Where to see Spotted Hyena in South Africa
The spotted hyena has long been reviled in popular culture as ‘ugly’ and ‘cowardly’. In fact, this powerful, versatile and intelligent carnivore is one of Africa’s most fascinating, and warrants special attention on any safari.
Quick facts about Spotted Hyena
|Scientific name:||Crocuta crocuta||Habitat:||Semi-desert, forest, savannah|
|IUCN status:||Least Concern||Adult weight:||40–80kg|
The spotted hyena is the largest and most widespread of four hyena species and distinguished by its round ears and spotted coat – bolder in younger individuals. Both a tireless predator, able to run down zebra, and a resourceful scavenger, using powerful jaws to consume every scrap of a carcass, it is Africa’s most efficient large carnivore.
Spotted hyena clans may number over 50 but individuals disperse widely while foraging. Alpha females, larger than males, preside over matriarchal social structures as complex as those of some primates. Cubs are born in burrows.
A highly vocal animal, the spotted hyena’s far-carrying whoop is the very essence of a night in the African bush.
More bite power then leopard
distance carried by contact calls
meat consumed at a sitting
Cubs killed by siblings during first month
The top camps for seeing spotted hyena in South Africa
Based on 3 reports by our travellers since Jul 2018, visitors at these camps in South Africa have the best chances of sighting spotted hyena.
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Where to see spotted hyenas in Africa
Spotted hyenas are fairly easily observed in most major parks, especially where lions are present. Much of their activity occurs after dark, when you’re bound to hear them even if you don’t see them.
Top tips for viewing spotted hyena
Spotted hyenas range widely across sub-Saharan Africa but are best seen in reserves where other predators provide plentiful large carcasses. Prime locations include the Serengeti/Maasai Mara (Kenya/Tanzania), Chobe/Okavango (Botswana), Zambezi and Luangwa Valleys (Zimbabwe/Zambia), and Greater Kruger (South Africa). With no lions around, for example on Malawi’s Nyika Plateau, spotted hyenas become the dominant predator.
At night, their calls often betray a lion or leopard kill. By day, you may find cubs lying out at the den and can observe the complex communications between clan members. On hot days hyenas sometimes cool off in mud wallows. Habituated hyenas may become bold, raiding camps at night and stealing boots or similar. On foot, look out for hyenas’ distinctive tracks and their bone-whitened droppings, known as ‘bush meringues’.
Our best South Africa holidays for spotted hyena sightings
Based on our travellers' reports, these ideas for South Africa safaris are likely to give the best spotted hyena sightings
More information about spotted hyena in our other destinations
Click here for detailed information about spotted hyena in other countries, including the places for sighting spotted hyena.