Africa’s Big 5 game should need no introduction; they are, of course the Lion, Rhino. Elephant, Leopard, and Cape Buffalo. The opportunity to get up close and personal to these legendary animals is a huge factor in so many people travelling to Africa, so to celebrate National Wildlife Day which was earlier this week, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the Big 5; giving you fascinating facts and very useful information on when and where you can find these famous five creatures.
Big 5 Facts
- A lion can sleep for up to 20 hours a day.
- Female lions are more active hunters than male lions.
- A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles (8 km) away.
- An adult elephant eats up to 375lbs of plant material a day. No animal does more damage to Africa’s vegetation – but this is necessary due to the elephant’s huge size.
- A young elephant will leave its family between the age of ten to twelve.
- Elephants use a wide range of sounds to communicate with each other, sounds which can be heard up to six miles away.
- African elephants are easy to differentiate from their Asian cousins, their ears are helpfully shaped just like Africa.
- An adult white rhino can weigh up to an impressive 6000 lbs.
- A rhino horn weighs up to 6 to 8 lbs, and is made from keratin, the same substance which forms our hair and fingernails.
- The rhinoceros is surprisingly fast, it can sprint up to 35 mph.
- Cape Buffalos live in large herds of up to 1,000.
- Cape Buffalos protect their calves by placing them in the middle of the herd so that they can be guarded by the adults.
- The Ox-Pecker is a bird who The Cape Buffalo shares a mutually beneficial relationship with. The bird will sit on the Cape Buffalo’s back and feed on parasites, making the buffalo much more comfortable, while the Ox-Pecker gains a free meal.
- Leopards are considered loners; they’re solitary and won’t stay in one place for more than a few days.
- Leopards will pull their kill up into trees so that lions and hyenas can’t steal it from them.
- Leopards are very athletically gifted: they are excellent swimmers and can jump up to ten feet or three metres high.
Where will I find the Big 5?
- Kenya - East Kenya is home to thousands of hectares of national parks and protected land, the most well-known being the Maasai Mara and the Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Parks. The sheer collective size of these parks and their diverse terrain make them a great place to see the Big 5. Not to mention, if you visit at the right time of year, you may also bear witness to the iconic Wildebeest Migration, another wildlife viewing experience which can't be missed.
- South Africa - South Africa’s most iconic game-viewing destination and one of Africa's largest parks, the Kruger National Park is spread across an astounding two million hectares of land in the far north-eastern corner of South Africa. As the oldest, largest, and most well-established park in the country, Kruger is home to the highest population-density of the Big 5 in South Africa. It’s unfenced neighbour, the Sabi Sand Region, shares the park’s prolific abundance of wildlife. Despite its world famous appeal, the Greater Kruger Area isn't the only place to enjoy a Big 5 safari in South Africa. A well-kept secret just a short transfer away from Johannesburg, Madikwe Game Reserve is an interesting mix of sub-tropical woodland and sandy savannah, and one of South Africa's largest game reserves at over 75,000 hectares.
- Tanzania - The Greater Serengeti ecosystem and its neighbouring regions offer some of the best Big 5 safari opportunities in the country. The landscape is an ever-changing mix of riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. The wildlife is free to wander across the Serengeti’s 1.5 million hectares, into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and back again. To the south is the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is the world's largest intact caldera, and boasts an abundance of wildlife including the Big 5.
- Zimbabwe - Hwange National Park is considered by many to be one of Africa's very best destinations for game-viewing. The huge park offers something for everyone, it can be explored on foot, on horseback, or on a game drive. The highly impressive range of wildlife which includes the Big 5, giraffe, hyena and wild dog, is reflected in the diversity of the landscapes across the park. The sandy southern part of the park sits alongside the Kalahari Desert and is decorated with shrubbery, while the northern grasslands are thick with granite outcrops and trees.
What’s the best time of year?
The peak safari season across Africa runs from around July to October. This coincides with the continent’s cool, dry winter. It becomes easier to find the Big 5 during these times because the lack of rain means the vegetation dries up and thins out, making the likes of a rhino or buffalo compared much more visible to the long, dense grass and heavy foliage of summer. This particularly applies to leopards, which spend much of their time in trees - in winter, the trees will have fewer leaves, making the sleek felines easier to spot.
Another reason for the animals being easier to spot is that the lack of rain also means that ponds, streams, puddles and smaller water courses dry up, forcing animals to congregate around the remaining large lakes and rivers.
Looking to embark on a safari holiday and encounter the famous Big 5? Get in touch with us by calling 020 7843 3500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org