In Africa, the term “Big Five” is a hangover from the bygone days of big game hunters, who coined the phrase for the five most difficult animals to hunt by foot. Thankfully, these days we only hunt the Big Five with our cameras!

The Big Five top the list for every safari-goer, particularly those who are visiting Africa for the first time. Lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino are best spotted on guided game drives and bush walks.

Here’s what to look out for to see these magnificent animals in the wild:


Lion prides tend to prefer grassy or open woodland areas and are difficult to spot when lying down as their coats blend in with the grass. They’re more active in the early morning or at dusk when they get ready to hunt. During these “peak” times it’s a good idea to visit waterholes known to attract predators.

Lion and lioness in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

Best place to see lions: Kenya’s Masai Mara, made famous by movies and television series (recently the BBC’s Big Cat Diary series), has more than 3,500 lions.


Africa’s most elusive big cat, the leopard is a nocturnal and solitary animal. Well camouflaged by their coats, they’re most commonly found in trees with big branches, which is why when you’re on safari, don’t forget to look up!

Leopard in the Kruger Park, South Africa.

Best place to see leopard: The Sabi Sand Game Reserve in the Kruger Park, South Africa has more African leopards than anywhere on the planet.


While typically found in large herds, buffalo are surprisingly harder to spot than one would think, as they tend to move throughout the day. However, rivers and waterholes are a good bet to see these magnificently heavyset and horned animals.

African buffalo in the Kruger Park, South Africa.

Best place to see buffalo: Large herds can be seen along the Chobe River in Botswana, while the Kruger Park in South Africa is also an excellent destination for buffalo sightings.


The world’s largest land mammal is generally easy to spot. Elephants love water and will frequently congregate at water holes or rivers during the dry season or rub up against trees in woodland areas.

Elephant in Chobe National Park, Botswana.

Best place to see elephant: Chobe National Park in Botswana has big numbers of elephants (up to 70,000) and some of Africa’s biggest elephants.


In Africa, rhinos are threatened by poaching, habitat loss and political conflict. As such, they’re very well tracked and monitored, and you’re pretty much guaranteed sightings in smaller, private reserves on guided game drives and bush walks.

Rhino and calf in Lewa Plains, Kenya.

Best place to see rhino: Head to Etosha National Park in Namibia for thrilling sightings of black rhino, or witness rhino on the open plains of Lewa Plains and the Masai Mara in Kenya.

Want to see the Big Five on safari in Africa? Contact Explorer for tailor-made travel in Africa.

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