Best of African Wildlife Documentaries
Looking for a good documentary to watch, but unsure where to look? Look no more, here I have gathered the best African wildlife documentaries, with lists and links to purchase these great documentaries on dvd or blu-ray.
These are my personal favorites, if your favorite documentary doesn't appear let me know in the guest comment section, so I can find it and watch it as well. Each documentary will have a short overview/review and a score 1-10, with 10 being the best, and a family friendliness rating of 1-10, with 10 being great for the whole family (kids too) and 1 being less suitable for children (though in the end it is of course at the discretion of the parents). Review scores are based on content and presentation, while family ratings will be based primarily on violence depicted (may be too scary for younger children). And now the list...
Lion's Behaving Badly
Documentary on lions set in Makalolo, Zimbabwe.
Despite it's rather silly name, this documentary does a great job of showing life in the African wilderness. Set in Makalolo, Zimbabwe, this film follows a group of lions that are notorious for eating their prey alive. It attempts to discover why the pride doesn't use the traditional lion method of killing-strangulation-and instead seems content to consume it's prey whole. Good narrations, lots of good shots of the lions hunting, and it does a good job of showing the life of lions, especially the relationship between male cubs and their father. Not recommended for the faint of heart, or young children who may not enjoy seeing a baby elephant eaten alive.
Rating 8.4 -Overall a good quality documentary.
Family rating 5-Some children won't appreciate seeing their favorite 'zoo animals' being eaten alive by lions.
Overall a great entry into the list, though maybe not as family friendly as some others.
The Great Serengeti
The Great Serengeti is one of the better documentaries out there. Set in the vast Serengeti plains, it chronicles the great migration of plains herbivores-wildebeest, gazelles, zebras- from the southern sections of the park up to the Masai Mara, and back again-a round trip journey of nearly 1000 miles. Great footage of the huge herds, and plenty of predator action, makes this one of my personal favorites. I also like the fact that the narrator isn't overwhelming, like some modern documentaries, and they leave the special effects to the movies. If you like more traditional documentaries, without all the 'special effects' and computer animations, this is the documentary for you.
Rating 9.2 Very well done, great scenes of life and death on the Serengeti.
Family Rating : 7.5 While there are some scenes of killing, the struggles are generally short, not drawn out and painful (for children) to watch.
One of my personal favorite wildlife documentaries.
The Last Lions
The Last Lions is a very good documentary.. The narration is decent, and the background music is very well done. Overall this is a very good documentary, though it does tend to humanize the animals a bit too much in my opinion, but I'm just old school. This 'docu-drama' tells the story of a lioness who is forced from her homeland by another lion pride, and covers her struggles to survive and raise her cubs. Great family viewing with older children, the story is vaguely reminiscent of The Lion King. highly recommended.
Rating 8.8-A bit 'dramatic' for old school documentaries fans, but very solid none-the less.
Family Rating: 9.0 Some killing scenes, but nothing too gruesome. And the plot-like storyline will appeal to children.
Overall this is another very good wildlife documentary.
BBC Natural World: Zambezi
BBC Natural World:Zambezi is one of the best general wildlife documentaries done about African wildlife, everything from Elephants to storks is represented in this great video. Stunning landscapes, a compelling storyline, and great animal footage make this a must see for all nature lovers.
Rating: 9.3-Simply one of the best documentaries made on African wildlife, period.
Family Rating: 9.0 Very family friendly. Some scenes of hunting/killing and feeding, but nothing overly gruesome. Highly recommended.
An amazing experience, this is one of the best African wildlife documentaries made.
National Geographic:Gabon, the Last Eden
Documetary on Gabon and its national parks
Very well done documentary on a small, relatively unknown country and its efforts to protect its natural resources. Features many animals that aren't covered in other documentaries, including the lowland gorilla and other primates, and the forest elephant. It also offers a stark view of what poaching is doing to Africa's wildlife, and how foreign companies are taking advantage of the local people. The primary focus if on the animals, as it should be, and there are some really great scenes in this documentary, like hippos surfing in the ocean.
overall rating: 7.5 Good, compelling documentary showcasing some animals that don't receive a lot of attention all the time.
