Every year safari-goers trek to the southern point of the African continent in search of the superstars of the famous bushveld—the Big 5 of South Africa. As one of only 13 countries where all five members of this illustrious group roam, South Africa is a prime destination to spot lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos.
Departing on game drives at dawn and dusk to observe these iconic species wandering free and wild in their natural habitat, is at the top of almost all safari bucket lists. And, if at first, they don’t succeed, visitors to these shores return again and again to discover more about each member of the Big 5.
Meet the Big 5 of South Africa
The king of the animal world rules supreme over the natural landscape of South Africa as the second-largest cat in the world. It occupies the top spot in the food chain and is regarded as an apex predator.
An expert in stalking and secretive by nature, the leopard is the most solitary of the Big Cats. Rosettes consisting of spots grouped tightly and arranged precisely on a cream-yellow fur, make for the ultimate camouflage uniform.
The African elephant is one of the most intelligent animals and can display a wide range of emotions. These include compassion, cooperation and grief.
Healthy populations continue to thrive in several protected national parks and private reserves in South Africa. Its unpredictable mood has given rise to nicknames such as “the widowmaker” and “the Black Death”.
There is a distinction between black and white rhinos when it comes to rearing calves. The calf of a white rhino cow runs in front of her while a black rhino calf runs behind the cow.
Where to See the Big 5 of South Africa
A variety of national parks and private reserves across South Africa are home to the Big 5, providing travellers plenty of opportunity and choice to find the perfect fit for their preferred safari experience—whether it be an all-inclusive and luxurious experience or a self-drive excursion.
Top Picks for Big 5 Safari Parks in South Africa:
When to See the Big 5 of South Africa
Although the country is a year-round safari destination, the best time to get acquainted with the South African world of the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo is undoubtedly during the dry and cool autumn and winter months from May to August. The landscape opens up, making it easier to spot members of the Big 5 lurking about. The lack of rain further forces the animals to congregate around available water sources where safari-goers are more often than not surprised by the appearance of these enigmatic species. The pleasant daytime temperatures during this time of the year is a bonus.
Travel tip: Pack a couple of layers as the nights are quite chilly.
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