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Seeing lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalos & black or white rhinos is always a special experience, and many destinations offer the opportunity to tick the Big 5 off your list with ease. However, experienced safari travellers also tend to focus on other species such as cheetahs, wild dogs and pangolins and on experienced-based safaris such as animal migrations, bird-watching, cultural learnings, spending time in remote wilderness areas and rewilding projects.
Scroll past the safari packages below to find out EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about Big 5 safaris.
Few sounds are as evocative and exhilarating as a lion roaring his challenge into the African night, triggering in us all a primordial reaction of fear and awe. Lions are essential players in Africa's wild spaces, ruthlessly executing the role of an apex predator, helping maintain biodiversity and ecosystems, which change fundamentally when lions are removed from them. READ MORE about lions here.
Breathtakingly beautiful, charismatic, powerful, and mysterious, leopards are the picture of perfection. Their self-contained grace and nimble frames belie an extraordinary explosive strength and speed when needed. Those who have spent time with leopards will tell you that every leopard sighting is unique – defined by the personality of the leopard itself. The only truly predictable aspect of leopard behaviour is its unpredictability. READ MORE about leopards here.
The African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world and one of nature’s great ecosystem engineers, contributing to maintaining the balance between wooded and grass ecosystems. Their beneficial impact on biodiversity is significant, and many other species depend on elephants for their survival - making them a key species in Africa. Elephants are fascinating and endearing - time spent with them nurtures your spiritual health and well-being. READ 17 elephant facts you need to know.
The African (Cape) buffalo has earned itself a reputation, particularly for the cantankerous old bulls, otherwise known as dagga boys or kakuli, that spend their time wallowing in pans or hanging around in dense reedbeds along Africa’s rivers. Immense and powerful, the buffalo should not be underestimated - as many lions have discovered. Don’t be fooled if your only experience of them is from the safety of a game drive vehicle, which perspective makes them look like wild cows. READ MORE about buffaloes here.
These magnificent creatures are as crucial for African biodiversity as elephants and lions, and each encounter with them is special and to be cherished. White and black rhinos have very distinct behavioural reputations. The larger white rhinos are seen as more placid, while black rhinos are often described as solitary, unpredictable, and even cantankerous. READ MORE about rhinos here.
Your best chance of seeing all of the Big 5 is to combine two or more places in your safari itinerary. But if you hope to see all of the Big 5 in one reserve, then our safari experts will focus on the following when they compile your dream safari:
South Africa has the most reliable Big Five areas, including Kruger National Park and the private reserves making up the adjacent Greater Kruger - including Timbavati, Sabi Sand, Klaserie, Balule, Thornybush and Manyeleti. The malaria-free Madikwe is also an excellent Big 5 reserve. Private reserves in the Eastern Cape (Greater Addo region) and KwaZulula Natal (Phinda region) also offer excellent Big 5 experiences. In addition, there are many smaller fenced reserves throughout the country that offer Big 5 experiences, and our team of safari experts will advise on the experience at each.
The Maasai Mara in Kenya and adjacent Serengeti in Tanzania offer East Africa’s most reliable sources of Big 5 encounters, with rhinos being the hardest to track down. Laikipia in Kenya and Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater are good places to find the Big 5.
North Luangwa is the one place in Zambia where it is possible to spot the Big 5.
To find the Big 5 in one game reserve or national park, chat with our safari experts, who will design a wonderful safari package to suit your needs.
Many countries and regions offer the opportunity to spot the Big 5 in two or more places. For example, in Zimbabwe, you are likely to see rhinos in a private game reserve near Victoria Falls and then find the remaining Big Five species in nearby Hwange. In Botswana, you will increase your chances of ticking off the Big 5 if you visit Khama Rhino Sanctuary before or after the rest of your safari. In Namibia, you are likely to tick off rhinos, lions, leopards and elephants in Etosha, but you will need to head to the east of the country to find Buffaloes. In Kenya, if you visit Lake Nakuru before or after your Maasai Mara safari you will increase your chances of ticking off the Big 5.
To find the Big 5 in your multi-stop itinerary, chat with our safari experts, who will design a wonderful safari package to suit your needs.
Depending on the place and time of year, black rhinos are usually the most difficult of the Big Five to find - they are very rare and known to hang around in dense vegetation. Leopards are next in line for being elusive, followed by buffaloes (which travel big distances in pursuit of reliable grazing and water), lions (which often follow the buffaloes), white rhinos (usually easy to find if they occur in that area) and finally elephants (the easiest of the Big 5 to find).
Yes, we only use lodges and guides that enforce the necessary safeguards while you are on safari.
Most of the time, your encounters with the Big Five and other dangerous species, such as hippos and crocodiles, will be while on a game drive. Wild animals tend to ignore game drive vehicles if the guides drive responsibly, and even if you get really close to large animals, guides will make sure that their driving does not invoke an aggressive reaction, even though wild animals can be unpredictable.
While on a walking safari, your guides will be extremely vigilant about established safety procedures. The chance of encountering dangerous animals (which will be given a wide berth) is far less than during a game drive.
While walking around the immediate vicinity of your lodge (which may be unfenced), it is very important to obey the safety instructions explained to you by the lodge manager. These include not walking too far from the lodge during the daylight hours, not walking around during the dark hours and asking for an escort while walking between your room and the common area during the dark hours.
We live here, in Africa, and have been doing this since 1991. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late or a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity?
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