The African continent, with its diverse landscapes & natural habitat, creates an ideal home for different types of wildlife species. The Big Five are unarguably one of the major tourist attractions in Africa and includes lions, elephants, leopards, Cape buffaloes and rhinos. We have rounded up the ten best places where you could see the Big Five during your safari trip to Africa.
Best Time to Visit Africa to See Big Five
July to October is the peak season when tourists visit Africa to see the big five and other wildlife. During this time, the weather in Africa is dry and cool. Lack of rain makes the vegetation sparse, so it is easier to see the wildlife compared to other seasons when the vegetation is lush. There are better chances of leopard sightings during this time, as they prefer to rest on trees during winter. Also, the lack of rains forces out many animals to be drawn towards the permanent waterholes such as lakes and rivers, making it easier to spot them.
Best Places to See the Big 5 Animals
- Masai Mara in Kenya
Largely known for its wildebeest migration, Masai Mara in Kenya is home to all of the big five animals. Lions and cheetahs are commonly found here. You can also see leopards. The chances of seeing rhinos are less unless you venture to the well-known Lake Nakuru National Park, wherein both white and black rhinos are found. You will probably find them in small family groups grazing around the lake.
- Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best places for wildlife viewing along with the Serengeti National Park, making them a hotspot for a great safari experience in Tanzania. At these national parks, you can see a healthy population of black rhinos. Along with the wildebeest migration that takes place from November to July, you can also spot big predators like lions. During the dry season, sightings of leopards increase. These elusive cats are common in the Seronera area of the Serengeti National Park.
- Kruger National Park in South Africa
This national park is one of the most famous big five hot spots. Almost the size of a small country, the Kruger National Park has a wide variety of wildlife animals. To spot the Big five, head over to South Kruger, where you can spot lions, buffaloes, and elephants. You can also spot white rhinos here, which is an amazing experience. Also, if luck is by your side, you could spot the elusive leopards.
- Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa
Part of the same ecosystem as the Kruger National Park, this private game reserve is another best place to find all the Big five animals in one place. With guided safari drives, open vehicles are permitted for the tourists at this game reserve. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve makes an excellent place for sightseeing, as the animals are more relaxed here. The biggest star of the national park is the leopard. You would find them in abundance here compared to any other safari destination of Africa. You can spot them while hunting their prey or get a chance to see the females nursing their cubs or even while mating!
- Okavango Delta in Botswana
The Okavango Delta is one of the most iconic destinations of Botswana with a great wildlife habitat that is home to all of the big five. Elephants and buffaloes flourish in this area, making it easier to spot them even from a distance. You could also see some of the big cats here. However, sightings of rhinos are sparse. Aside from the wildlife, you can also explore the surrounding landscape and the delta channels by Mokoro.
- Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe
A world heritage site, Mana Pools is located near the Zimbabwe river. It is known for its adventure activities such as canoe rides, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, etc. At this national park, you are likely to come across Cape buffaloes and elephants drinking at the river. Pride of lions also frequent the river, providing you with an uninterrupted view of all these majestic wildlife animals at one go.
- Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda
Home to several hippos and crocodiles, you can also find elephants and buffaloes along the shores of this national park. Even though you won’t spot all of the big five animals here, you could still enjoy the spectacular beauty of this picturesque national park.
- Akagera National Park in Rwanda
A place for the classic Rwanda safari is the Akagera National Park. Popular for its mountain gorillas and the big five, the wildlife at this national park was once highly depleted due the excessive warfare and poaching. But, it has since then grown in numbers, now having a healthy population of various wildlife species. With the introduction of rhinos and lions in 2017, Akagera is another place that should be a part of your safari itinerary.
- Majete Game Reserve in Malawi
The Majete Game Reserve is an excellent example of one of the modern environmental successes. Before 2003, the park was fully hunted-out. But, after coming under the African safari management, around 5000 individual animals have been reintroduced here, including the Big Five. Even though animal sightings at this game reserve require a lot of patience; the raw, unspoiled beauty of this place is truly unbeatable.
- Etosha National Park, Namibia
This national park lacks the presence of buffaloes but has a large population of elephants and lions. It is also the best place to see black rhinos. Etosha National Park is one of the largest (and oldest) national parks in Africa. You could also spot leopards here, but the sightings are quite rare, as these shy big cats tend to hide behind the dense vegetation.
To sum up,
Above are just a few places where you could find the big five. Apart from these animals, Africa consists of a huge diversity of wildlife and is home to some of the incredible wildlife species that are indigenous to this region. To know more and to get a detailed information on other African safari animals, check out this in-depth infographic.