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With summer well on its way, lizards can be seen all over the park. New plant growth and rain means more insects and for the lizard, it is a smorgasbord of tasty treats.

In the Kruger National Park, you will find more than 60 different lizards species, and while on your Kruger Park safari, keep this general information about lizards in mind:

  • Lizards are covered in overlapping scales.
  • Lizards have four legs. The so called “limbless” lizards have four internal vestiges of limb girdles.
  • Half of a lizard’s lower jaw is fused.
  • Most lizards have external ears.
  • Most lizards don’t have venom that is harmful to humans.
  • Except for chameleons, agamas and monitors, lizards can shed their tails and grow a new one.
  • Most lizards lay leathery eggs, some species lay hard-shelled eggs and others give birth to live young.
  • Most lizards are carnivorous or insectivorous.
  • Most lizards have moveable eyelids. Those that don’t have a transparent and fused “spectacle” that covers the eye.

In South Africa, we have eight families of lizards.

  • Agamas
  • Chameleons
  • Monitor Lizards
  • Old world lizards (bushveld lizards, sand lizards, rough-scaled lizards, mountain lizards)
  • Skinks (Burrowing skinks, snake-eyed skinks, writhing skinks, typical skinks)
  • Cordylids (Sungazers, girdled lizards, crag lizards, flat lizards, grass lizards)
  • Plated Lizards
  • Geckos


This type of lizard is usually plump with a short body, a thin tail and triangular head. Their eyelids are movable and although their eyes are small they can be seen. Some males of this species have blue heads and necks (think Bloukop). Although they are active during the day they tend to stay down in their burrows at night. These burrows can be in the ground or hollows in trees. Agamas are territorial and feed mainly on ants.


Chameleons have eyes that can move independently. The chameleon’s neck is not well defined. Chameleons cannot shed their tails but they often carry it rolled up. The main characteristic of a chameleon is their ability to change colour. This they do when courting or when they are stressed, or sometimes just to be well camouflaged. Most times they can be seen doing a slow, jerky walk but they are capable of moving at a speed if harassed. Chameleons hiss and bite after blowing up throats as a defence.

Monitor Lizards

Monitors Lizards are the largest of the lizards in the Kruger National Park. There are two different species, the Rock/White-Throated Monitor and the Water/Nile Monitor. Their tails cannot be shed and their scales appear to look more like beads than scales. These are robust lizards with well-developed muscular legs. Each toe has a long claw. Monitors feed on birds and their eggs, mice, crocodile eggs, snails and small insects. Although both species can swim and climb well, the rock monitor prefers dry ground and the water monitor loves a moist environment.

errestrial leguaan (monitor lizard) at Kruger Park

Old World Lizards

These lizards are small or medium sized with a slender body and long tail that they can shed and regrow. These lizards feed mostly on small insects. They forage actively and can be territorial. 


These lizards are often found living close to humans. They will even let you get fairly close before running off. Most of South Africa’s skinks give birth to live young. They can often be seen lying quite still as they focus on their prey. As the prey passes them they will dash forward and capture the unsuspecting meal. Skinks can also shed their tails and regrow them. 


Geckos are small to medium sized lizards that you will usually see active in your home, hotel room or hut at night. Geckos are more tolerant of the cold than most lizards. The cutest characteristic of a gecko has got to be its feet. Under their feet, they have little pads that consist of hairs. This enables the gecko to climb up even the smoothest surfaces. Geckos don’t have eyelids and you will often see they run their tongues over their eyes to clean them. They are also able to shed and regrow their tails.