Family rating 8.0 Very little bloodshed in this one,only drawback being the occasional focus on people rather than animals.
Another solid animal documentary with a compelling storyline and amazing shots of nature.
Revealing the Leopard
Revealing the Leopard is a well done documentary about leopards. Very informative documentary on leopards and their way of life. Many great scenes of a leopard in action, and good shots of leopard cubs as well. Recommended if you have interest in leopards, or big cats in general.
Rating: 8.0 Good narration, plenty of action and information well presented.
Family rating 8.5: Normal scenes of hunting and feeding, again nothing to gruesome.
A good documentary for wildlife lovers, especially for those who love leopards.
Predators At War
Predators At War is a documentary I really wanted to love, but it was a bit too over the top for me. Referring to animals as 'panzer divisions' and 'special forces' was a bit much, and too much animation for my tastes. That being said, the overall storyline is engrossing, and this documentary contains some of the best scenes of animal hunting/feeding and interaction I've ever seen. And just because I don't like how the information was presented doesn't mean other people won't. This documentary was filmed in the Greater Kruger Nation Park area.
Rating: 6.5 Too much over-dramatization and referring to animals as militant is a bit much. But the storyline is very good, and some great footage of the animals in action and the inter-action of the great predators
Family rating 5.0-while entertaining, some people will find the scenes of eating/fighting to gruesome for their children. Even some adults may find the feeding scenes a bit overpowering-though I personally enjoyed the up close looks at the animals feeding.
While a not top scorer, this film is still very good, and most viewers will enjoy it.
Big Cat Diary Series
This series is a great addition to any documentary collection. Narration is informative, though it tends to personify the animals a bit too much. But overall the effect isn't too strong, and the compelling stories of the large African cats makes for great viewing. Very family friendly, there is very little to scare the little ones. And with 8 seasons worth of action, you really start to feel you know the animals.
Overall Rating: 9.0 Great documentary overall, the main objection being the over personification of the animals, but this helps draw the viewer in.
Family Rating 9.0 Very family friendly, though some children may become sad when finding out their favorite cheetah cub didn't make it.
A very nice series on African wildlife, another of my personal favorites..
Lions-Africa's Deadly Savage Savannah
Lions-Africa's Deadly Savage Savannah is a documentary by Disney Nature, narrated by Samuel L Jackson. It portrays life on the Serengeti, and is a well done, family friendly look at life on the savannah. It is made with children in mind, and as such has less dramatic killing scenes and is very kid friendly.
Rating: 7.8 A good family film, but not as 'raw' as other documentaries.
Family Rating 9.8 As you would expect from a Disney production, very kid friendly.
A solid entry by Disney into the wildlife documentary field, and as you would expect from Disney it is very kid-friendly.
Cheetah: Against All Odds
This is a very entertaining documentary about cheetahs and the harsh living conditions they struggle against every day. Great footage of the Serengeti, and the film really manages to convey the sense of speed that a cheetah is known for. Overall a great addition to any home family documentary collection.
Overall rating: 8.5 Good documentary on cheetahs, narrator is informative without being overly intrusive.
Family friendly rating: 8.0 Normal predator kill scenes, some fighting amongst the cheetahs but nothing to scary here.
Maybe the best Cheetah documentary made, and a great addition to the home documentary library for all animal lovers!
New Guestbook Comments
Zaton-Taran from California on June 26, 2017:
The Lions of Tsavo ought to get their very own documentary. this is a great list by the way - I'll be sure to check them out on Amazon since I love lions so much.
Glen Kowalski (author) on March 22, 2015:
Thank you for the suggestions! When I get a little more free time I'll check them out.
Moral Man on March 20, 2015:
Yes. Google or search the Internet for Elsa's story-Born Free, and Dian Fossey's Lost Tapes documentary. Google or search Dieter Plage and Adrian Deschryver photograph Gorillas in 1974 documentary. In depth books and biographies have been written about Joy Adamson and Dian Fossey. Africa has an allure unmatched by any other continent.
