Spotting wild animals up-close on an African safari has taught me more about nature and the world than I would have imagined; the experience made me fully understand the importance of conservation and the vital role of each and single species in the ecosystem.

For me, the animal frenzy started gently with casual encounters with inquisitive baboons and vervet monkeys and their babies trailing irreverently across the pathways of my hotel in Livingstone, Zambia.

Later on during my trip, the same creatures were as curious as I first observed, and near my lodge in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, I watched them cheekily rustling in the high trees surrounding the camp. It was also there where I saw herds of impala springing from nowhere only to cross the paths coated in fine Kalahari sand and, suddenly, disappear somewhere in the wild.

At night, unfamiliar sounds reverberated as clearly as those I already knew by heart — those of laughing hyenas and hippos mating in the river circling the camp — filling me with wonder of a place so beautiful that it took days to actually grasp completely.

But the real action and the most vivid scenes of animals in the wild were, of course, during our morning and evening game drives, when our rangers and guides would lead us in sturdy 4×4 jeeps on divergent terrain such as roads covered with fine yet treacherous sand from the Kalahari Desert, rugged woodland and portions of road flooded by croc-infested water from the delta.

It was that particular journey of many hours — of searching, tracking and being always on the lookout — that would reward us with all the majestic wild animal sightings one hopes to see on a safari.

Seeing the Big Five was a tremendous thrill, but equally memorable were the captivating zebras, giraffes, a versatile mix of antelopes, hyenas, wild dogs, wildebeests and unique birds. Here are my favourite photos from my maiden trip to the enigmatic African continent.

Fish eagle in Botswana A pair of African fish eagles rests on a tree in Chobe National Park. This gracious-looking bird can be found throughout the sub-Saharan Africa and is considered the national bird of Botswana, Zambia and South Sudan.

Buffalo in Botswana This shy-looking buffalo popped out from behind the bushes in Chobe National Park, and although it didn’t seem to be bothered by the presence of our vehicle at first, its demeanour showed that it wanted to charge a few minutes later.

Elephant in Okavango DeltaA solitary elephant gave us a curious glance before returning to the larger parade of elephants grazing nearby.

Lion in Okavango Delta A majestic lion arouses from a nap under the shade of a leafy tree in Okavango Delta, as cubs play energetically in the bush nearby.

Roan in Okavango Delta A roan antelope nonchalantly poses for the camera before making an acrobatic leap to join its partners-in-grazing.

Leopard in Okavango Delta, Botswana We followed a leopard mom through the bush as she slowly headed to the den where two adorable and playful cubs were impatiently awaiting.

Lioness in Botswana A solitary lioness relaxes under the shade of a small tree while other members of the pride prepare to attack two warthogs.

Leopard and cub in Okavango Delta This gorgeous leopard came back to the den to spend some quality time with her adorable cubs, which seemed very eager to play and shower their mom with love.

These lovely giraffe twins seemed shy in front of the camera but once the vehicle got farther, they confidently returned to their frisky routine.

Vervet monkeys in Okavango Delta A group of energetic vervet monkeys brazenly escalate a tall tree while their babies hang on to them for dear life.

Cheetah in Okavango Delta While we were expecting to see this cheetah involved in some National Geographic-worthy action, it chose to be idle and perform some regular cat antics — a rare treat!

Hyena and cubs in Okavango Delta I was pleasantly surprised by this family of spotted hyenas, which, during daytime seemed almost adorable as opposed to their usual reputation involving maniacal laughs, odd shrieks and haunting whoops.