No safari to Africa is complete without marvelling at an elite grouping of her most famous residents: The Big 5. Comprised of the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino, the Big 5 are the crowning glories and likely the most recognised symbols of Africa.
The mere mention of the one cannot continue without the other!
Thankfully, this illustrious and majestic menagerie is found in several countries around Africa, from Kenya and Namibia to Botswana and South Africa, making a Big 5 safari a no brainer to your African holiday. Take a look at the countries that the Big 5 call home to get a quick taste of what is on offer before booking a trip of a lifetime with one of our expert travel consultants.
Kenyan safaris rekindle the imagination associated with thrilling wildlife adventures. When you think of a Kenyan safari, you no doubt picture roaring African lions, herds of elephants, wildebeests and zebras thundering across vast sweeping savannas, and the joy of basking in Africa's long sunshine and wilderness. The range and variety of Kenyan safaris has never been larger or more attractive than it is today.
There are many options to suit your taste and preference, covering different kinds of unique wildlife experiences and different levels of wildness, comfort, luxury, adventure and cost.
From balloon adventures, wildlife safaris, beach camping and luxury resorts to extreme, special-interest safaris that incorporate additional adventures such as mountain climbing, Kenyan safaris and tour companies can tailor an organized tour to meet your specific needs and interests. For those who prefer to be in control of planning when and where you go, you can always take a tour by yourself or plan one with family or friends. You are only limited by your imagination.
Kenya's national parks and game reserves are a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a variety of Kenyan animals and accommodations to suit all preferences. From low budget camping to moderately priced lodges to top-notch luxury bush lodges, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
The most famous of all Kenya's game parks is, of course, the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Maasai Mara is known for its wildebeest migration but it is also home to Kenya's "big five" animals, more than 400 species of birds, and varying topography. In addition to the "Big Five", you will find plenty of interesting Kenyan wildlife such as hippos, jackals, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, hyenas, antelope, cheetahs, crocodiles and more.
Kenya has long been a top destination for safari seekers. Showcasing a wealth of wildlife, each ecologically diverse game park has its own allure. Breathtaking landscapes, endless plains and unrivalled game viewing year round, the Masai Mara, is where huge herds of wildebeest and other herbivores make their way during the annual Great Migration.
Discover the beauty of Amboseli with its famous large tusked elephants and views of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. Lauded for its groundbreaking rhino rehabilitation efforts, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the heart of wildlife conservation and offers an unforgettable combination of unspoiled beauty, superb game viewing, sustainable development and responsible tourism in Northern Kenya. The arid Samburu and Shaba National Reserves stretching along the Ewaso Nyiro River is home to elephants, large predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah, as well as the rare northern specialist species, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx.
East Kenya is home to thousands of hectares of national park and protected land, most notably in the form of the celebrated Maasai Mara and the Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Parks. The sheer collective size of these parks and their diverse terrain provide habitats for an array of wildlife—including the Big 5—and an assortment of activities. Not to mention, if you visit at the right time of year, you may bear witness to the The Great Wildebeest Migration
The Greater Serengeti Ecosystem and its neighbours offer some of the best Big 5 safari opportunities in the country. Volcanic grasslands and vast plains are interrupted by rocky outcrops, rivers, volcanoes, and forests. The wildlife wanders freely across the Serengeti’s 1.5 million hectares, into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and back.
To the south is the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that, aside from being the only intact caldera in the world, boasts a fertile floor and an abundance of wildlife along with (you guessed it) the Big 5. Fun fact: many speculate—before Ngorongoro erupted—it would have been higher than the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro.
Undoubtedly South Africa’s most iconic game-viewing destination and Africa’s second-largest park, the Kruger National Park is spread across an impressive two million hectares of land in the far north-eastern corner of the country. As the oldest, largest, and most well-established park, Kruger is home to the highest population-density of the Big 5 in South Africa. It’s unfenced neighbour, Sabi Sand Region, shares the park’s prolific abundance of wildlife.
Despite its obvious appeal, you’d be remiss for thinking the Greater Kruger Area is the only place to enjoy a Big 5 safari in South Africa. From a low-yield cattle farm to a flourishing conservation area, Madikwe Game Reserve is a land of bushveld and grassland, sloping mountains and rocky outcrops. Brushing against Botswana’s border and the tip of the Kalahari Desert, the park has not only provided a haven for wildlife including the Big 5, but has also been a fierce proponent of community upliftment initiatives.
Etosha is home to one of Namibia’s most iconic attractions – and with good reason. It offers some of the best safari territories in the country, from the iconic Etosha National Park that lies centred in the land to a variety of private game reserves on its outskirts. Etosha boasts four of the Big 5, needing only the buffalo to complete its ranks. Both the park and surrounding reserves and concessions offer wildlife experiences that are as rewarding as they are memorable.
Hwange National Park is arguably one of Africa’s very best game-viewing destinations. This massive park and its creatures can be explored on foot, on horseback, or on a game drive. Its impressive range of wildlife—from the Big 5, giraffe, hyena, wild dog, and more—is mirrored by the diversity of the park’s environment: the sandy southern part of the park skirts along the Kalahari Desert and is dotted with semi-arid shrubbery, while the northern grasslands are thick with granite outcrops and groves of teak and mopane trees.
Chobe is home to four of the Big 5 and its population of elephants is especially impressive, said to exceed 50,000 in number. From the verdant and lush marshlands of Savuti and Linyanti to the extensive floodplains running along the Chobe River, Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s flagship safari destinations - thanks to its population of elephants and its status as the most biologically diverse park in the country.
Spread across less than 5,000km² of the Okavango Delta and home to the iconic Chief’s Island, Moremi Game Reserve is renowned for being a protected area of incredible biodiversity. While Moremi is home to an array of prolific birdlife and wildlife (including the magnetic Big 5) the local Basarwa Bushmen also reside in the area, offering visitors an intimate look into their traditional way of life.
Uganda and Rwanda may not be the most sought after safari spots but they are certainly worth mentioning as they boast their own unique animal adventures.