Where to spot the Big Five (2023)

The term ‘Big Five’ refers to the following African animals - the lion, the leopard, the African elephant, the rhinoceros and the Cape buffalo. The term was originally coined by game hunters who considered these animals as the most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot. Thankfully, today the term is used in a more endearing manner by tourists wanting to tick off the iconic Big Five animals off their safari checklist.

Although the Big Five is often used as a way to shortlist areas which are wildlife rich, it is very much the case that other reserves or national parks can be just as rich, but may not contain all five of the Big Five species. Given that many of Africa’s iconic species, such as cheetahs, giraffes, zebras and hippos, are not part of the Big Five, many reserves which don’t contain all of the Big Five can often offer wildlife viewing which is at least as good.

There are only a few places in Africa where there is a chance of spotting all of the Big Five on one trip. Keep reading to find out where.

Where to spot the Big Five (1)

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest protected game areas in Africa, and covers nearly two million hectares. Its enormous size, varied vegetation and resultant variety of African game makes it one of South Africa’s greatest treasures.

Here you will find classic safari scenery with a mixture of thorn trees, savannah and more. There are a wide variety of species to spot, including the Big Five plus wild dog, crocodile, wildebeest, zebra, cheetah, hyena, hippo and diverse bird species including vultures, eagles and storks.

(Video) Kruger National Park: Spotting The BIG FIVE (99% Can't Find The Lion!)

The best time for wildlife viewing in the Kruger is during the dry months of June to September when the vegetation is less thick and animals concentrate around water sources.

We offer three safari lodge options around the Kruger National Park. All options we offer have a similar format, with game drives in the morning and afternoon.

Read more about the three Kruger lodges we offer.

Where to spot the Big Five (2)

The Western Cape also offers some excellent game viewing opportunities in a reserve on the Garden Route. The Gondwana Game Reserve is a scenic four-hour drive from Cape Town, and is the only fynbos reserve in the world that’s home to free roaming Big 5. The game reserve’s malaria-free climate and exceptional year-round game viewing are two of its main draws. The Big 5 can be found here (although leopard are rarely seen), as well as giraffe, hippo, zebra and eland, against a backdrop of the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains.

Read Llama Travel Director Luca's blog to find out why Gondwana was the highlight of his trip to South Africa.

Where to spot the Big Five (3)

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Packed with wildlife including the Big Five, the Masai Mara is Africa’s iconic safari destination. It is Kenya’s most famous reserve and one of the main reasons why thousands of people visit Kenya every year. The Masai Mara Reserve is in south-west Kenya, extending to the northern part of Tanzania’s Serengeti. Set at nearly 2,000 metres above sea level and covering an area of 583 square miles, the game reserve is made up of seemingly endless grassy plains and rolling hills, crossed by the Mara and Talek rivers which provide sustenance for the abundant wildlife.

The area is famous for being the setting of the annual great migration. This amazing spectacle happens between June and September, when over a million wildebeest and zebras make their way across the crocodile-infested Mara River, which forms a natural border between Kenya and Tanzania, to reach the savannah. Those visiting outside this period will still get to experience some of the best game viewing in the world.

Aside from the Big Five, the Masai Mara is home to cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, antelopes, giraffes and zebras. Large rafts of hippos and enormous crocodiles can be spotted in the Mara River. The park is a haven for birdlife too, with over 450 species including eagles, kites, hawks, falcons and kestrels.

Find out more about the Masai Mara here.

Where to spot the Big Five (4)

Covering almost a third of the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve is made up of a huge variety of landscapes including pans, floodplains, grasslands, lagoons, savannahs and woodlands. As a result of the extremely variable habitat, the diversity of both wildlife and birdlife is excellent.

Moremi is home to all the Big Five. In the dry winter months of July to October, elephant herds can be seen in their thousands. Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s elephants, over 130,000 elephants, due to its great anti-poaching programmes and conversation efforts. Rhinos have been relocated from South Africa and reintroduced and the reserve is now one of the last sanctuaries for vulnerable white and black rhinos.

