Our ten best African wildlife documentaries

Safari on the sofa

Long before Bear Grylls was drinking unimaginable body fluids in the wilderness, Sir David Attenborough was exploring far-flung corners of the world with his BBC film crew. Their mission? To document the wonders of the natural world to share with everyday folks like you and me. 

Since the early days (when we all relied on television and cable), nature documentaries have maintained their popularity. But thanks to streaming services such as Netflix, Apple TV, and even YouTube, we can now enjoy some of the best African wildlife documentaries anytime and anywhere we like, including those narrated by Sir David himself. 

If you’re currently hunting for new options to add to your home viewing list, here’s what we currently recommend:

#1 Virguna

Where to watch it: Netflix

Set in Virunga National Park in the Republic of Congo, this gripping docufilm chronicles the lives of four rangers fighting to protect the world’s last mountain gorillas from illegal poachers. Virunga proves highly thought-provoking, further examining the region’s complex economic and political issues surrounding oil exploration and armed conflict. Best to wait until the kids head to bed before you tune in. 

#2 Dynasties

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

If you’re looking for the best African wildlife documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough, save Dynasties to your list. This BBC Earth series explores five of the most iconic animal species and how they form complex family hierarchies to survive. Each episode chronicles the lives of chimpanzees, lions, and wild dogs in Africa, with additional focus on tigers, and emperor penguins.

#3 My Octopus Teacher

Where to watch it: Netflix 

In this Oscar-winning documentary, local South African filmmaker, Craig Foster, forges an unusual friendship with an octopus. My Octopus Teacher’s cinematography is awe-inspiring, showcasing the complex ecosystem of a natural underwater kelp forest near Cape Town. Of course, the real magic of this film centers around Foster’s personal evolution and the curious charm of his new companion.

#4 Eye of the Pangolin

Where to watch it: YouTube 

Eye of the Pangolin creates awareness for the most hunted and trafficked mammal in the world: the African pangolin. The storyline centers on the journey of two award-winning South African filmmakers venturing across the continent, hoping to capture all four pangolin species on camera. Don’t scroll past this one if you’ve always wanted to learn more about these intriguing little creatures!

#5 Gorongosa: Paradise Reborn

Where to watch it: National Geographic TV and Disney+

Gorongosa: Paradise Reborn captures the history of Mozambique’s flagship national park. After falling to ruin due to the country’s civil war, the local mammal population dropped by 95%. However, a 20-year-long rehabilitation program has led to a healthy replenishment of flora and fauna. If you’ve been to Gorongosa or are planning to go, this documentary is guaranteed to resonate. 

#6 Blood Lions

Where to watch it: Purchase it on Amazon Video, Shop PBS, Apple iTunes, or Google Play Movies

Although not an easy watch Blood Lions reigns as one of the best African wildlife documentaries regarding canned lion hunting. This highly impactful film follows acclaimed environmental journalist, Ian Michler, and American hunter, Rick Swazey on their mission to uncover unethical practices surrounding predator breeding farms in South Africa. It further raises awareness around animal interaction, such as cub petting and lion walks, making it a must-watch for all travelers.

#7 Penguin Town

Where to watch it: Netflix

This Netflix docuseries captures the everyday lives of an eclectic African penguin colony in Boulders Beach in Cape Town. Each episode hones in on several rowdy families: The Culverts (the newest lovebirds), Lord and Lady Courtyard, and the infamous ‘Car Park Gang’. Penguin Town raises awareness for these adorable endangered birds, doubling up as a heartwarming watch for the whole family.

#8 Our Planet

Where to watch it: Netflix 

From sharks to seals, wildebeests to wild dogs, Our Planet showcases the world’s natural beauty while examining how climate change impacts all living creatures. While some episodes focus on regions within Africa, others branch out to other soul stirring destinations like South America and Antarctica. Each episode is narrated by either Sir David Attenborough or actresses Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz.

#9 Africa

Where to watch it: HBO Max, or buy it on Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, or Vudu.  

This six-part BBC Earth documentary was filmed over four years and takes viewers on a high-definition journey into Africa’s untouched landscapes. Attenborough’s narration is, as always, superb, with exceptional cinematography guaranteed to make you want to hop off the sofa and head out on safari. Watch zebras battle over dwindling resources, honey-stealing chimps, and even kickboxing frogs – Africa ticks all the right boxes for nature lovers.

#10 Tiny World

Where to watch it: AppleTV+ 

Closing our list of the best African wildlife documentaries is Tiny World. Here at ATC, we’re big fans of showcasing those smaller creatures of the African bush. And that is exactly why we love this docuseries. With episodes focusing on elephant shrews, dung beetles, and acacia ants with voice narration by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man himself!), what’s not to love?

Big Journeys Start With Small Steps

~ African Proverb

Let's take the first steps together...