The Big Five African Animals You Can See on Safari


For those contemplating a safari in Africa, they will no doubt already have heard about the ‘Big Five.’ While there are many stunning animals and birds in Africa, most people are there to catch a glimpse of these five amazingly majestic creatures.

The name big five comes from the early game hunters, who realized that these five animals; the African lion, the African leopard, the African elephant the Cape buffalo and the rhino were the hardest to catch and therefore the best prize. Thankfully today, the phrase means the five that you must see when you go to the safari.

So, whether you are going to see the zebras in Kenya or go on a Wildebeest migration safari in Tanzania, you will want to be looking out for these big five as well.

African Elephant

The African elephant is the heaviest and biggest land animal in the world. The biggest ever recorded weighed in at an enormous 10 tons or 22,000 pounds. They can be found in 37 countries because they are so adaptable to their surroundings.

African elephants have inch thick skin, to protect them from thorns and large ears to help regulate their body temperature.

They are very social animals and live in matriarch-led groups of up to 100. The young female calves usually stay with the herd for life, while the males leave to create bachelor groups. They then look for a herd of their own.

They have been hunted for many years because of the ivory trade, so national parks such as those in Africa have helped to protect them from poachers.

You can see them at many national parks including Addo Elephant National Park, Chobe National Park, and Hwange National Park.

ElephantAfrican Lion

The second largest cat in the world after the tiger, the African lion is a majestic animal that lives in prides. They predominantly hunt during the night and sleep during the day for up to 20 hours. That is why when they are seen on safari; they are often asleep.

The males protect the pride while the lionesses are the ones who go out to hunt and raise the cubs. Although lions can live up to 14 years, they are often involved in fights with rival males and die earlier.

Unfortunately, the lions only real predator ishumans, who have been hunting them to the point that they are now considered vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

You can see lions at KgalagadiTransfrontier Park, Botswana, Maasai Mara National Reserve and NgorongoroConservation Area. Tanzania.

LionAfrican Leopard

The African leopard is a naturally shy and nocturnal big cat that is quite elusive. They spend many hours hidden away during the day, which can make them difficult to spot in a safari. They are excellent tree climbers and can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour and jump up to 10 feet in height. Their territories are large, and they seldom stay in the same place for more than a few days.

They are one of the few big game species still found outside of national parks. That said, they are still killed by farmers protecting their livestock, or they are chased out of their habitat by farmland. They are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

You can see leopards at the Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa; Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana; and Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

LeopardCape Buffalo

These animals are found in water-rich game reserves and throughout the sub-Saharan Africa.

They are formidable looking creatures and can weigh up to 920 kilograms. Their horns are very strong, and they are known for being bad tempered, especially when being threatened. They are, however, very protective of their own kind especially those who are sick or young. When they come across a lion, they will encircle the weaker ones to protect them.

They like to eat tall grass, and so they cannot live in the desert, preferring the grasslands which are near water.

Cape buffalo are still considered a big trophy for game hunters, which is why they are often found in reserves. They are also susceptible to the same diseases that affect cattle.

You can see Cape buffalo at Kruger National Park, South Africa; Chobe National Park, Botswana; and Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.

White and Black RhinoWhite Rhino

Although they are called the white and black rhino, they are the same color, the only difference between them is the shape of their mouths. While the black rhino has a pointed mouth, the white rhino has a flat, wide mouth.

Unfortunately, rhinos have been one of the most hunted animals by big game hunters, and as such, their numbers are low. It is estimated that there are only 5,000 black rhinos and 20,000 white rhinos left in the world. The black rhinohas been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Black rhinos have a reputation for being grumpy and solitary animals. The white rhino, however, normally live in pairs and like grazing on the open savannah.

You can find rhinos in Etosha National Park, Namibia; HluhluweImfolozi Park, South Africa; and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya.

Because these animals are often roaming throughout the reserve, it can be difficult to locate them when you want to see them. This is where the experience of your safari guide will be invaluable. They will be able to assess where they think the animals might be. It could mean that you will need to get up quite early to see some of the animals, but this will give you a greater chance of spotting one.

Of course, apart from the big five, there are many other fascinating animals and birds that you can find on safari, so make sure you have a good reference guide to help you identify all the animals you see. If you get the opportunity to go on a trek, then you should take the chance as there are often many animals you miss when on the truck.





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