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A Guide to Spotting the Big Five on Safari

Buffalo. Elephant. Lion. Leopard. Rhino.

These five species are the 'Big Five', which were initially the five most wanted trophies for hunters, but now are some of the animals most sought after by people on safari in Africa with cameras and binoculars now, thank goodness!

Of course, just because a reserve does not have the big five does not mean it's going to give you a lesser safari experience. Some of our favourite reserves don't have all five species.

However if you're keen to see these five species here are some helpful hints as to where you might consider.


Where to see elephants:

Elephants are the world's largest land mammal and they are classed as "vulnerable" by the WWF mainly due to habitat loss (and human-wildlife conflict) and poaching for ivory. They are quite widespread throughout south and east Africa. Some notable places include:

  • Amboseli & Tsavo in Kenya
  • Selous & Tarangire in Tanzania
  • Chobe & the Okavango in Botswana
  • Addo & Tembe in South Africa
  • South Luangwa in Zambia
  • For a close-up encounter consider Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage in Nairobi.

Where to see lions:

Lions are quite readily seen in many African reserves, but if you had to pick one place for sheer numbers it would be the Masai Mara. For something unusual, how about:

  • Tree-climbing lions in Uganda
  • White lions in South Africa's Timbavati
  • Head for Botswana's Duba Plains Camp where you might see unusual daytime interaction between lions and buffalos.

Where to see rhinos:

Poaching for rhino horn is increasing at an exponential rate, with well over 1000 animals being killed in South Africa alone in 2013. As travellers we can back rhino conservation by visiting reserves which fund rhino projects. Kenya and South Africa are currently two of the best countries for seeing rhinos, though Botswana is making some very strong efforts on rhinos currently too. Some of the best places to see rhinos are:

  • Kenya's Laikipia region includes Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Reserve, both of which care for good numbers of rhinos.
  • Madikwe & Hluhluwe in South Africa
  • Etosha National Park in Namibia
  • Swaziland's Mkhaya Reserve

Consider our Helping Rhinos trip in Botswana if you want to back rhino conservation, or Kenya Wilderness Experience in Kenya to get a better chance of seeing them.


Where to see leopards:

Leopards can be notoriously hard to find and luck plays a big part in spotting leopards. However there are a few places which increase your chances somewhat, so consider the following reserves:

  • The Masai Mara is a strong contender for all big cats, including leopards.
  • Sabi Sands in Kruger
  • South Luangwa in Zambia
  • The Moremi area, or the area around Tubu Tree Camp, both in Botswana's Okavango Delta
  • Samburu is also good leopard country

Our Luangwa & Livingstone Safari in Zambia should get you close to leopards as well as lions, possibly wild dogs and much more.


Where to see buffalos:

Buffalos occur in good numbers throughout east and southern Africa, so you're pretty sure to see some wherever you spend a few days on safari. Try a Taste of Tanzania taking you into the Serengeti where you should see buffalo and other wildlife a-plenty.


And lastly!

Have you heard of the so-called "Little Five?" These are the Buffalo Weaver, Elephant shrew, Ant- Lion , Leopard Tortoise and Rhinoceros Beetle. It's a great one for a quiz!

our travel expert

Amanda Marks
Start planning your tailor-made holiday. Tell us what you want, and we will tailor make your perfect trip.
Call: 01473 890499



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