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5 best safari destinations to spot the Big 5 animals

The Big 5 are among the most famous species in the Animal Kingdom. If you’re a wildlife-lover, seeing the Big 5 is most likely on your bucket list. But where is best to go? Read on to discover the best safari destinations to spot the Big Five.

The "Big Five" refers to five of the largest animals that can be seen in certain areas of Africa on safari - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. While the term was originally used by trophy hunters to refer to the most dangerous animals to hunt, thankfully in more recent times the "Big Five" is used to refer to some of the most exciting animals to spot on safari. 

Read on to discover the best safari destinations to spot the Big Five.

1. South Africa - Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of Africa’s largest game reserves, home to some 147 mammal species. One of our best-selling safari holidays is our South Africa and Eswatini Wildlife tour. On this trip we take an open-vehicle game drive in the park, stopping at watering holes in search of buffalo, antelope and lion. We also spend a night at a camp within Kruger National Park, maximising our chances of seeing the Big Five on an early morning game drive when cooler temperatures brings many animals out to the water holes.

We also offer a family safari tour to Kruger National Park – the Family South Africa Safari and Beach Adventure. Perfect for animal-mad kids, you’ll see an abundance of wildlife on this 12 day trip. We spend two nights in a camp in Kruger and go on plenty of game drives to (hopefully) see elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo.

2. Tanzania – Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater

Combine the Serengeti and the adjoining Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and you’ve got good chances of seeing the Big 5. We visit the Serengeti wildlife-rich area on our Serengeti Lodge Safari holiday. We visit and stay in the Serengeti, which means ‘endless grass plains’ in Masai. These vast grassy plains are home to wildebeest, prides of lions and African elephants, to name but a few. Visit between July and September and you may be lucky enough to witness ‘The Great Migration’. This is when huge numbers of wildebeest and other herbivores like zebra migrate across the Serengeti, on their way into Kenya’s Masai Mara to find richer pastures.

We recommend game drives in the Ngorongro Crater, the world’s largest caldera. The area has the highest density of lions and large numbers of wildebeest, gazelles and birds like flamingo and pelican. Black rhinos do live in the area and are part of a big conservation effort, so there are good chances of spotting the rarest of the Big 5 here.

3. Namibia – Etosha National Park and the Waterberg Plateau Park

Namibia’s landscape is much different to other safari destinations in Africa, with huge sand dunes and the vast Etosha Pan, the largest salt pan in Africa. Etosha National Park is home to four out of five of the Big 5, missing only the Cape Buffalo. However, buffalo can be sighted at nearby Waterberg Plateau. The country also has the largest population of wild cheetah, so sightings are likely here.

Our best-selling Namibia Lodge Safari tour visits both Etosha National Park and the Waterberg Plateau Park, giving great opportunities to spot all of the Big 5. We stay in perfectly-located safari lodges, ideal for seeing magnificent sunsets and then sitting under the brightly star-lit sky. Combine that with visiting the world’s highest sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert, meeting local Himba people and seeing ancient Bushmen rock art and you have a wonderfully varied and exciting holiday.  

4. Botswana – Moremi Game Reserve & Chobe National Park

Botswana’s landscape features vast plains and lush and fertile grasslands thanks to the Chobe River and swampy Okavango Delta. This makes it an ideal natural habitat for wildlife of all shapes and sizes, from birds including storks and cranes, to the huge African elephant and black rhino.

We visit two of the best parks for spotting the Big 5 on our Botswana safari tours – Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. The Big 5 are present in both parks, although like the other destinations the black rhino is rarer to see. Moremi’s mix of swamps, forests and dry land make it a wildlife haven for hundreds of species of birdlife and animals like the booming hippo. On our Botswana tours we stay on a houseboat in the Delta panhandle, giving the best opportunities to spot birds and animals throughout the day.

5. Kenya - Maasai Mara Game Reserve

The Maasai Mara, or just 'The Mara' as known by locals, is one of the world's most famous game reserves. Covering an area of 1,500 square kilometres, the Maasai Mara hosts one of the largest concentrations of animals anywhere in the world. On our Highlights of Kenya tour we spend three nights in the Maasai Mara at a comfortable lodge located along the Talek River, at the confluence of the Maasai Mara's four wildlife viewing areas. 

Go on morning and afternoon game drives in search of the Big 5. The wildlife is prolific at any time of year, but during the months between the end of July and October, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra migrate into the Mara from the adjacent Serengeti National Park, in search of fresh grasses that flourish after the rains, often pursued by predators such as hyena, lion and cheetah.


Which safari will you choose?

No matter which safari destination you choose, we've got a thrilling trip to suit. Explore our range of safari tours to these animal-packed national parks, each with plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities and accommodation that will immerse you in the animal kingdom, like safari lodges and camping within the parks. We offer small group wildlife trips as well as family trips.
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