Africa’s vast and beautiful animal kingdom includes creatures of all shapes and sizes who have learnt to survive in some of the most challenging conditions on earth. In this article, we take a look at some of Africa's most iconic safari animals, those that are often spotted at The Outpost Lodge, Pel's Post, Tshwene Lodge and Ekuthuleni Lodge, and the weird and wonderful quirks that make them so magnificent.

1. Elephants are thumb-suckers too

But instead of thumbs, they suck on their trunks. That’s right, not only can elephant trunks be used to breathe, smell, touch, communicate, eat and drink, but they also provide a source of comfort. You will find this habit occurring in older elephants too - though less frequently - when they’re unsure of their surroundings.

2. Crocodiles survived the dinosaur extinction

Over 200 million years ago, a catastrophe occurred, causing the mass extinction of the dinosaurs but prehistoric crocodiles survived, and continued to evolve into the beautiful reptiles we know today. How did they survive? Nobody knows for sure but signs point to their amphibious talents being the answer.

3. Giraffes are mild insomniacs

They may be the tallest animal in the world, but giraffes sleep for the shortest length of time - only about 30 minutes every day. And what’s even more shocking is that these daily dozes only occur in five minute stretches at any one time.

4. Leopards smell like buttered popcorn

When leopards mark their territory it gives off the very distinct odour of buttered popcorn. It often goes unnoticed when exploring in a game vehicle but if you are ever out on foot on a walking safari and smell buttered popcorn, be aware that a leopard has been in the area marking its territory.

5. Africa’s animals could win a marathon

Four of the five fastest animals in the world can be found on African soil: the cheetah, the wildebeest, the lion and the Thompson’s gazelle. The cheetah secures the spot of fastest land animal in the world, accelerating from 0-60 mph in three seconds and hitting speeds of up to 70 mph in short bursts.

6. Zebras are truly unique

A zebra's stripes act like a fingerprint - each individual’s pattern is unique. Foals recognise their mothers by the pattern of their stripes, as well as by scent and call. Their stripes are also their best defense mechanism. When in danger, they gather together to confuse colour-blind predators, such as lions, who mistake their pattern for grass.

7. Lions are loud

They have the loudest roar of any big cat species.  A male lion’s roar can be heard from up to eight kilometers away, allowing them to communicate with each over long distances - usually to declare their territory, signal to stray members of the pride and scare-off rivals.

8. Rhinos have very bad eyesight

They have very small eyes and their vision is so poor that they will occasionally attack trees and charge at rocks by accident. Their incredible nearsightedness means that, from about three meters, a human and a tree can look the same to them. However, they make up for it with excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell.

9. Buffalo are out for revenge.

Buffalo are known as the most dangerous member of the Big Five. When hunted by humans or attacked lions, they have a reputation for circling back on their predators and counter-attacking. They have sharp memories and will ambush hunters and attack lions who they have encountered before to simply get revenge.

10. Hippos can’t swim

Their method of travel is very simple - they walk underwater. They can’t even float! Rather unusual for an animal that spends up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun.

Feeling inspired to book a safari getaway? Check out our four bush escapes and book your stay now - Ekuthuleni LodgeTshwene LodgeThe Outpost Lodge and Pel's Post.