To go on a journey—that is the meaning of the word ‘safari’ in Swahili. And it is exactly what travelling after and searching for the members of the illustrious Big 5 will be like on a trip to Africa. There will be countless opportunities to observe the must-see lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo in their natural habitat across the continent.
Long shedding their tag as the “most dangerous animals to hunt on foot” (a term coined by the big-game hunters of yesteryear), these days the Big 5 provide thrilling experiences for visitors to. They don’t occur anywhere else in the world as a group and have become synonymous with musing over the wildlife of Africa.
This elite group of species are most widely spread across southern and eastern Africa while fragmented populations occur in central Africa. They exist in a variety of landscapes and habitats, from open plains and grassland savannah to forests and deserts. Just like other inhabitants of the natural world, they tend to be located where food and water are abundant.
There are a handful of destinations and specialised activities that can be considered when intending to marvel at the majestic and iconic Big 5 of Africa. This includes game drives—guided or self-drive—as well as bush walks and hiking trails, boat and canoe-excursions, and horseback and balloon safaris in varied locations such as national parks and private reserves.
The best time to plan a safari to Africa is during the cooler winter months between July to October. The foliage is less dense which makes it easier to spot the Big 5 as the animals tend to congregate around available water sources.
The Big 5 are not immune to the threats of man due to poaching and urbanisation. The black rhino is classified as critically endangered and the white rhino as near threatened. The status of lion, leopard, and elephant is regarded as vulnerable, while the Cape buffalo falls in the category of least concern.