Are you looking for something new to watch?
We’ve reviewed our Winter watch list and compiled a list of our favourite documentaries about African wildlife for you to enjoy. While there are plenty of wildlife documentaries about Africa, we’ve focused on wildlife for this post because we’re obsessed with animals, animal welfare and conservation.
Wildlife documentaries can give you a glimpse into parts of the world that you’ve never seen before. As well as offering us plenty of incredible visuals, wildlife and nature documentaries have the ability to teach and inspire us all.
From plants and vegetation to abundant wildlife and tiny insects, wildlife films give us an inside look into the intricate and complex forms of life in the natural world.
Africa is one of the top travel destinations, with the continent’s wildlife being one of the main attractions. From desert plains and jungles to rolling savannas and mountain ranges, Africa has diverse regions which are home to an incredible variety of wildlife species.
Some of the better-known animals in Africa are the infamous Big Five, the buffalo, the elephant, the leopard, the lion and the rhinoceros. The lesser-known animals such as antelopes, meerkats and hyenas are just as fascinating.
We’ve created a list of our top documentaries about African wildlife. Each film tells a compelling story that captures the essence of the African wild in its own way.
Take the time to watch these wildlife documentaries and share them with your family and friends. Thought-provoking, inspiring, and entertaining, these documentaries take into account the impact we as humans currently have on nature’s delicate ecosystems.
Blood Lions is a documentary film directed by Bruce Young and Nick Chevallier. The film follows acclaimed environmental journalist Ian Michler, and American hunter, Rick Swazey, on their journey to uncover the realities of predator breeding farms and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.
Every day, captive-bred or tame lions are slaughtered to feed the demand for lion bone in illegal wildlife trade. This documentary raises awareness about the lion breeding industry in South Africa. It aims to end unethical interactive practices such as lion cub petting, lion walks and canned hunting in Africa.
Eye of the Leopard
Eye of the Leopard follows the remarkable life of one small leopard called Legadema. Set in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the story follows this young leopard cub from when she is just eight days old until she is three years old.
As you watch Legadema the leopard grow throughout this documentary, you will see her slip in and out of danger, running from baboons, but also making strides in hunting and surviving. Eye of the Leopard provides a magnificent view of one of Africa’s most elusive animals.
Set in Virunga National Park in the Republic of Congo, the film Virunga follows the incredible true story of four rangers fighting to protect the home of the world’s last mountain gorillas.
The rangers face the dangers of the violent M23 Rebellion, poachers and the harsh political realities of life in the Congo. This investigative documentary tells a significant story of poaching, war and oil exploration, which are all factors that pose a threat to this beautiful part of Africa.
Virunga is a powerful documentary that explores the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Congo, as well as the complex economic and political issues surrounding oil exploration and armed conflict in the region.
Watch the Virunga documentary on Netflix.
Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib
Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib gives a deep insight into the secret lives of the Namib’s Desert lions. The Namib is the only place in the world where a small population of lions have adapted to the unique conditions of the desert. Desert lions became extinct in 1990 due to trophy hunting and persecution by livestock farmers. However, a pride of lions returned to the area in 1997, and the population has been increasing ever since.
Filmed over two years, the documentary uncovers the fascinating lives of five male Desert lion cubs on their journey towards adulthood. Through these intimate encounters, we come to understand how these rare lions have survived the relentless environment of the Namib Desert. If these male lions can make it to adulthood, there may be hope for the dwindling Desert lion population.
This wildlife film documents the true story of these five male lions’ fight for survival as they battle persistent hunger and unrelenting thirst in the Namibian desert. Wildlife filmmakers Leanne and Will Steenkamp partnered with scientist Dr Phillio Stander to understand how these elusive predators have adapted to survive this unusual environment. The crew roamed through endless dunes and rugged mountain plains of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast where they captured intimate moments with lions once thought to be extinct.
Consisting of 6 episodes and filmed over four years, BBC Earth’s wildlife documentary Africa takes viewers on a journey through Africa’s wild terrain of diverse landscapes and fascinating creatures.
Sir David Attenborough guides us through five extraordinary regions in Africa, including the Kalahari, the Savannah, the Congo, the Cape and the Sahara. Each area shows off the continent’s rarest animals, plants and natural phenomena. The series provides excellent insight into Africa’s diverse wildlife and the environmental issues that they face, including habitat loss, poaching, human population growth and climate change.
From this documentary series, we can appreciate how important it is to preserve the magnificent wildlife that thrives on this unique continent.
