Rare Creatures of Africa & Best Wildlife Safari Spots to See Them


As one of the most diverse habitats in the world, Africa is home to all manner of animals, big and small. While we may get to see the elusive Big Five on wildlife safari, the rare creatures of Africa are much harder to spot.

Some of these are endangered species on the verge of extinction. While some are fortunate enough to bounce back, others are not so fortunate. Others are extremely shy animals that prefer to keep out of the limelight. The effort you make to see them will likely be an adventure in itself.

Seeing any of these animals is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you dare not miss. Whether you have a taste for the extraordinary or are planning a lifetime trip, these animals will make it worthwhile. Take a look at some of the most unique wildlife species and where to find them.

Narina Trogon – One of Africa’s Most Elusive Birds

The Apaloderma Narina or Narina Trogon is a spectacular bird common to much of sub-Saharan Africa. But it also happens to be very shy and elusive, making it very hard to spot. Not surprisingly, it is a highly sought-after species for avid birdwatchers.

Bright plumage consisting of vivid hues of red, purple and green give it a stunning appearance. The belly is a bright red while the chest is deep purple. Its back is metallic green. Both male and female spot similar colors but the males have brighter hues.

The bird inhabits densely forested areas. Look out for them whenever you take a wildlife safari through Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape or KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. You can also find them in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, northeastern Mozambique and parts of Zambia.

Dugong – the Only Exclusively Herbivorous Marine Mammal Worldwide


The dugong is among rare creatures in Africa that are critically endangered. This marine mammal is a cousin of the manatee. Dugongs and manatees are the only existing members of an order of species known as Sirenia. (Though the manatee was once endangered, it was delisted to “threatened” in 2017. It may however get relisted as “endangered” if petitions to do so become successful).

The dugong is a sea cow that feeds on sea grass in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Its body has a torpedo shape with small flippers. Reproduction takes place via internal fertilization and the species lives for up to 70 years.

The greatest risk to dugongs is habitat depletion in addition to accidental capture and boat collisions. One of the best places to see the dugong is in the Bazaruto Archipelago and Quirimbas Archipelago of Mozambique. Occasionally, you may also find them around Zanzibar and Mafia Islands of Tanzania or Mombasa and the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya. Visitors have reported rare sightings in the Marsa Alam area of the Red Sea in Egypt. Lookout for seagrass beds as this is where they spend their days and nights, surfacing in intervals of six minutes to breathe.

Black Rhino – the Only Browser Among Rhino Species

The most outstanding feature of the black rhino is its pointed upper lip. Designed for browsing rather than grazing, this lip enables the species to feed from bushes, shrubs and trees. The black rhino is a critically endangered species worldwide following a steep 97% decline in population between 1960 and 1995. In Africa, conservation efforts have led to a 17% rise in their numbers in the wild over the 10-year period ended 2022. They currently total over 6,000 across 12 countries. The greatest threat to these rare creatures of Africa is poaching.

Out of a total of four subspecies of black rhinos, only three are left. Due to the low numbers and the great effort made to protect them, it is not easy to see a black rhino in the wild.

In East Africa, you can see them in:

  • Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya
  • Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
  • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania.

Further down south, here are the top places to look for them:

  • Etosha National Park, Namibia
  • Damaraland, Namibia (these two areas are home to the largest populations of these animals in the wild).
  • Matusadona and Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe
  • Kruger National Park in South Africa

Aardwolf – One of the World’s Most Specialized Carnivores

Though the aardwolf is not endangered, it makes the list of rare creatures of Africa due to its secretiveness. It lives in isolation in open grassland areas, feeding on termites. The elusive animal resembles a dog and spots a brown coat with black stripes. The only time aardwolves come together is mating season and when rearing their young.

Though its name means earth wolf in Afrikaans, it is not related to the wolf. Rather, it is a cousin of the hyena. However, it spots a distinctive black mane that runs from head to tail. The hairs on the mane rise when it senses danger. Due to its secretive nature, researchers do not know much about it and seeing it in the wild is a worthwhile experience.

