Big Five Safaris in Africa
The Big Five was traditionally used as a hunting term to describe the five most dangerous animals in Africa to hunt. Their reputation has spilled over into the tourism industry and now elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino remain the most sought after species to see on the continent.
But they're not really the most dangerous animals in Africa. In fact, the two species that kill the most people are not even part of the Big Five; they are the tiny mosquito and the lazy hippo. Out of the Big Five, the black rhino is the hardest to find by far, with the leopard coming in at second place.
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What You Need To Know
There are a few sweet spots in southern Africa - the easiest places to spot the Big Five.
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater combined with the Serengeti are the most sought after Big Five safari experiences. Ngorongoro has a healthy black rhino population and some leopard in the Lerai fever tree forest. It also holds some of Africa’s biggest elephant alive today and good buffalo and lion numbers. It's tricky to spot leopard in Ngorongoro, but if you combine it with the Serengeti then you'll almost certainly see leopard in its Seronera or Lobo areas.
Namibia’s Etosha is an incredible dry season park and wonderful for black rhino. Lion, elephant and leopard are often seen at Etosha's waterholes but there are no buffalo. The Caprivi strip and the Waterberg close by are great for buffalo.
In Kenya, the Masai Mara may be a tricky place to see black rhino, but the rest of the Big Five is guaranteed. Combine the Mara with Lake Nakuru and you're bound to see the entire Big Five in Kenya.
In South Africa, it's easy to spot all the Five in the Sabi Sands, as the rangers and guides are excellent trackers and communicate constantly. Finding the Big Five in Kruger National Park on a self drive is far more challenging. The south of Berg-and-Dal is good for rhino, the north of Satara for lion and Lower Sabie and the Sabie River loops for leopard. Buffalo and elephant are easy to spot.
FAQs about Big Five Safaris in Africa
You can drive from Kigali to Akagera National Park via Rwamagana town (the entrance is only through the southern gate). The northern gate is currently only used for exit). The journey takes about 2 hours to get to the park's entrance. Those who do not want to drive the two hours can fly to the park using the services of Akagera Aviation.
Travel along the N1 through Polokwane (Pietersburg). Link up with the R524 at Makhado (Louis Trichard) and follow this route for 140km. This will bring you to the gate. Allow 5 to 6 hours for the journey to the gate. Pafuri Border Camp is about 70 kilometres from the gate. Allow plenty of time for the drive to the camp, especially if you want to take advantage of the game viewing opportunities!
The currency that you will be used in Kenya is the Kenyan shilling.
Selous Game Reserve has a variety of lodges and camps to choose from.
The Selous Game Reserve has so many wild animals living within its vast lands because of its elaborate and unique beauty; no wonder UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1982.
The Busanga Plains are located in the northwestern part of Zambia's Kafue National Park, which is one of the continent's largest protected areas.
According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, you should be up to date on routine vaccinations while travelling to any destination. Some vaccines may also be required for travel - such as Routine vaccines that make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine and your yearly flu shot. However, you will need to take Hepatitis A - CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis a through contaminated food or water in Zambia, regardless of where you are eating or staying. You will also need to take prescription medicine before, during and after your trip to prevent malaria. Your doctor can help you decide which medicine is right for you and also talk to you about other steps you can take to prevent malaria. Travellers can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Zambia. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travellers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas.
Electricity in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and in most of the continent is 220/240 volts. Most safari lodges and camps are not connected to an electrical supply. Solar lighting (backed up by batteries) is common, with many lodges having a generator, which runs part of the day (morning and late evening when guests are out on their activities). Lanterns also provide light at night. In many camps running on solar power, you will not be able to use a hairdryer.
Life on safari has a rhythm of its own, largely dictated by the animal's movements. Generally, the most rewarding times for game viewing is in the cooler early mornings and also late in the afternoons when the animals are most active. A typical day on safari will vary depending on the camp you’re staying at, but will include early morning and late afternoon game drives, with time during the hottest part of the day to relax in camp.
The term ‘Big Five’ refers to five of Africa’s greatest wild animals namely; lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino - Originally coined only by hunters. Hunters ranked African animals as to how dangerous they were to hunt, the Big Five were the most difficult animals to hunt on foot in Africa to the degree of danger involved.
You are putting yourself in a position where you are exposed to wild animals for which many of them are dangerous. However on a safari every precaution is made to ensure your safety when going on a game drives or walks. This is why it is of absolute importance that you listen to your well trained guide at all times, failure to do so might result in harm, however if you are respectful of your surroundings and the fact that you are in a wild place you will be perfectly safe and have an experience of a lifetime.
In some parts of Southern Africa, it is safe to drink tap water, however, it is highly recommended to stick to bottled water (mostly supplied) during your trip as even drinkable African water is completely different in taste and consistency from European, American or Asian water. In East Africa, specifically Kenya, however, water pathogens are a huge problem. So it is advised to always stick to bottled water.
Big Five Safaris in Africa
Each of our popular itineraries can be tailor-made to suit your budget as well as your specific interests.
Each of our popular itineraries can be tailor-made to suit your budget.
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Plan your safari with confidence. Refundable deposits and flexible rebooking terms standard on your Kenya safari.
What Destinations have Big Five Safaris in Africa