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South Africa

Animals

Mammals

South Africa is home to an unparalleled diversity of wildlife. It boasts the world's largest land mammal (the African elephant), as well as the second largest (white rhino) and the third largest (hippopotamus). It's also home to the tallest (giraffe), the fastest (cheetah) and the smallest (pygmy shrew). You probably have a better chance of seeing the Big Five - the black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion - in South Africa than anywhere else. There's also a lesser-known 'Little Five' - the rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise and ant lion - if you're looking for a challenge.

The best time for wildlife-watching is the cooler, dry winter (June to September) when foliage is less dense, and animals congregate at waterholes, making spotting easier. Summer (late November to March) is rainy and hot, with the animals more widely dispersed and often difficult to see. However, the landscape turns beautiful shades of green around this time and birdlife is abundant.