The TV show Monster quest did a segment on the dinosaur-like Mokele-mbembe. Its said to look like a Brontosaurus and lives in lakes and rivers in the Congo rainforests. The native people have been seeing these animals and one expedition headed by American explorer Herman Regusters saw one of these animals in 1981 in Lake Tele, Peoples Republic of the Congo, and took a blurry photo and recorded its voice which sounds like a rumbling sound. Google or search for Mokele-mbembe, and Living Dinosaurs in Africa. Africa has everything.
Glen Kowalski (author) on March 19, 2015:
Do you have names for any of these documentaries so I can check them out and add them to the list?
Moral Man on March 19, 2015:
My favorite documentaries about African wildlife was made in Kahuzi-biega Natiional Park in the Congo and showed zoologist Adrian Deschryver among wild Gorillas. One of them was a 450 pound male named Kashmir. This documentary was made in 1974.
Deschryver discovers an orphan baby female Gorilla and names it Julie. He keeps it for a short while and decides to return it to the wild in the hope that it would be adopted by wild Gorillas. Sadly the baby soon dies from starvation. None of the wild Gorillas were able to take care of it. When Kashmir saw Deschryver holding the baby Gorilla, he went berserk and charged. Deschryver dropped the baby and Kashmir grabbed it. Why couldn't any of the wild Gorillas save the baby's life? Surely there must have been at least one female Gorilla in the group who could have provided milk. It seems that wild animals don't always know what to do when an orphan animal is introduced, and orphan animals are often ill adapted to survival in the wild.
There are several documentaries about George and Joy Adamson in Kenya. Elsa the female lion is famous in the book and movie, Born Free, and lived from 1955 or 1956 to 1961, a mere 5 years. 5 years is just a blink of an eye.
Dian Fossey studied and protected Mountain Gorillas in the Congo and Zaire from 1967 to 1985. National Geographic sponsored her as did Louis Leakey. Dian Fossey suffered immensely both physically and mentally, and was murdered. Joy Adamson and George Adamson were also murdered. Africa is beautiful but cruel and dangerous, with rampant crime, genocides, mass starvation, drought, polluted water, lots of diseases such ss malaria, yellow fever, ebola, venomous creatures such as snakes, spiders, venomous insects, scorpions, and centipedes. Crocodiles, Hippos, Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards, and Elephants cause a lot of injuries and deaths. In lakes, swamps, and jungles throughout Africa, fearsome unidentified beasts roam, such as the dinosaur-like Mokele-mbembe, the Dingonek, the Chipekwe, the Kongamato, the Emela N Touka, the Lau, the Lukwata, the Nandi Bear, the Mngwa, and many more. All these are potential man killers and maneaters.
On a brighter note, Africa is home to more Antelope species than anywhere else. My favorite Antelope is the Topi. Africa is the most exciting place in the world.
Stephanie from Canada on August 31, 2013:
I would love to go to Africa one day, so I love seeing anything about it. Great list of videos here!
andyhenderson06 on May 20, 2013:
I love African wildlife program's. there's so many to choose from. A great list of program's.
Glen Kowalski (author) on March 03, 2013:
@anonymous: They are all very good, and I am adding new ones all the time. Thanks for stopping by.
anonymous on March 03, 2013:
Wow, lots a good looking documentaries here that I have not seen of heard of before. I just found National Geographic:Gabon, the Last Eden online to watch, and will be busy with that. Thank you so much, I'll come back again and check out some others. :)
Glen Kowalski (author) on February 23, 2013:
@CoeGurl: Glad you liked it, and thanks for the comments. I have a 4 year old who is pretty mature for her age, so we pretty much watch all of them. But then one day her little friend came over and we watched one-and the little girl was terrified! So to save others the embarrassment I decided to add a family friendly rating to help avoid those situations.
CoeGurl on February 23, 2013:
Great list of documentaries! I appreciate the personal ratings and opinions. This really helps in selecting suitable documentaries for kids.
Glen Kowalski (author) on February 16, 2013:
@Snakesmum: Thanks you. I intend on adding new documentaries soon, so feel free to check back.
Snakesmum on February 16, 2013:
You've done a great job listing these documentaries, and I'll certainly be looking for a couple of them.