16 Tips for Wildlife Watching and Spotting for First Timers

Hoping to catch some cool wildlife on your African safari adventure? If so, read these top tips for wildlife viewing on a safari. 16 of the best tips for being able to see animals during a Safari. In this article, you will find a list of wildlife spotting tips.

Animal Spotting Tips

There are far too many “convenient” travel destinations in today’s world. Trips around the European continent, all-inclusive resorts, or even week-long cruises have now become the mode of travel. It may seem like there are no fun, adventurous options that truly spike your curiosity.

Luckily, there are those options out there. One of the best adventure vacations you can take is an African safari vacation. By venturing out into the wild, uninhabited plains of Africa, you can see the wondrous nature and incredible scenes that only a continent like Africa can offer.

If you are planning an adventure like this one, you’re going to want to learn how to maximize your experience, especially if you’re an animal lover. Here are 10 animal spotting tips for your next safari excursion.

16 Tips for Wildlife Spotting

Never a Good Idea to Feed Wild Animals

Sure, there are many wild animals that are cute, and you just want to feed them. This is never a good idea when camping. You just get wild animals like raccoons attracted to your campsite, and then they expect to get food every time they visit. You would not like it if you prepared breakfast lasagna in the morning for your family, and you had a raccoon expecting breakfast as well.

You have to keep in mind that once wild animals have gotten a taste of human food, they might prefer it instead of the natural food they have plenty of. The rules are that it is illegal to feed wild animals in national parks, and you can have a charge brought against you under the Canadian National Parks Act, for example. You cannot offer wildlife food, and you have to clean up after yourself once you leave so that they cannot find food or garbage that you have left behind.

Know the Animals

One of the keys to seeing animals on your expedition knows about the animals: their habits, actions, and features. For example, understanding an animal’s sleeping schedules is a great way to be ahead of the curve.

One key feature to understand is the animals’ physical features. This will allow you to spot the animal in an instant and from far away, even though their attempted camouflage. For example, knowing the typical leopard eye color may help you identify a leopard through the bushes.

Find Out About the Wildlife in the National Park You’ll Be Visiting

Every one of Canada’s national parks is home to different kinds of wildlife species. You should find out what kind of wildlife makes their homes in the national park you’ll be visiting. You can go online and find information about the national park and the wildlife that live there.

Parks Canada manages 48 national parks and one national urban park from coast to coast. These are all protected areas and thousands of different species including mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and other wildlife make their home there

Visit Hotspots

It may seem like animals are randomly dispersed throughout the entirety of the African plains, but this could not be further from the truth. Knowing the hotspots where animals congregate will allow you to maximize your visit.

One hotspot every visitor should know is the watering hole. Any form of water will be sure to attract thirsty animals, and various different species will visit these every hour. If you can find a body of water, consider camping out there to see who will show up.

Know Your Time

Just like there are popular locations for animals, there are also popular times for animals to be out and about. Due to the heat of the plains, most animals will mainly hibernate during the day and be active in the morning or night.

If you’re planning your safari adventure, consider taking an early morning or late evening trip to maximize your potential of seeing animals.

Look Down for Tracks

Just like you would use footsteps to follow a person, following an animal’s footsteps in the sand or dirt may be huge in leading you to an entire den of, say, lions. Be sure to look around for the signs of nearby animal presence.

On top of footsteps, looking for animal droppings, food leftovers, or even the signs of nests may also be key contributors in you finding animals.

Know Their Homes

Understanding where an animal lives are akin to staking out someone’s house. If you’re looking for a certain kind of animal, try to find their home in order to see them.

For example, if you’re looking for monkeys, look for trees and other locations with branches. If you’re looking for meerkats, look for some burrowed areas where these animals may have set up their homes.

Check the Weather

Just like your actions on a daily basis may be impacted by the weather outside, animals tend to follow suit. Many animals like to stay inside on a very hot, sunny day. Likewise, high winds will often bother animals enough to force them back inside.

On the other hand, overcast conditions with light rain may allow for animals to be out for even longer. Knowing the best weather conditions for the animals you’re looking for will help on your safari.

Be Well Equipped

A big mistake many casual tourists make is not having the necessary gear when looking for animals. Being well equipped on your African safari does not only mean having the tools to search for animals, but it also means having the supplies to keep yourself comfortable.