(Video) Safari Travel - How to See "The Big 5" in the Serengeti National Park

Other animals you can expect to see are the endangered African wild dog, cheetahs, giraffe, hippos and over 500 bird species such as the lilac breasted roller and African spoonbill.

Find out more about the Okavango Delta here.

Here are some other reserves and national parks which are just as amazing for big game spotting.

Where to spot the Big Five (5)

Named after the Etosha Salt Pan, the Etosha National Park is home to four of the Big Five (there are no buffalo in Etosha) and numerous other species of game. The arid nature of the desert provides a striking backdrop for a safari, and the limited water sources mean that animals congregate around waterholes, making good sightings almost a given.

Located just south of the boundary of Etosha National Park in north-western Namibia, Etosha South makes up the southern region of this wild paradise. The park can be accessed via the southern entrance at Andersson’s Gate. There are many game-viewing opportunities including lion, giraffe, elephant, white and black rhino. Popular activities include game drives, guided nature walks and watching the sunset over this magnificent landscape.

Find out more about the Etosha National Park here.

Where to spot the Big Five (6)

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Famous for its spectrum of wildlife, Chobe National Park is spread over 11,700 square kilometres in the north of Botswana, stretching down to the fringes of the Okavango Delta. The distinctive landscapes range from swamps and floodplains to woodlands and the Chobe River which forms the northern boundary. The park was established in 1968 and supports a huge concentration of wildlife including some of the world’s largest herds of elephant and over 460 bird species.

Find out more about the Chobe National Park here.

Where to spot the Big Five (7)

Established in 1985, Samburu National Reserve is situated alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River in Kenya’s Rift Valley province. The reserve is considered an excellent option for the more discerning safari-goers, due to its lack of crowds compared to more famous locations including the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Elephants are in abundance here, alongside many of Africa’s classic animals – from lions and leopards to cheetahs, buffalos and wild dogs. Birdlife is plentiful in the reserve too –storks, guinea fowls and ostriches to name a few.

Read more about what to expect at the Samburu National Reserve.

Going on safari is a classic part of a holiday to Africa so it’s important to choose the right safari for you. Read our blog to find out more about our different safari destinations.

Browse all our Africa holidays here and call one of our safari experts on 020 7263 3000 when you’re ready to start ticking off Africa’s Big Five.

(Video) Jordan Peterson: Big Five - A Quick Look


What are the Big 5 to see on a safari? ›

The Big Five animals are lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Many travelers to Safari Africa dream of spotting all members of the Big Five during just one vacation.

Which countries have the Big 5? ›

Where to see the Big Five. There are thirteen countries where all five animals can be spotted. These are: Angola, Botswana, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Can you see the Big 5 in Kenya? ›

In the north of Kenya, most notably Lake Nakuru, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Lewa Wilderness Conservancy, rhino can still be seen, allowing you to see all of the Big Five.

Can you see the Big 5 in Zimbabwe? ›

The town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is surrounded by Game Parks and it is possible to see all of the Big Five, within a very small radius of the town.

What time of year is best to see the Big Five? ›

When is the Best Time to See the Big 5? Peak safari season runs from about July to October across Africa. This coincides with the continent's cool, dry winter.

Why is the hippo not in the Big 5? ›

Hippos, for example, were not included because it's easy to shoot a hippo – just go down to the river and fire away. Large mammals such as giraffes, wildebeest and antelope were also excluded, as were lesser predators such as cheetahs, hyenas and wild dog.

Why is a giraffe not in the Big 5? ›

These animals are considered so dangerous because of how ferocious they become when injured or cornered. This means the Big Five aren't the biggest or heaviest of Africa's game; giraffes, crocodiles and hippos would have to be in contention for the count if it was just about size and weight.

Is the Big Five only in Africa? ›

Lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. There are only 11 countries in the world that have the Big 5, and all of them are in Africa. But have you ever wondered why these specific animals are called the big five?

Why is the cheetah not part of the Big 5? ›

When many people think of the genus Panthera, more commonly known as Big Cats, we think of lions, tigers, jaguars and cheetahs. But, in fact, cheetahs are an entirely different genus than the other three. The cheetah is actually the only remaining species of the genus Acinonyx.

