Sable in Africa
The sable is one of Africa’s most handsome antelope and renowned for its combative nature, able even to face down lions. Shy, and restricted in range, sightings of this species are always special.
Quick facts about Sable antelope
|Scientific name:||Hippotragus niger||Habitat:||Savannah woodland|
|IUCN status:||Least Concern||Adult weight:||220–235kg|
The sable belongs to the ‘horse-like’ antelope tribe (Hippotraginae), along with oryx and the slightly larger roan. Scientists recognise four subspecies, among which the giant sable of Angola is Critically Endangered.
Adult males are a striking glossy black, with a white belly and badger-like white face stripes. Their majestic profile is accentuated by a powerful neck and long, backward-arching horns. Females and young are slimmer and chestnut-brown, with shorter horns.
Small herds of females and young, accompanied by a single bull, frequent moist savanna woodland, where they both browse and graze. Males defend the herd against predators, going down on their knees to strike sweeping blows with their horns. They are known to have killed lions.
Record horn length (male)
Age at which young male leaves natal herd
Estimated population (IUCN, 2017)
Africa's top camps for seeing sable
Based on 203 reports by our travellers since May 2018, the camps below have the best chances of sighting sable. Simply follow the key below.
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Where to see sable in Africa
Sable range from south-eastern Kenya to northern South Africa. Always quick to retreat from disturbance, they are among more prized antelope sightings on safari.
Top tips for viewing sable
Sable are never easy to find. The largest populations occur in the miombo and mopane woodland belts of southern Tanzania, western Zambia and northern Zimbabwe and Botswana. Top spots include Selous (Tanzania), Hwange and Matopos (Zimbabwe), Moremi (Botswana) and Liwonde (Malawi), while a small herd in Kenya’s Shimba Hills National Reserve also offer reliable viewing.
Like roan, their close cousins, sable seldom linger in the open, but their daily visits to water offer an opportunity to observe the herd, with youngsters shepherded carefully among the adults. Be content to watch from a distance, as the noise of vehicles will often send them retreating towards cover. Lone bulls may be confident enough to allow a closer approach.
Holiday ideas to see sable
Based on our travellers experiences, these are the holidays which will give you the best chances of good sable sightings
Our top destinations for sable
Click below for detailed information about sable in these countries, including our latest sightings data from the camps and lodges there.