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The Big Five

The Big Five

What are the Big Five?

The Big Five are the goal of anyone who heads out on safari in Africa. They are

  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Rhino (White and Black)
  • Leopard
  • Cape Buffalo

The phrase was first used by game hunters and refers to the difficulty in 'bagging' them.

Where can you find the Big Five?

On our East and Southern Africa safari holidays to Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The best parks to tick off all five are Kenya's Masai Mara, Tanzania's Serengeti and South Africa's Kruger National Park.

When can you see the Big Five?

The dry season is generally considered the more advantageous period as grass is low and watering holes are limited and thus animals and birdlife are concentrated around specific locations making spotting easier. Please see When to take an Africa safari holiday.


Lions are perhaps the epitome of an African safari, more so than any other animal. Among carnivorous mammals, the lion is the most feared predator and is the largest carnivore in Africa. They live in small groups hunting more often in the cool of the night.

Did You Know?

  • In Zimbabwe's Antelope Park, you can actually walk with lion cubs on our adventure safari holidays here.
  • In Zambia's South Luangwa National Park the lions have been known to chase lechwes right into the water! This hidden gem of southern Africa is visited by many of our overland expeditions.
  • In Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park, visited on our family safari holiday here, you will find the famous black-maned, tree-climbing lions who have developed this habit due to the marshy soil.

Lion lying in the grass in the Serengeti in Tanzania


Elephants are probably the most loved of the large mammals. The African elephant is larger than the Asian elephant and is the largest land animal. An adult can consume 100 to 200 kg of food a day – in fact they spend most of their time eating! Elephants live in families and the alpha female leads the group

Did You Know?

  • In Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park elephants numbers are boosted by those entering the park from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where poaching is still a problem. All our adventure safaris to Uganda visit this park.
  • In Zimbabwe there is the opportunity to ride elephants on both land and water in Antelope Park and Hwange National Park is home to large breeding herds of elephant. All our adventure safari holidays to Zimbabwe visit these parks.
  • In Botswana, Chobe National Park boasts one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. An evening river cruise here is usually an elephant fest where you may see large herds drinking at the river. All our safari holidays to Botswana include a Chobe River cruise.
  • In South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park offers virtually guaranteed sightings. Its original eleven inhabitants have increased to more than 450 specimens. The campsite is actually located within the park.

Mother and baby Elephants in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia


There are two species of African Rhino – White and Black. The White Rhino is somewhat of a misnomer as it is not actually white – the name is thought to have come from the Dutch word 'weid' meaning 'wide' referring to its broad mouth. They are the second largest mammal after the elephant and unfortunately heavily poached – there are believe to be only around 4000 Black Rhino left in the wild.

Did You Know?

  • In Namibia, Etosha National Park is home to large numbers of globally endangered or threatened species, most notably black rhino. All our holidays spend time in this park.
  • In Botswana, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary is centred around Serowe Pan - a depression with several natural water holes providing prime habitat for white rhino. Our campsite is actually located inside the sanctuary and on our safari holidays here we follow the ranger-guided two hour Rhino Trail.
  • Zimbabwe and South Africa are the best places for spotting rhino. Hwange and Kruger are both renowned for their rhino population and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is well known for its conservation efforts to protect the white rhino. Many of our wildlife safari trips to these countries visit these parks.
  • Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most picturesque settings for observing wildlife. Lake Magadi, the soda lake at the floor of the crater, is one of the best places to see the endangered black rhino. All our safari holidays to Tanzania include a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater.

Mother and baby white Rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania


The leopard is most easily recognised by its rosette patterned coat. A traditionally elusive cat which prefers to live in solitude, the leopard is the most adaptable of the large predators and can survive in virtually any environment – forest, savannah, desert or mountain. Its only predator is (unfortunately) man.

Did You Know?

  • In Kenya, the Masai Mara reserve hosts an amazing concentration of wildlife and leopards abound throughout the park. All holidays to Kenya visit this amazing reserve.
  • Zambia's Luangwa River offers one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa and leopards are frequently spotted here. All our Zambian safaris visit South Luangwa.

Leopard drinking from a pool in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia


The African Cape Buffalo is completely dependent upon surface water and common in savannah, woodland and forest environments. Cape Buffalo are one of Africa's most dangerous animals and are said to have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa. Their herds can number up to a thousand individuals.

Did You Know?

  • Zambia's South Luangwa's remote setting provides an excellent wilderness sanctuary for large herds of Cape Buffalo. All our Zambian safaris visit South Luangwa.
  • South Africa's Kruger National Park contains roughly 2,500 buffalo so there is a high chance of spotting them (plus their 'resident' oxpecker bird) on one of our wildlife safaris here.

Buffalo in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

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