Is Kenya or South Africa better for safari? ›

South Africa is more family-friendly than Kenya, and a better option for first-time safari goers. The roads are better and South Africa's infrastructure is more developed. Both countries are along the coast if you want to do water sports or visit the beach along with your safari.

Can you see the Big 5 in Zambia? ›

Zambia is one of the most underrated places in Africa to go on safari. Home to the Big 5, you can see leopards, rhino, elephant, lions and buffalo there.

Can you see the Big Five in South Africa? ›

Kruger National Park is the most well-known of all the Big Five wildlife parks in South Africa. Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo can be seen while on a self-drive safari, or you can improve your odds of seeing all the Big Five by going on a guided game drive with expert wildlife rangers.

Can you see the Big 5 in Cape Town? ›

Gondwana Game Reserve

Gondwana Game Reserve is situated less than four hours outside of Cape Town along the picturesque Garden Route. The 11 000-hectare Private Game Park is home to free-roaming Big Five, herds of eland, giraffe, hippos, cheetah, and zebra.

Can you see the Big 5 in Kruger? ›

The ultimate treasures of the South African bushveld are undoubtedly the Big Five Wildlife in Kruger National Park. These iconic animals are the most popular sightings on safari excursions, and both local and international tourists travel from far and wide to see them in their natural habitat.

Where can you see the big 7? ›

Addo Elephant National Park is the only Big Seven national park in the world. The only place you'll be able to view the original African Big Five: leopard, lion, Cape buffalo, rhino and elephant, in addition to the great white shark and southern right whale, which round off the Big Seven.

Why are the big five so special? ›

The term “Big Five” originally referred to the difficulty in hunting the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. These five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home.

Why is Big 5 called Big 5? ›

The name Big 5 is derived from the first five stores that were opened in California. Sportswest and Sportsland were acquired in May 1988 from Pay 'n Save subsequently. A list of major competitors can be found on this list of sporting goods retailers of the United States.

What animal kills the most humans in Africa? ›

#1: Mosquito

It kills more people than all the other animals on this list combined. Mosquitoes carry diseases that kill more than 1 million people each year. These diseases include Malaria, Dengue Fever, and Yellow Fever. Malaria alone kills more than 3,000 African children each day.

Is giraffe among big 5? ›

We'd like you to meet four species that comprise the extended family of the Big Five: the cheetah, hippo, zebra and giraffe. All together they constitute the “Big Nine,” a catchphrase that perhaps better captures what you should look out for while on safari.

Is the white rhino part of the Big 5? ›

In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant, and African buffalo. They are examples of charismatic megafauna, featuring prominently in popular culture, and are among the most famous of Africa's large animals.

What are the big 9 animals? ›

The Big Nine
  • Giraffe (Giraffa) ...
  • Cheetah (Acinonyx jubantus) ...
  • Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) ...
  • Zebra (Equus quagga) ...
  • Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) ...
  • Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) ...
  • African Hare (Lepus capensis) ...
  • Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo)

Which animals is not part of the Big Five? ›

The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), while not a member of the traditional Big Five, is a larger variety of rhinoceros that many people count as part of the Big Five for game-viewing purposes.

What is a giraffe's biggest enemy? ›

Young giraffes are self-sufficient but vulnerable.

Although few predators attack adults, lions, hyenas, and leopards take their toll on the young.

What is the big 7 in Africa? ›

This means the big seven animals are made up of Cape buffalo, African elephant, leopard, lion, rhinoceros, southern right whale and great white shark. Both the southern right whale and great white shark are found around the South African coastline in some numbers, particularly off the coast of the Eastern Cape.

Can you still hunt the Big Five? ›

It is legal to hunt most big game animals, including the big five, on private game reserves in South Africa, home to the biggest hunting industry on the continent. The buffalo is sometimes considered the most dangerous of the big five, and it is the most popular with hunters.

Who popularized the Big Five? ›

Who developed the big 5 personality traits? Originally developed in 1949, the big 5 personality traits is a theory established by D. W. Fiske and later expanded upon by other researchers including Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987).

