Regardless of the TV documentaries and movies you have watched over the years on Africa, nothing prepares you for the real thing. Africa’s big game strongholds are sometimes the size of entire countries!
Among the finest wildlife areas where you are able to see the Big Five (although nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to animal sightings) are South Africa’s Kruger National Park and private reserves like Sabi Sands, Eastern Cape, Madikwe and Timbavati, Kenya’s Masai Mara and Laikipia and Tanzania’s Serengeti.
With just a handful of regions boasting all of the species, now is the time to get to Africa on a Big Five safari. Rhino numbers are dropping faster than flies and they are not visible easily so we will always chat with you about what it is you want to see in the wild.
So what makes up Africa’s big five safari? You will travel through some of Africa’s finest wilderness in search of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.
Along the way you’ll see other natural wonders of the continent, different cultures and stay in some outstanding safari accommodation from tented safari holiday camps to luxury safari lodges.
We saw the “Big Five” in the first couple of days of our safari and was always overwhelmed to see them again and again. It was not only the Big 5 that we loved seeing, all the animals were fantastic.
When to Go
If you want a Big Five Safari holiday, some months in some countries are better than others. Wildlife are drawn to water when it’s hot so sightings often become easier whilst other seasons offer perfect conditions for mating and having their young. So it comes down to what you really want to experience on your safari holiday in terms of wildlife, wilderness, activities and of course the pace you prefer to travel.
Good to Know
Not all regions have the big five, so it is important to realise that up front. Secondly, wildlife sightings are never guaranteed as they are unpredictable in their behaviour and heavily influenced by weather patterns. So you may need to visit a few different regions which will guarantee a diversity of landscapes, wildlife sightings and safari activities and experiences.
Kruger National Park
Internationally famous, the Kruger is a popular safari holiday destination for international travellers and local holiday makers, that means it gets really busy. So we prefer private concession areas within the Kruger so it reduces the number of vehicles and people that will be drawn to wildlife sightings. There is nothing worse than sitting with ten other vehicles around one poor leopard up a tree trying to get respite from the searing summer heat or lions feeding on a kill. Chances are strong to see the big five here, hence it’s popularity. Accommodation is abundant with diversity of styles, options and price levels.
Sabi Sand Private Reserve
This is our personal favourite of all the private reserves as it has a strong commitment to conservation of wildlife and community culture. Sustainable tourism initiatives are supported by every guest simply by staying at one of the accommodations here. Of course the highlight is an abundant number of leopard, strong lion prides, good elephant and buffalo numbers and of course the endangered rhino. We always recommend at least 3 – 5 nights here in one or two different properties so you get to truly immerse yourself in the wilderness and experience outstanding game drives with passionate guides. Don’t miss the treehouse sleepout either… nothing beats falling asleep to the sounds of roaring lions under Africa’s sky of stars.
Kenya’s flagship wilderness, the Masai Mara has outstanding wildlife numbers at all times of year, not just during the great wildebeest migration. Nothing beats heading out in 4×4 or on foot with a local, professional Masai guide who can share stories of the wilderness with you and impart some of his passion for wildlife conservation. Accommodation here is abundant in the main national park and private reserves scattered throughout and bordering. Different times of year offer different wildlife experiences, so chat with your specialist to determine when suits you best.
Once home to enormous private cattle ranches and estates, Laikipia is now one of Kenya’s most outstanding big five safari wildlife destinations. It is well respected for its commitment to conservation and preservation of the big five plus African wild dog, sitatunga antelope and endemic species namely Gevy’s Zebra and reticulated giraffe. Importantly, Laikipia is home to 50% of Kenya’s rhino population and there are some breeding sanctuaries for both the white and black rhino in the area run by outstanding conservationists and wildlife experts. Accommodation is sparse which means a more intimate safari experience with less vehicle traffic.
Serengeti is a sensational, enormous national park and home to the big five. Whilst there is proof of this claim, you are unlikely to see rhino as they reside in a very small and well protected wilderness area to ensure their safety. So we always ensure guests experience the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater because it is home to a decent number of black rhino that are best spotted on afternoon game drives. Tarangire National Park has the most outstanding elephant population and so a northern circuit private 4×4 safari in Tanzania is the ultimate for seeing the big five.
South Africa is home to two fantastic malaria free regions where Big Five wildlife safaris are a specialty. The North West boasts Madikwe, Pilansberg, Waterberg whilst the Eastern Cape is home to Shamwari, Addo Elephant Park, Kwandwe, Amakhala and more. Both regions are easily accessed and offer affordable to high end uber luxury safari accommodation with some of the continent’s best family safari properties. The wildlife is outstanding, service friendly and so your experience is guaranteed to be truly unforgettable.
Kruger …WOW!!! Definitely the highlight of our trip! We saw the big 5 in about a day and a half! We were very fortunate. Our guide was fantastic, always tracking and spotting animals light, right and centre. He was always the first to track and find the animals and would then radio the other guides.
We saw the “Big Five” in the first couple of days of our safari and was always overwhelmed to see them again and again. It was not only the Big 5 that we loved seeing, all the animals were fantastic, I think my favourite may have been the giraffes and zebras, but hard to pick a favourite.
The wildlife in the Serengeti were our highlight! We were mock charged by elephants, saw numerous prides of Lions, many leopard sightings, cheetahs, plenty of buffalo and final Rhinio! At Ndutu, during the first night, a lion woke us sniffing around our tent. The second night we awoke again to a lion outside out tent and drinking the water from our wash basin!
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