What are the Big Five and Where Can I See Them?

Emily Goodheart Kautz July 31, 2019 0

A lion prowls the African savanna.

The Lion King has left many viewers longing to visit the plains of African, conjuring up images of elephants browsing on acacia trees and amber-eyed predators prowling among golden grasses as an enormous red sun sinks below the horizon. Those looking to bring their hazy dreams of Africa into reality will have their senses sharpened and overwhelmed by the amazing abundance and diversity of wildlife found there. This is an experience so captivating, it must be seen with one’s own eyes to truly absorb.

Elephants as sunlight streams down on the African plains.

While on safari, the Big Five are on every traveler’s list. They are some of Africa’s most iconic animals: the Cape buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant and rhinoceros. These megafauna were once the target of big game hunters and grouped together due to their unpredictable behavior and difficulty to kill. Now, as ecotourism grows increasingly popular and tourists trade in trophies for camera shots, the Big Five is a term used by eager photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Some also refer to the Big Seven, adding cheetah and African wild dogs to their must-sees. There are even a Little Five, named after their larger counterparts: the buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, antlion, elephant shrew and rhinoceros beetle.

A leopard in the African sun.

So what are the best places to witness the Big Five in action? A great way to ensure you see all five is to combine a couple of locations into one safari.  Kenya, where the Lion King is based, and neighboring Tanzania immediately come to mind. This is home to one of the greatest spectacles on Earth, the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest and zebra make their way from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara as they follow the rains in search of lush grazing grounds. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs follow the herds in turn, waiting to make their advances on a young or sickly lagger. Safari-goers will also delight in the elephants and African buffalo that roam across the savanna. On an Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari, Nat Hab travelers visit these species-rich areas, as well as the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they observe both black and white rhinos. Guests can cap their experience in East Africa by spotting all Big Five in the Ngorongoro Crater, which has the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa.

African buffalo in South Africa.

© Emily Goodheart Kautz

If Southern Africa calls to you, consider a Hidden South Africa & Botswana tour. The Greater Kruger ecosystem is renowned for having some of the best Big Five viewing in all of Africa. You’ll up your chances with exclusive access to both Manyeleti and MalaMala (famous for its leopards), two private reserves nestled between Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Or, journey on Nat Hab’s Secluded Botswana Safari to track white rhinos in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and seek out the rest of the Big Five in the Okavango Delta. Whichever adventure you choose is sure to bring the wilds of Africa close to your heart, and leave you with cherished memories of the Big Five in all their glory.

A rhinoceros in Africa.

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