With expansive savannahs, dramatic mountain peaks, and animal sightings galore, Kenya has become one of Africa’s top destinations to visit. The abundance of wildlife this country holds is immense, and this is in large part due to their incredible conservation efforts. In fact, safaris are one of the main bucket list items that tourists flock here every year to fulfill.
However, don’t be fooled by the brochure images of that smiling family on safari, as Kenya has its fair share of beasts and creatures you would do best to avoid.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list for you of the nine most terrifying and dangerous animals roaming the landscapes. So, if you’re planning a trip to Kenya any time soon, we’ve got you covered.
1. Cape Buffalo
When booking any African safari, the question of ‘will I get to see ‘the big 5’? usually springs to mind. A term originally coined by hunters, representing the hardest game animals to kill, has now become one of the major selling points in any safari itinerary on the continent. However, while it’s all well and good snapping some pictures from afar in your jeep, you would not want to come into closer contact with our first dangerous animal on the list.
Nicknamed the ‘Black Death’, the Cape buffalo is often regarded as the most dangerous animal in Africa, hence why you’ll find it on Ethiopia’s list also. They are often found close to water sources and covered in mud (their version of SPF 50 to defend against that burning African sun).
Being one of four subspecies of African buffalo, these guys can weigh up to a whopping 1,840 pounds and live in herds of up to 500, a terrifying thought if they decide to charge at you. And at running speeds of up to 35mph, it’s fair to say that if you are next on their menu, there is no getting away.
That being said, they are generally most aggressive when wounded or trying to protect their young, so just keeping your wits about you is top priority here.
2. Spotted Hyena
If Disney’s classic, The Lion King, is anything to go by, we should all pretty much be terrified of these dog-like creatures already, but if you need even more convincing, here it is. The spotted hyena, also known as ‘the laughing hyena’, has the strongest jaw pressure and most powerful bite of any animal in Kenya, excluding the crocodile (don’t worry, that’s coming up next). However, their bone-crushing bites are not the only thing that make the spotted hyena so terrifying.
The hyena is a savage scavenger and when food is scarce, they are not afraid to try out new cuisine of the human form if they are desperate. Being very sociable animals, they are mainly found in clans, with the majority being female-led because, unlike other animals, the females have higher ranking in this part of the animal kingdom. But these ladies mean business and are up to three times more aggressive than their male counterparts.
However, like many of the animals on this list, your sighting of them will most likely only be from the comfort of your vehicle. But just in case, here are a few handy tips you might want to jot down.
Never run from a hyena.
Do not lie down or play dead, as this only increases their curiosity.
Keep yourself calm and talk to it.
If it giggles or growls, stand your ground.
Never move away until the hyena does and keep facing it as you back away.
3. Nile Crocodile
As promised, up next we have the Nile crocodile. Native to Africa and found in 26 countries, this croc can grow up to 16 feet, weighing 500 pounds. This big guy takes the title of the most dangerous crocodile and is thought to be the main suspect in more than 300 attacks on people per year.
Kenya has a large Nile crocodile population in lakes, rivers, and marshlands. These intimidating, ill-tempered reptiles will feast on almost anything and one look at the canines they are working with, you will certainly not want to be their next target.
However, those that run the greatest risk of attack are generally those who need to spend vast amounts of time around the water, such as fishermen, laundry workers and regional guides. So, as a tourist, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about if you steer clear of their territory.
Sometimes the biggest threats come in the smallest packages, and this is certainly the case for this one. While the sight alone of a mosquito will not be enough to terrify, the results of a bite could be. Mosquitos are carriers of some of the deadliest diseases around, such as malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus.
And Kenya, being a tropical country, is one of the most affected sub-Saharan regions with mosquito related illness. Therefore, it is always recommended to get all the correct vaccinations before heading to any mosquito populated area. But once you are there, a trusty mosquito repellent should be your constant travel companion when venturing around this part of the world.
However, if bitten by these blood-sucking pests, watch out for any symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, chills, or headache and if any do occur, seek medical assistance immediately.
The hippopotamus, also known as the ‘river horse’, may seem to have a lounging, laid-back demeanor from afar but don’t be fooled. These extremely territorial mammals are not afraid to stand their ground against intruders. With teeth 20 inches long, you do not want to get on the wrong side of one of these.
When these semi-aquatic animals are not submerged in the Kenyan rivers, they can be found grazing in the grass. And, although they may seem somewhat out of shape, they can still reach speeds of up to 30mph, so don’t let their lethargic behavior encourage you to take a closer look. In fact, humans just sitting on a riverbank could find themselves a hippo’s next target if the hippo perceives it as an invasion of their home. Hence why they have the reputation of being one of Africa’s most feared animals.
