But there is so much more to your animal experience than the Big Five in the country on the southern edge of Africa.
This list of 15 amazing animals in South Africa includes some animals found only in South Africa, whilst others are shared with the rest of Africa – all of them are unique, beautiful, amazing animals…
Amazing animals in South Africa
Black maned Lions
Black maned lions call the Kalahari Desert home. They’re beautiful, these regal animals with their contrasting black manes, against the red of the Kalahari sand dunes.
No different than other lions across Africa, the colour is supposed to indicate health and vigour, consequently the darker the mane the more attractive they seem to female lions.
The Kgalagadi National Park is a good place to see these amazing animals in South Africa.
These highly unusual looking antelope, also known as gnus, are not uncommon in the rest of Africa where they roam the grasslands and open woodlands in herds.
Divided into blue and black wildebeest (you can tell them apart by their horns in particular) some people believe that ‘gnu’ comes from the Khoi San word for these animals – t’gnu.
Wildebeest is, of course, Dutch for ‘wild beast’.
It looks like a mongoose but spends too much time on its rear legs surveying the lie of the land to be one, hangs out in gangs and weighs in at under a kilogram.
Known also as a suricat you’ll find the meerkat mostly in the Kalahari Desert (although it’s also found in parts of the Karoo) where it blends with the sand dunes, salt pans and dry river beds.
Together with bat-eared foxes, the aardvark, porcupines and aardwolf, it makes up the ‘shy five’ of the Little Karoo.
Whale-watching is a major tourist attraction in South Africa. But for those here to see wild savannah animals they come as something of a surprise, despite being high on the list of amazing animals in South Africa.
Most commonly sighted along our coastline is the southern right whale, but it’s fairly easy to spot the humpback and Bryde’s whale too.
Found all over South Africa in rocky and wooded areas (you can spot a mating pair in Kirstenbosch) this beautiful grey bird has a wingspan of 1 m and little tufts of feathers on either side of its head.
Like other owls they’re mostly nocturnal and are common in southern Africa.
If residents are lucky they’ll spot these amazing animals in South Africa in their garden.
Despite its reputation as one of the most dangerous venomous snakes in Africa, it’s highly unusual to spot this copper coloured (‘geelslang’ in Afrikaans) non-spitting cobra.
If you do, you’ll know about it as when threatened they lift their heads off the ground to face you, spreading their ribs to form a hood. They give good warning and prefer not to attack.
Remain at a safe distance!
Its name means ‘rock jumper’, which describes its uncanny ability to leap in amongst rocks.
The diminutive antelope easily blends in with its rocky environment, its short spiky horns the distinguishing feature between males and females.
The rock hyrax, rock badger or dassie, is a strange looking animal – something like a guinea pig crossed with a rabbit.
Interestingly they’re closest in genus to the African elephant, but you’ll find them sunning on large rocks or darting in amongst mountain sides their four short legs and padded feet allowing them to move like lightning.
The nagapie (night ape) or Mohol bushbaby is Africa’s smallest primate, its huge eyes an indication of its nocturnal behaviour.
If you’re lucky you may well spot one in a tree around the suburbs of Johannesburg or Pretoria, but otherwise you’ll find them mostly in Acacia trees in the wild. The gum and insects its staple diet.
It may look a little like a pig crossed with a kangaroo, but it’s also known as the African antbear, or Cape anteater and is the last surviving member of the prehistoric Tubulidentata species (it’s related to dassies and elephant shrews).
They’re extremely difficult to spot but they’ve got to come above ground at some stage to sniff out ants and termites.
Cape elephant shrews
This tiny little beast is not a shrew at all and has ‘elephant’ in its name because it’s most directly related to it, despite looking most like a mouse, with a rather funny snout.
Endemic to South Africa you’ll find the Cape elephant shrew in rocky outcrops across the country, but they’re difficult to spot.
Their distinctive round ears belie the fact that their closest relative is the wolf, and their hide too is more like that of a dog.
In South Africa there are fewer than 400 free-ranging wild dogs left.
The grey crowned crane loves wetland-grasslands, its distinctive spiky golden crown and blue eyes what makes it so beautiful.
Mining, forestry and crop farming have shrunk this 1 m tall elegant creature’s natural habitat substantially.
If you can, try and see their bowing, jumping breeding dance (both males and females dance often joined by more immature birds).
Known also as the boshaas, pondhaas, doekvoetjie and Bushman’s hare, the riverine rabbit is a rarely seen animal.
With only about 250 left in the wild, you’ll have to scour riverbeds in the arid, central Karoo with a fervour if you want to spot one.
Riverine rabbits raise only one kit at a time and live for about four years in all.
Cape mountain zebras
Cape mountain zebras are one of three species of zebra. All of them have the characteristic wide black and white stripes.
What distinguishes the Cape mountain zebra is its dewlap, or extra fold of skin near its throat, and its smaller size.
These amazing animals in South Africa occur in small groups in the Roggeveld, Cedar and Amatola mountains.