Which big cat is most powerful? ›

Jaguar (Panthera onca) are the largest cat in the Americas and have a powerful bite to match. For their size, they are the strongest of any cat, allowing them to dispatch monstrous prey - even caiman crocodiles.

Why is a Puma not a big cat? ›

Cougar (Puma concolor)

The cougar is the second-largest cat of the Americas, and the fourth-largest cat species in the world. Despite this, it is not a member of the cat subfamily Pantherinae, and for this reason is not considered to be a true big cat.

Which big cat Cannot roar? ›

One big cat that purrs but can't roar is the cheetah. Biologists place it in a genus all its own (Acinonyx), simply because it can't retract its claws completely. Also unique to the cheetah is a high- pitched chirp, said to resemble a canary's.

Where should I go on my first safari? ›

South Africa is often the first country of choice for new safari goers. As one of the more developed African nations, it is a great place to start if you are nervous or unsure about visiting Africa.

Should I go to Kenya or Tanzania safari? ›

Tanzania has the slight edge due to the size of the Serengeti National Park and the impressive Ngorongoro Crater. But Kenya is better for those in a hurry, or for those visiting the Masai Mara between August and November. It is also slightly cheaper and better for culture.

What is the safest African country for safari? ›

Botswana, Safest Country in Africa for Safari

In addition to being ranked as the safest African safari country, Botswana is also one of the most rewarding safari destinations.

Can you see the big five in Tanzania? ›

Home to all 5 of Africa's Big 5 Animals

The Ngorongoro Crater is the best place to see all five of Africa's Big 5 animals on safari in Tanzania. It is also, arguably, the best wildlife park for seeing rhinos in Tanzania.

Is Zambia good for safari? ›

Zambia is a beloved destination for seasoned safari-goers and first-timers alike. Boasting gems such as South Luangwa National Park, which is renowned for walking safaris across its wildlife-rich plains, and the ever-famous Victoria Falls, a Zambia safari offers something for every type of traveller.

Where can I see the Big 4 in Africa? ›

Hunting opportunities for “The Big Four” exist in many African countries, including Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

What is best time to visit South Africa? ›

Where is this? The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big game. It can be rainy from November to February, but this is the best time to travel for birding, and temperatures remain warm at 22°C to 33°C.

Is Texas bigger then South Africa? ›

South Africa is about 1.8 times bigger than Texas.

Texas is approximately 678,052 sq km, while South Africa is approximately 1,219,090 sq km, making South Africa 80% larger than Texas. Meanwhile, the population of Texas is ~25.1 million people (32.4 million more people live in South Africa).

How much does an African Big 5 hunt cost? ›

With all this in mind, a 5-10 day African hunting safari package for several of the most popular species of antelope, like kudu, wildebeest, zebra, impala, and warthog, normally costs between $3,000 and $7,000 depending on the country, outfitter, and the specific animals hunted.

What month is best for African safari? ›

When is the best time for a safari? The best time to go on safari is between June and October, during the dry season. This is a cooler time of the year and you are more likely to see animals, who are searching for water sources. During these months, you can also catch the iconic Masai Mara migration.

What is the best month to travel to Africa? ›

The best time to visit Africa is from September to December, when the dry and warm weather across the continent offers the ideal conditions for safari trips in the southwest, sightseeing in the Cape region, and adventures in East Africa.

Is it safe for Americans to travel to Africa? ›

Africa is a dream tourist destination for most tourists. Despite not being 100% safe due to the common muggings, street crimes and pickpocketing, foodborne and water diseases, among other safety issues, it's a generally safe place for tourists to visit.

How far is safari from Cape Town? ›

The 2.5-to-3 hours drive from Cape Town makes Inverdoorn Game Reserve easily accessible for an overnight safari or weekend getaway. Inverdoorn is not the very cheapest Cape Town Safari option, but the quality of the Big 5 safari experience in Inverdoorn Game Reserve is worth the little extra spend.

Can you do a day safari from Cape Town? ›

If time is short, Aquila Private Game Reserve, a quick two-hour drive inland from Cape Town, offers visitors half- or full-day safaris. For a better chance of seeing the Big Five (that's lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and Cape buffalos), checking in overnight at the unfussy thatched Aquila Lodge is recommended.