Watch the Africa documentary on Netflix or the BBC Earth website.
Solo: A Wild Dog’s Tale
Set in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Solo: A Wild Dog’s Tale follows the life of Solo, the lonely wild dog. Solo was forced to fend for herself after her two pack members disappeared, presumably killed by lions. It was thought that she wouldn’t survive due to not being able to hunt in a pack; however, it was soon apparent that her prey had no chance against her incredible hunting skills.
What was even more surprising was her desire for companionship. Wild dogs are well known for their pack mentality, and Solo began to share her kills with the local jackals and their offspring. Solo began to associate with spotted hyenas and families of black-backed jackals.
This documentary follows Solo as she comes to grips with being a lone wild dog, in search of a new pack.
The Queen of Trees
Queen of Trees reveals the unlikely partnership between the giant fig tree and the tiny fig wasp. This extraordinary documentary captures the delicate symbiotic relationship between insect and plant.
Filmmakers spent two years camped near a giant sycamore tree to capture the ways in which the fig and the wasp depend on each other for survival. Without the figs, the wasp would have nowhere to lay its eggs. Without the wasp, the fig tree could not produce seeds and pollinate its flowers.
Queen of Trees takes an in-depth look into the unusual relationships that exist between animals and plants. The captivating documentary gives viewers an inside perspective of the fascinating communication and exchange that happens between the often overlooked insects and plants in the natural world.
Queen of Trees can be watched on YouTube.
Eye of the Pangolin
Released on Endangered Species Day in May 2019, this powerful film was created to raise awareness for the most trafficked mammal on the planet: the pangolin.
Although COVID 19 is a disaster for humans, it might be a blessing for pangolins. There is no conclusive evidence, but pangolins have been linked to the outbreak of COVID 19. Pangolins are trafficked in tightly packed, unsanitary conditions which could possibly lead to a virus being spread. The Chinese government has taken action by banning the trading and eating of wild animals which has decreased the number of pangolins that are being hunted and trafficked.
Pangolins are hunted, killed and sold on the black market for their meat and scales, which are believed to have medicinal purposes. From the co-director of Blood Lions, Bruce Young, the Eye of the Pangolin documentary follows two men on a journey to capture all four species of African pangolin on camera for the first time in history.
The crew embarks on a journey through the African continent, where they shed light on several organisations aiming to protect and save the lives of these gentle creatures. Viewers will be captivated by these strange and secretive creatures that are sadly on the brink of extinction.
Watch Eye of the Pangolin for free on YouTube.
Dynasties is the BBC Earth series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The documentary features the five most iconic animal species in nature: chimpanzees, lions, wild dogs, tigers and emperor penguins. Dynasties aims to explore how these extraordinary animals manage to reach the top of the animal kingdom and keep that prime position. Each episode follows a different animal species that are battling against the forces of nature.
Episode one features a chimpanzee in Senegal named David, who tries to overcome threats to his leadership. Episode two documents a colony of emperor penguins in Atka Bay as they try to keep themselves and their babies alive during winter. Chapter three documents the dramatic story about a lioness leader that must fight for her pride’s survival. The wild dog or painted wolf is featured in episode four which tells the story of a matriarch’s feud with her daughter that threatens to bring the pack down. Lastly, episode five follows a tiger who must protect her cubs against rivals who want to overthrow her.
Purchase the Dynasties series from BBC Earth on Amazon.
Brothers in Blood: The Lions of the Sabi Sand
The Brothers in Blood: The Lions of the Sabi Sand documentary was filmed over 16 years and tells the notorious story of the rise and fall of six male lions. Named the Mapogo Lions, the film follows this coalition on their journey towards conquering an incredible amount of land. The film was documented by professional filmmakers and rangers who have witnessed these six lions stand together in brutal attacks against other lions and their cubs.
The Mapogo coalition was an astounding group of lions that showed no fear in their relentless hunger for domination. In one year, the five brothers and one half-brother killed over 100 lions and massacred their cubs in order to expand their territory. This documentary shows shocking violence and the hunger for domination that exists in the animal kingdom.
We also wrote a killer blog post on the infamous Mapogo coalition. Read it here.
We hope that you enjoy reading this list of the best documentaries about African wildlife. Have you watched any of these African wildlife documentaries? Which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comment section.
If watching any of these epic African wildlife films has inspired you to start planning your next safari trip to Africa, schedule a complimentary call with our travel advisors and we will begin brainstorming your visit to Africa in 2021.
Loved these docs? Let us know your favourites in the comments section below!