Widespread and incredibly abundant, zebra are a gracious sight on any safari. They cover the plains of Africa, every single one of them having stripes as unique as your own fingerprints. You’ll see them on game drives, sometimes in herds of over a thousand. And we can’t get enough of appreciating their grandeur on walking and horseback safaris.
Different Zebra Species Found in Africa
Plains zebra (also known as Burchell’s zebra) are plentiful across East and Southern Africa, inhabiting wild savannahs, grasslands, deserts, and floodplains. They’re incredibly adaptable grazers that can find a way to survive regardless of the quality of the grass. You’ll see them in almost all of Africa’s safari parks and reserves, even in those that are thick with trees rather than filled with open grass. We’ve lost count of how many times zebra have greeted us when we check in to a tented camp.
Grevy’s zebra are distinguished by their tightly-packed, shimmering stripes. Endangered and near-endemic to Kenya, they’re a great sight for the safari aficionados. On the wooded slopes of Namibia and northern South Africa you might be treated to the mountain zebra, a squat character that’s returned from the brink of extinction. To make an obvious comparison, this is the pony in comparison to the much bigger plain’s zebra.
The Thrilling Sight of Zebra on the Move
Zebra live in small herds of five to eight, either a herd of young bachelor males building their strength, or females with young that’s controlled by a dominant stallion. Their epic success has come through a rapid reproduction and it’s very common to spot cute babies with stripes that are yet to develop their jet black tone. Often these herds huddle together on the premise of safety in numbers. This is most spectacularly witnessed during the great wildebeest migration, with some 300,000 zebra marching across the grasslands of the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
Another phenomenal zebra migration crosses Botswana’s Makgadikgadi pans; such is the wilderness here that researchers have only just discovered this annual movement of 40,000 zebra. From a distance it looks like one unruly black ball, which deters the predators. It’s only when you get closer that the detail separate, with each stripe identified and every face shrouded in emotion.
Famous Safari Experiences With Zebra
Zebra are certainly cute, especially when one rest its head on another’s back so two pairs of eyes can watch for danger. Another iconic scene is a line of zebra necks dipped into the water, or a herd splashing along the riverbank. Zebra are a common sight on walking safaris and we love how close you can get on foot. While the herds will canter away from a vehicle, they’ll give you a curious glance on a bush walk.
We know a number of exceptional camps and guides that offer horseback safari. Galloping and cantering along with the zebra is one of Africa’s ultimate experiences. For beginners, approaching the zebra slowly on horseback will deliver a coating of goosebumps. Just don’t get too carried away and reach out a hand; there’s a reason that people have tamed horses but never rode zebra.
These mammals are a lion’s favourite meal and for all the thrill of watching the predator, it’s also great to watch the hunt through the eyes of the hunted. Zebra don’t hide their emotion and we love how safari provides an opportunity to discover the wildlife world from many angles.
Being Surrounded by Zebra on Your African Safari
Moving together, zebra form great panoramas of monochrome, distinct black and white cuttings coalescing into a mass that confuses predators. So much of your safari experience will be about colour, but the zebra are all about charm.