile Crocodile – The largest species of crocodile, these monsters can been seen in the rivers of the North, Central and West Serengeti. The largest crocodiles can be found at the Mara River in the North Serengeti and the Grumeti River in the West Serengeti, which are by no coincidence the two most prominent crossing sights for the annual wildebeest and zebra migration.
Black Mamba – The black Mamba can reach up to 15 feet long and is named from the color inside its mouth and not its scales. The black mamba is known for its aggressive behavior and is one of the fastest and most dangerous snakes in the world. Thankfully, poisonous snakes are very rarely encountered in the Serengeti. You have a better chance of seeing a wild dog chasing a pangolin then seeing one of these deadly creatures on your safari!
African Crowned Eagle – Though not largest raptor that can be found in Tanzania (second in size to the Martial Eagle), the African Crowned Eagle is the most powerful airborne hunter in the Serengeti as it specializes in hunting small mammals including monkey, hyrax and small antelopes.
Honey Badger – Pound for the pound the honey badger is the most powerful predator in the Serengeti. The honey badger is legendary for its tenacity. Even the mighty lion will take a wide berth around a honey badger due to its thick impenetrable hide and aggressive posturing. It is quite a safari treat to see a honey badger while on a game drive and our guests do spot them from time to time out on the Serengeti Plains. Particularly good spots to see them are on the plains around Sametu Kopjes and the plains around Ndutu. We hope you see one of these extraordinary animals on your African safari.
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I loved the pictures and little information pieces about each antelope having lived in Tanzania and a wonderful time camping in the parks there for some years.