How far is a safari park from Cape Town? ›

One of the most popular game reserves near Cape Town, Aquila boasts a big five safari experience. Situated in the Klein Karoo, just two hours outside of the city centre, they offer a variety of experiences.

Is Kruger or Serengeti better? ›

Kruger is best for greater kudu, sable, nyala and bushbuck, while Serengeti is better for the world's largest antelope the Eland. The Kruger is home to a few of the remaining endangered African wild dogs' population, while in the Serengeti several can be spotted regularly.

Can you see the Big 5 in Serengeti? ›

The Serengeti is also home to the Big 5, although rhino can be a challenge in this vast area, plus undoubtedly one of the best places in Africa to find cheetah, due to the perfect open habitat.

What is the best time to see animals at Kruger National Park? ›

The best time to visit the Kruger National Park is the dry season from May to October for the best game viewing and walking safari conditions. Vegetation is low and sparse at this time of year, making animals easier to spot and track, while the permanent water sources offer a rewarding safari experience in the Kruger.

What are the 5 parts of the Big Five? ›

The five broad personality traits described by the theory are extraversion (also often spelled extroversion), agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

What are the big 4 on safari? ›

The “Big Five” is a term that is used to refer to the 5 African animals that early big game hunters considered most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. These animals include the African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros.

What is the little five safari? ›

They are the Elephant Shrew, Ant Lion, Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver and Leopard Tortoise. Africa's big game is awesome, but there is also a wealth of interesting smaller species including remarkable birdlife, small game and strange insects.

How do you assess the Big Five? ›

One popular option is called the Big Five inventory. This method uses your response to about 50 short statements or phrases. You'll be asked to agree or disagree, on a scale of 1 to 5, to each phrase. Based on your answers, your results will show you where you fall on a spectrum for each trait.

Why do they call Big Five? ›

The term “Big Five” originally referred to the difficulty in hunting the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. These five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home.

What do the Big Five eat? ›

Almost anything that they can catch. Typically more than half of their food comes from scavenging. After a hunt the male Lions will more than often chase the females away so that they can eat first.

What are the Big 7 in Africa? ›

This means the big seven animals are made up of Cape buffalo, African elephant, leopard, lion, rhinoceros, southern right whale and great white shark. Both the southern right whale and great white shark are found around the South African coastline in some numbers, particularly off the coast of the Eastern Cape.

What is the most up to date safari? ›

The version history of Safari spans from 2003 to the present (2022), from its initial preview release for macOS to Safari 16, first released in 2022.

Are you guaranteed to see animals safari? ›

Your safari guides want you to see the best wildlife but there's no guarantee you'll spot everything. Animals are unpredictable and often like to remain hidden as they roam freely around the massive reserves.

Would you find a tiger in safari? ›

It is very easy to see lions on safari and possible to view all three species in a single trip. Each has its fans, and all are beautiful and compelling, but none can match the grandeur of the biggest of the big cats, the tiger, which you will never see on an African safari.

Can you see tigers in safari? ›

In places such as Kanha, Pench, Satpura, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba, Panna and Ranthambore, as well as Kaziranga in the east, the Sundarbans in the west and Corbett in the north, individual tigers can still be seen during safaris into the typically forested habitats.

What are the big 6 animals? ›

Effective October 1, 2021 -- "Big six African species" means any specimen of any of the following members of the animal kingdom: African elephant (Loxodonta africana), African lion (Panthera leo), African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum ...

Why is the safari so special? ›

The wondrous sites: When in Africa, you will see awe-inspiring sceneries and magnificent natural and historical sites. African safaris offer plenty of stunning photographic opportunities for memorable photographs of the incredible places, wild animals, and the people that you get up close to on your journey.

What is the shy five? ›

The shy five animals of Africa are Aardvark, Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, Meerkat, and Porcupine. If you've been on safari you'll probably be aware of 'the big five' of buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino. You may also be aware of the little five, or small five animals.


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