The Big 5 have come to be intimately linked with going on safari in Africa. Have you ever wondered where you should go and what it is all about? In the early years of game hunting, the phrase “Big 5” first appeared. The most dangerous creatures to hunt were the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino, and as a result, their trophies were valued the highest.
Even today, when most tourists are carrying cameras, the Big 5 encounters are still among the most thrilling on a safari. Here are a few of the top locations in Africa to observe the Big 5.
1. Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania
Incredible wildlife watching is available at Ngorongoro Crater. Even while animals can enter and exit the crater, they often stay within because it takes some effort to scale the sheer caldera walls. This has a strong black rhino population. Although it’s uncommon to encounter these cautious animals in East Africa, the crater is one of the few locations where it’s simple to spot them.
Even though leopard sightings are sporadic and less common inside the crater than on the wooded rim, the other four members of the Big 5 are abundant. The good news is that these secretive cats are relatively frequent in the Serengeti National Park’s Seronera region, which is typically the next stop on northern Tanzanian safari itineraries following Ngorongoro.
2. Kruger National Park – South Africa
Kruger National Park is a fantastic option for a Big 5 safari, whether you’re on a guided tour or driving on your own. The park is the size of a small nation, and the diverse species it supports are a reflection of the wide range of environments it preserves. It might be a fun endeavour to identify every type of antelope in Kruger.
Southern Kruger is one of the greatest sites to see white rhinos and is home to three of the Big 5: lion, buffalo, and elephant. If you have some free time and some luck, you might also see a leopard. If you want to enhance your chances of sighting this shy cat, which is active at night, be sure to be out and about at dawn and twilight.
3. Sabi Sand Game Reserve – South Africa
There is no easier place to see the Big 5 than Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Although the animals in this group of jointly-managed private reserves share an ecology with Kruger and have open borders with it, they are more laid-back. Furthermore, guided drives in open vehicles are allowed to travel off-road, unlike in Kruger, which makes for excellent up-close views.
The leopard is Sabi Sand’s true star. This typically shy creature is not like this everywhere else. The majority of visitors get to see leopards as they go about their regular activities: a male hunting or patrolling, a female feeding cubs, and possibly even a mating couple.
4. Masai Mara National Reserve – Kenya
All of the large 5 life in the Masai Mara, but large cats are its most recognizable residents. Lions, cheetahs, and leopards are very common, and you’ll be tripping over them all the time. Black rhinos are also there, but your chances of sighting one are minimal unless you’re fortunate enough to stay in the isolated Mara Triangle in the extreme west.
However, both black and white rhinos can be found in Lake Nakuru National Park, a well-liked pit break on the way to the Masai Mara. The latter are frequently spotted grazing near the lake in tiny family groups.
5. Phinda Game Reserve – South Africa
One of the top private Big 5 game reserves in South Africa is Phinda. You can choose from four breathtaking lodging options located within the reserve’s various habitats: the Rock, Mountain, Forest, and Vlei (wetland) Lodge. Four of the Big 5—the lion, elephant, buffalo, and white rhino—as well as some Zululand specialities, including the graceful nyala and the reserved red duiker—are clearly seen thanks to the excellent guiding.
Despite the fact that there are many leopards in the area, you’d be lucky to sight one. In exchange, the cheetah, Phinda’s signature species, frequently turns up in breathtaking sightings.
6. Akagera National Park – Rwanda
Although mountain gorillas are Rwanda’s most famous residents, the Big 5 and numerous other savannah-dwelling animals also call Rwanda home. In Rwanda, Akagera National Park is the best location for a traditional safari.
Warfare and poaching severely reduced the local wildlife population, but since 2010, it has made a remarkable recovery. After the reintroduction of lions and black rhinos in 2017, Akagera now provides a really off-the-beaten-path chance to witness all five of Africa’s big cats.
7. Okavango Delta – Botswana
One of Africa’s most famous wildlife sites is the Okavango. All of the Big 5 can be seen in the delta, though it might be challenging to spot a rhinoceros (black or white). In addition to seeing big cats, the marshes are home to animals like buffalo and elephants. A game drive is the most effective activity for observing typical safari species, including the Big 5.
However, you should schedule time for a guided walk and a mokoro (traditional dugout boat) tour of the delta’s waterways. An experience that will linger with you long after your journey is silently moving among waterlilies, skirting the occasional hippo, and checking the shore for animals coming to drink.
8. Majete Game Reserve – Malawi
One of Africa’s recent environmental success stories is Majete Game Reserve. The park was almost entirely hunted out before 2003. Since then, approximately 5,000 unique animals—including all of the Big 5—have been reintroduced under the supervision of African Parks.
Elephants have reproduced so well that 200 extra ones were moved to Nkhotakota Game Reserve. Majete offers a completely untouched experience away from the masses, even though sightings take a little bit of patience. It is advised to take a “behind the scenes” tour to learn more about what it takes to manage a Big 5 reserve.