If it’s your first time to go on safari, your list of wildlife to see probably includes the “Big 5.” Spotting them on safaris can be challenging… unless you know where to look. Here are our top places in South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya to go on a Big 5 Safari.

About the Big 5 Animals You’ll See on an African Safari

The term “Big 5,” originally coined by the big game hunters of the early safari days, refers to the five most challenging animals to hunt on foot: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. These are Africa’s most iconic animals. Today, however, the only hunting we’re doing is with our camera. Therefore, the phrase has come to represent the most sought after animals to see on safari. Because of their solitary and nocturnal nature, leopards are the most elusive of the five. 

In recent years, the Big 5 have become a concern for wildlife conservationists. Of the five, the black rhinoceros is critically endangered. The lion, leopard, and elephant are classified as vulnerable. While there is still a healthy number of buffalo, their population is experiencing a decline due to poaching.

Catching sight of the Big 5 is exciting, but there are a number of other incredible animals to see in the bush whilst on a Big 5 safari. Cheetah, wild dog, and hippo are just a few of the animals you should add to your list.

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The Big 5 are present in several countries across Africa.

South Africa

South Africa is one of the best countries to visit for first-time safari-goers and families traveling together and those wanting a Big 5 safari.The country offers a lot of diversity with its cities, beaches, culture, and of course safaris. If it’s a Big 5 African safari you’re after, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the place to go. Of the Big 5, the leopard is the most elusive of all. However, they are frequently spotted on game drives in the Sabi Sand. There are a number of excellent lodges to choose from, but a few of our favorite go-to places that provide unparalleled luxury and service in the bush are Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Singita Ebony Lodge, and Leopard Hills.

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Outside of South Africa, the Big 5 gets a little trickier to spot, but not impossible! In Botswana, head to Mombo Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve located in the northern part of the country. Big game viewing is particularly good in this region with incredible lion sightings. Thanks to the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Program, black and white rhino have been reintroduced to the area, meaning it is possible to have a Big 5 safari here. In addition, you can also see cheetah, wild dog, and hyena in the Moremi Game Reserve.

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Like Botswana, it’s possible to have a Big 5 safari in Kenya, but more difficult than in South Africa. The elusive leopard is going to be the hardest to find here. Your best bet for a Big 5 safari in Kenya is to head to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where you’ll find one of the highest densities of wildlife in Kenya. Some 12% of Kenya’s population of black and white rhinos make their home here, as well as large herds of elephant, buffalo, lions, and the world’s single largest population of Grevy’s zebra. Make your base at Sirikoi Lodge or Lewa House for effortless luxury in the bush.

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To start planning your Big 5 safari, contact your Ker & Downey designer.