big 5


Big 5 Animals – Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant & Cape Buffalo

big 5 uganda rwanda tour, uganda rwanda safariKidepo Valley National Park

The fauna that can be found on an African safari is as varied and vast as the continent’s landscape. Africa has more large animals than anywhere else in the world and is the only place on earth where vast herds still roam the plains. Most people want to see the Big 5, especially when they are booking their first safari.

The name “Big 5” has quite a significant history,  it goes all the way back to the hunting days when the Big 5 were the 5 most dangerous animals. In those days hunting parties travelled by foot, and a lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard or rhino could potentially kill you. Today it has become one of the most important criteria used in evaluating a lodge or reserve, though it should never be your only criterion.

Here are the Big 5:

The Lion: Known as the king of beasts—the Swahili word for lion, “simba,” also means “king,” “strong,” and “aggressive”—this proud animal was once found throughout the world. Today, the majority of the estimated 20,000 lions are found in sub-Saharan Africa—a small population is also found in India—in grasslands, savanna, and dense bush.

The Leopard: Secretive, stealthy, and shrewd, the leopard is the most successful predator of all Africa’s big cats. They are often difficult to spot on safari, primarily because they are nocturnal, but if you go on a night-game drive your chances will increase tremendously.

The Rhino: There are two species of these massive primeval-looking animals in Africa: the black, or hook-lipped rhino, and the white, or square-lipped rhino. Both species have poor eyesight but excellent hearing, and because of their erratic tempers, they may sometimes charge without apparent reason.

The Elephant: The largest of the land animals, elephants once roamed the continent by the millions. Today, the population, mainly found in southern and East Africa, is around 415,000 in the wild. The continent’s forest elephants make up a third to a quarter of that population.

The African Buffalo: Often referred to as the Cape buffalo, this is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the Big Five because of its unpredictability and speed. They have few predators other than human hunters and lions. It generally takes an entire lion pride to bring down an adult buffalo, although calves and weak or sick adults can be taken by wild dog and spotted hyena. Lions risk being mobbed by the herd when they do attack, and are sometimes trampled and gored.

Now you know the Big 5! Today, we find people hunting the Big  5 for very different reasons; hunting with their cameras for the best shots of these impressive animals, a treat to get in front of your lens. Knowing where to find them might help you narrow down the places you want to visit Africa on your first safari. From the Big 5, the two most elusive animals on a standard safari, are the rhino and the leopard, for different reasons. The rhino has unfortunately been wiped out in a lot of places due to poaching for its horn. The leopard is incredibly good in hiding, and that makes it hard to spot them, even though they can be found in most national parks, private conservancies and reserves.

Kenya is an excellent choice for a first safari and it offers many locations where you can try your luck at finding the Big 5. From the countries in East Africa, it has the most locations where all Big 5 can be found. Tanzania is another excellent choice to find your first set of Big 5 animals, tmost popular two places to search for the Big 5 in Tanzania are the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park, both excellent choices.

Uganda is not a country that comes up often when people talk about wanting to spot the big 5, but has several places where the buffalo, elephants, lions and leopards can be found. And if you add the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary to your itinerary then you can complete your list in Uganda too. You can also find the Big 5 in Rwanda. Although most visitors to Rwanda focus on trekking with the gorillas, this small country also has one national park where the Big 5 can all be spotted if you are lucky.

So, here is the list!! Most likeliy, it is in the order of best for first time safari clients!!

The Big 5 in Kenya

  1. Masai Mara National Reserve (Rhinos, leopards, lions, buffalo, and elephants)
  2. Nairobi National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  3. Meru National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  4. Borana Conservancy (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  5. Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  6. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy(Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  7. Tsavo East and West National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  8. Aberdares National Park ((Buffalo, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)*No lions here
  9. Lake Nakuru National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos and leopards,)* no elephants here

10 Solio Game Reserve (Buffalo, lions, rhinos and leopards,)* no elephants here


The Big 5 in Tanzania

  1. Ngorongoro Crater (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  2. Serengeti National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)
  3. Selous Game Reserve (Buffalo, lions, leopards, and elephants)*Most likely won’t see rhinos
  4. Mkomaz National Park (Buffalo, lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants)


The Big 5 in Uganda

  1. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (Where you can see rhinos in Uganda)
  2. Murchison Falls National Park (Buffalo, lions, leopards, and elephants)*no rhinos
  3. Queen Elizabeth National Park (Buffalo, lions, leopards, and elephants)*no rhinos
  4. Kidepo Valley National Park (Buffalo, lions, leopards, and elephants)*no rhinos


The Big 5 in Rwanda

  1. Akagera National Park (Buffalo, rhinos, lions, leopards, and elephants)

If you need a fully inclusive East African safaris that feature the Big 5, please let us know.  We know East Africa and we know how to put together a safari that suite your desires. We can as well combine or tailor your safari to include all highlights such as white water rafting, game viewing, gorilla trekking, cultural experiences among others.

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