The 8 best African wildlife documentaries to watch

November 30, 2016
Documentary filmmaker/ travel writer/ photographer -

Looking for some inspiration for your next African safari? Watch one of these amazing African wildlife documentaries to learn about the continent’s amazing animals and their stories.

BBC Africa

David Attenborough presents this beautifully filmed six-part series on Africa’s astonishing wildlife. Episodes cover different regions, from the Kalahari and the East African savannah to the Sahara and the Congo, showing remarkable scenes of the uniquely adapted animals and birds that call these places home.

The Last Lions

This gripping documentary tells the story of a lioness, Ma di Tau, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta who has to risk everything to keep her cubs alive against an onslaught of enemies. The film explores the stark reality that lions are vanishing from the wild, and that Ma di Tau is a symbol of a species’ struggle to survive.


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Meerkat Manor

A four-series show on Animal Planet, Meerkat Manor blends traditional wildlife documentary with dramatic narration to produce compelling viewing of a dozen families of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. The meerkats become endearing characters in the series as viewers followed their everyday antics and life events as if they were actors in a soap opera.

Big Cat Diary Series

A long-running nature documentary produced by the BBC, the Big Cat Diary is a series that follows the lives of big African cats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve. Each series was about the day-to-day lives of a lion pride, a cheetah family and a leopard family as they make kills, raise their cubs and fight off rivals. The series is called the original wildlife soap opera for its new kind of wildly popular wildlife documentary format.


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The Great Serengeti

This National Geographic documentary is set on the huge plains of the Serengeti in East Africa and tells the stories of the wildebeest, gazelles and zebras who make a massive annual circular migration through the Serengeti National Park and neighbouring Masai Mara Reserve in order to survive the dry months.

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Nominated for an Oscar, Virunga is part investigative journalism and part documentary. The 2014 film focuses on the conservation work of rangers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, where some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas live. In the film we see four people fighting to protect these gorillas from poaching, civil war and the imminent threat of oil exploration by a British company. The cinematography is beautiful, the gorillas are amazing to watch and the story utterly compelling, though heart wrenching at times.

Eternal enemies: lions and hyenas

This National Geographic documentary filmed in Botswana is about the daily aggressive conflict between lions and hyenas, capturing the reality of how brutal and violent life in the wild really is. This is not a film for the faint hearted!


A Spy in the Den

Another great documentary narrated by David Attenborough, A Spy in the Den was filmed almost entirely by a remote controlled camera disguised to look like a rock to capture the progress of a group of lion cubs as they grow into young adults. There are some gripping scenes of the lions’ lives in the wild, such as when they try to attack an aggressive hippo, and when they encounter a dangerous cobra snake.


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