Be sure to bring binoculars and an animal guide with you. Bring food, water, and protective gear. This will help maximize the time you can spend searching and minimize your time inside.

Take Your Time, Be Patient

Ultimately, an African safari is not a chase for wild animals. Sometimes, you will find the animals. However, most times, they will find you. It may be a good idea to just stop, set up shop in one location, and wait for animals to pass you by.

This strategy is key because animals tend to avoid noisy human interruptions to their habitat. If you can blend into their surroundings, animals are more likely to carry on as usual.

What to expect on an African safari

Bring a Guide

Many safari excursions allow you the option of going with a guide, and this is often the best strategy. These guides are well versed in the area and can do all the heavy lifting while you appreciate the animals.

Don’t undervalue an experienced guide when going on your first African safari. These guides will not only help you see more animals, but they may also be key in keeping you safe out there.

Be Safe

When searching for animals, it may be easy to get caught up at the moment and want to approach these animals a bit too closely. Make sure to keep a safe distance as advised by your guide and other experts.

Safety also means preparing in advance. Be sure to bring additional food, water, and protection from the sun and mosquitoes. If you’re taking a driven tour, also consider bringing along extra gasoline, so you won’t end up stranded.

Keep a Safe Distance From Wild Animals

It is important to keep a safe distance from wild animals because you never know how they’ll react to humans. So make sure you bring along binoculars or equip your camera with a telephoto lens. In this way, you can enjoy the photos you have taken and remember the wild animals you saw along the way.

It is important to keep a distance of at least 30  meters from large animals and 100 meters from such wild animals as bears, wolves, coyotes, and cougars. To keep yourself and your family safe never attempt to take “selfies” with wildlife.

Stop When It Is Safe To Stop While Spotting Wildlife

When adventure travel, everyone loves to pull over when they see wildlife somewhere along a highway. Keep in mind that if a vehicle pulls over slowly and stops to observe, the animal is getting the idea that human vehicles are nothing to be afraid of. However, the next time this animal spots a vehicle they might feel no fear to run along the highway, and in this way, many wild animals get struck by cars and killed.

Often, stopped vehicles become obstructions to other drivers and accidents can occur. It is best if you spot animals near the highway to slow down, but continue driving as you look at them. The only time it is safe to stop is when there are special places to park your vehicle. If you follow the rules, then you can return to your campsite and discuss the wild animals you saw along the way and relax and enjoy a meal of no-boil lasagna.

Avoid Unpleasant Confrontation

When you’re planning your hiking trip remember that wildlife is most active at dawn and in the late evening. You should make sure that you and your family can hike safely, so do this during the day. Always check the weather conditions before you set out and find out what the trail conditions are like. Since you cannot be sure if you will or won’t run into wildlife, make sure that there is someone like a park ranger who knows that your family has gone hiking and when you plan on returning.

To avoid unpleasant confrontation, be aware of the signs that wildlife is around like fresh tracks, freshly scraped soil or tree bark, and fresh droppings. If you notice that the signs are there to make a lot of noise, keep everyone in sight, and choose a different trail to hike along.

Don’t Leave Food and Trash behind

It is important to remember that leaving food on the table or anywhere on your campsite will attract wildlife. You might not be feeding wildlife but if they smell and see food around your campsite they will come to investigate. So after snacking on some delicious black and white cookies make sure you put the rest away for later.

Unfortunately, wildlife cannot distinguish between human food and other things you leave around like toiletries that include soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. These non-food items can make wildlife sick so when you are done cooking for the day clean up and throw away what you won’t use again, put away food that you need for cooking, and make sure that all of your toiletries are stored away where wildlife cannot get them.


Now that you know how to make the most of an African safari, your next step is to get started on planning! There is never a bad time to take this trip of a lifetime, a true change of pace from the other convenient travel options that exist in our world today.

Exploring the wild is amazing to do one of my favorite things is Birding but I’m a beginner. You can have tons of fun exploring some of the most hidden areas of forests and mountains. However, just as you do every other time you adventure travel, there are precautions that you must take to ensure that you are safe and most importantly that you have the best experience possible. If you are planning to have your trip in the wild, you might want to take a look at this list of 16 tips for wildlife watching.

If you’re looking for even more wildlife spotting tips for your future travel or for more vacation inspiration, be sure to check out our other work. Happy trails!

Last Updated on March 11, 2022

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