Their aggression and unpredictability are nothing to take lightly, and they have been known to capsize a few boats in their time while claiming their waters. However, like many animals, if you respect their territory, you will generally keep out of harm’s way.
The lion – the prized photo in any safari trip, but also one of the deadliest animals on the planet. The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is famous for its vast amounts of wildlife roaming free and it’s here you’ll find the stars of BBC’s Big Cat Diary. But before you get star-struck, it’s important to remember that these majestic mammals may not be so friendly to their fans. The proverbial ‘king of the jungle’ spends up to 20 hours a day napping, but what they can possibly do in those remaining hours is enough to terrify.
With males growing up to 10 feet in length, they are the largest big cat on the continent and can take down animals twice their size. And these dominating predators are not shy when it comes to feasting on humans from time to time also.
That being said, when you are following the proper guidance, the sight of lions in the wild is simply an exhilarating experience and definitely a boasting point at any dinner party. But, sadly, the lion population in Kenya is vanishing and they have been losing roughly 100 lions per year, due to shrinking habitats and conflicts with humans.
7. Puff Adder Snake
What dangerous animals list would be complete without mentioning one of these slithering troublemakers. Turns out you even have to worry about snakes in the Idyllic Islands of Hawaii. But over in Kenya, it’s the puff adder snake you ought to be most careful around. They can be found in grasslands and vary in color, from dull yellow to light brown, however, it can be recognized from their chevron markings down its back and a large, triangular-shaped head. They often remain still, when in the presence of an intruder, but can strike at extremely high speed, so be very wary.
This viper is responsible for the majority of snake bite injuries and fatalities, which is largely due to their incredibly well camouflaged skin, so you can never be too careful where you’re stepping around these parts. Bites tend to occur mostly in the dry season, due to the scarcity of prey. However, the venom from this vicious viper can cause swelling and cell destruction and, in some cases, can be fatal.
But, like any other dangerous animal bite, the key is quick reaction, so the sooner you seek medical assistance the safer you’ll be.
8. Black Rhino
Despite being a critically endangered animal, Kenya has its fair share of the black rhinoceros, as a result of conservation efforts. Native to eastern and southern Africa, it has a reputation for being extremely aggressive and isn’t afraid to charge when it perceives a threat.
With two sharp horns and the ability to reach speeds of 35mph, you might want to avoid angering this possible killing machine. You should also keep in mind that they have very poor eyesight, often just relying on sounds and scent, so perhaps tread lightly in their presence.
Black rhinos are usually found roaming grasslands, however, due to poaching that this species experiences, they are probably far more scared of you than you of it. So, if you keep a safe distance and show them respect, they will simply just be another one to add to the ‘big 5’ sightings list.
9. African Elephant
Another of the popular ‘big 5’ sightings, the African elephant is certainly something to marvel at. Being the largest elephant species on the planet, this floppy eared, intelligent mammal weighs up to eight tons and reaches up to 10 feet in height.
Unlike other African countries, where the elephant population is dwindling, Kenya is seeing a rise in numbers, thanks to a mission to stop poaching. And just last year, the country saw an elephant baby boom with around 170 calves being born. So, if an elephant sighting is top of the list for your next trip, you will definitely be in the right place.
However, the attributes that make this majestic creature stand out are unfortunately the same ones that pose the most threat to humans. Their tusks alone provide one of their most powerful weapons so just imagine being trampled by one of these big guys. Or maybe don’t imagine.
Luckily, attacks are rare, due to their peaceful nature, however, they are prone to aggression when sick, injured or harassed. So, with that being said, you might want to keep your distance when you suspect an elephant is having a bad day.
What is the most dangerous animal in Kenya?
The Cape buffalo is considered to be the most dangerous animal in Kenya. Their aggression and unpredictability, mixed with their incredible size and weight are what makes them so dangerous. After all, they didn’t get the nickname ‘black death’ for nothing.
Are there dangerous snakes in Kenya?
There are actually over 120 species of snake in Kenya, however, only a small percentage are dangerous. The ones to watch out for are the puff adder snake (which you’ve already been introduced to), the black mamba, and the black-necked spitting cobra. You might want to turn and walk the other way if you catch sight of any of these slithering your way.
Are there any deadly spiders in Kenya?
You will not find many deadly spiders in Kenya. The most dangerous arachnids you may come across are the funnel-web spider, sac spider and button spider. However, the bites will mainly just leave you with a bit of swelling and pain. So, you could say spiders are of least concern, considering what other dangers are lurking throughout Kenya’s landscape.