Since it is a nocturnal animal, you might have to take a night safari game drive to spot the aardwolf. Some of the best places to see the aardwolf in Africa include:

  • Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • Madikwe Game Reserve
  • Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
  • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
  • Etosha National Park, Namibia
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana and South Africa

Aye-Aye – the Only Primate that Uses Echolocation to Forage

Often listed among the world’s weirdest animals, the aye-aye is an endangered primate that resembles a squirrel. The world once thought it had gone extinct but rediscovered it in 1957. Though this rare lemur looks nothing like a primate, it bears a close relation to humans, apes and chimpanzees. It has big eyes, long fingers and a gremlin-like appearance. You can only see one on the island of Madagascar.

One of their most distinctive features is the use of echolocation to find prey. They have an unusually long and thin middle finger. They use this to tap on trees and listen to the echo to identify hollow areas where insects live. It is the only primate known to use echolocation.

Not only is this creature endangered, it is also very hard to spot due to its solitary lifestyle and nocturnal preferences. It lives deep in the rainforests, preferring trees to solid ground. Several factors contribute to its dwindling population. Aside from the fact that it only bears one offspring, this spooky animal is a victim of superstition. Many natives kill them on sight as they believe aye-ayes are bad omens.

Okapi – One of the Longest-Tongued Mammals in the World


Another one of the rare creatures of Africa, the okapi, is both endangered and elusive. It is therefore one of the hardest animals to spot on a wildlife safari.

Resembling a cross between a zebra and a deer, it spots black and white striped front legs and behind. The rest of the body is a dark shade of brown with a velvety texture. While the body size and build resemble that of a horse, it has a relatively long neck and large ears. Its sharp hearing catches even the slightest sounds, helping the solitary mammal steer clear of human interaction. Though the neck is relatively long, it is nowhere near as long as that of its close cousin the giraffe. The tongue is exceptionally long, the longest of all mammal species. It helps the okapi reach leaves on high branches.

The okapi is a resident of the dense rainforests of Congo DRC, particularly in the Aruwimi and Ituri regions. To help conserve this endangered species, the country has created protected areas like the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

Other Rare Creatures of Africa to Look Out for on Safari:

  • Grevy’s Zebra – the largest zebra species, native to northern Kenya and Ethiopia. Endangered due to habitat loss, disease and drought. See them in Samburu National Park and Lewa Conservancy in Kenya.
  • The Tsessebe – the fastest species of antelope in Africa – top speed of 70 km/h. One of the funniest looking animals on the continent. Population declining due to hunting. See them in Kruger National Park.
  • Ethiopian Wolf – most endangered carnivore and one of the rarest canids worldwide. Endangered due to diseases and habitat loss. See them on a hiking adventure in Simien Mountains or southern Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains.
  • Blue Crane – renowned for one of the most elaborate and captivating courtship dances among birds. The national bird of South Africa. Considered Vulnerable due to habitat loss. Take a birding tour through the wetlands and grassy plains of KwaZulu Natal, Free State or Eastern Cape to see them.
  • Saharan Cheetah – one of the rarest large cats in the world. Spots a sand-colored coat for remarkable desert camouflage. Critically endangered and highly elusive. See it in Ahagar Cultural Park, Algeria.
  • African Penguin – known for their impressive heat regulation features (gular fluttering – rapid vibration of throat muscles to cool down and increase air circulation; and a pink patch of skin around eyes where they send warm blood to cool it down. Endangered due to overfishing, pollution and environmental changes. See them in Luderitz Penguin Islands and Walvis Bay, Namibia and Cape Recife Nature Reserve and Boulder’s Beach, South Africa.
  • African Forest Elephant – fairly elusive and critically endangered since 2021. Smaller than African savannah elephants. Main threats include poaching for ivory, habitat loss, climate change and war. See them in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in Central African Republic and Ivindo and Loango National Parks in Gabon.
  • Northern White Rhinos – world’s rarest rhino species. Extinct in the wild. Only two (Najin and Fatu) remain on the planet, both in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya.

Turn Your Wildlife Safari into a Lifetime Adventure with These Rare Species

Does your heart beat and bleed for these rare creatures of Africa? The above are some of the weirdest, most distinctive and most elusive species on the continent. Sighting any of them will turn any wildlife safari into the adventure of a lifetime.

Whether you are looking for unique photo moments or are eager to save the species, this is a great place to begin. Best of all, in your search for unique species, you will get to enjoy the stunning biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes that define the continent of Africa.

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