Amazing African Wildlife Encounters

"I still remember my first wildlife safari, aged 16," says Tom Harari, who has worked at Exodus HQ since 2011, and has experience on the road as a tour leader. "It was in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. We'd seen elephants, buffalo, hippos and even a lion in the tall grass close to our 4x4. We were starting to make our way back when another passenger cried out - there was a leopard in a tree. It was thrilling.

I still love sitting by the flood-lit watering holes in Etosha and watching the theatre of the brush unfold as various animals – zebras, springboks, even rhinos or lions – come down to drink. Other highlights include seeing the sun rising over the ochre sand in Namibia, casting warm light on the vibrant colours of these giant dunes, or seeing the impossible volume of water thundering over the edge of Victoria falls. One night, during a full moon, we were able to see a lunar rainbow created by the full moon's bright light in the spray of the falls. And then there's the Milky Way. I first saw it in all its glory in Botswana but have since seen it elsewhere in Africa. Camping out and gazing up at a billion twinkling lights is just incredible.

It comes down to the raw beauty of Africa and its natural treasures, whether it's the ever-changing desert in Namibia or the imposing sight of Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the savannah. And, once again, there's the wildlife... the number of encounters I've had is too high to recount. Elegant giraffes, cheeky warthogs, sage elephants, the thrill of seeing cheetahs on the hunt or the 'aww' moments of catching cubs at play."

Here are five of Tom's favourite African animal encounters:

Giraffe

Giraffe

"Their long necks are amazing and they almost have to do the splits when they drink! They sleep for only 30 minutes a day, and hardly make any noise. I told my niece this and when my sister later asked her to be 'quiet as a mouse' my niece replied, 'No, quiet as a giraffe!'"

You're likely to see giraffes on all of our African safaris.

Hippo

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"A safari favourite, hippos are actually the most deadly animal in Africa – and surprisingly fast for their size. You should never get between a hippo and the water, or a hippo and their young. The word hippopotamus comes from the Greek 'hippos', meaning horse, and 'potamos', meaning river – literally river horse."

You're likely to see hippos on all of our African safaris.

Cheetah

Masai Mara Cheetah

"Some of my most memorable wildlife experiences involve cheetahs – they are the fastest land animal, and extremely elegant cats. Namibia may have the highest population of cheetah but East and Southern Africa provide the best opportunities to see them in the wild."

See cheetahs on our new Southern Africa Family Safari.

Elephant

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"Elephants have strong bonds with other members of their herd and grieve at the death of others. Calves are looked after by their mothers as well as 'aunties' – other females from the herd. Head to Namibia to see its very special desert elephants."

See elephants on our Namibian Adventurer trip.

Lion

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"'Simba' is the Swahili word for lion. Known as 'the king of the jungle', lions don't typically live in the jungle and their kingly status is debatable; they're poor hunters, with just an 18% success rate. Tanzania is a good place to see them lazing in trees."

See lions on our Tanzania Crater Capers trip.

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