It doesn’t matter how niggling the thought was, or how fleeting it may have been, if you’ve ever considered a trip the Dark Continent then you will have thought about The Big Five. They are the animals that epitomize Africa and consist of the African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo, the African lion and the leopard.
The name derives from big game hunters from way back in the day, and it refers to those animals that were hardest to hunt on foot. But as outdated and wrong the history of the name is, the magic remains. These animals are just breathtaking, in every sense of the word, which is why we have listed the places where you are most likely to catch a glimpse with your own eyes.
King Of The Savannah
The lion is the most notorious of The Big Five, the famous of all the animals and the most terrifying of all the cats. What’s most interesting, though, is that it is also the only species of cat to live in groups or, as they are most aptly called, prides. These beasts are phenomenal in every way imaginable; from their presence to the appearance, their hierarchy to their speed, they are phenomenal. If you want to spot one for yourself, though, we recommend you head to the Kruger National park in South Africa where there are about 1600 lions wandering the bush.
The Endangered Rhino
Rhinos are amazing creatures. Huge, powerful, mesmerizing, loyal and immensely defensive of their own; all of which you ill understand the moment you see one in the flesh. Unfortunately, they are also incredibly vulnerable, which is why there are so many rhino conservation projects doing fantastic work to keep these amazing creatures from plummeting even further down the endangered list. Both white and black are in steep decline, mainly due to poachers. This makes seeing rhinos a challenge, but if you go to Namibia, and to the Etosha National Park, you may catch a glimpse of them at night, rolling in the mud at a watering hole. Maybe. Other than that, your best chance is to work as a volunteer and help save these animals first hand.
The Tough Spot
Leopards are notoriously hard to spot on a safari because of their knack to stay hidden. It is what makes them one of the most feared hunters on the continent, that and the fact they tend to operate in solitude, rarely interacting with their own kind. They are also nocturnal, using ambushes to great effect. Basically, they will only be seen if they want to be seen, which begs the question, where do you go to see this incredibly impressive stalker and ruthless killer? Well, the Serengeti in Tanzania is favorite statistically because of its healthy population. In terms of exactly where most sightings have occurred in the river valleys, but no guarantees we’re afraid.
An Elephant Never Forgets
If the lion is the King of the Savannah then the elephant is the Giant of the Savannah; the gentle giant. These animals are simply breathtaking. It’s not only their size, it is their grace and elegance, their passivity and matriarchal behavior. They are the icons of Africa and the icons of a prehistoric time. These are the absolute must-see on our list because they put the big in the Big Five, which is why we implore you to head to Botswana, home to the Chobe National Park, which is home to over 50,000 elephants. So if you want to see elephants, why not see them in numbers, astonishing numbers, overwhelming and almost tear-jerking numbers. They really are astonishing.
The Cape Buffalo
This bovine is like no other on earth simply because it is fearsome and dangerous, but then what do you expect from an animal that has to survive the plains of Africa. The other thing to note is this, all other species of buffalo have been tamed; the Cape buffalo has not. Not ever. It is also considered to be the most dangerous of all of the animals in the Big Five. It is their size and it is the unpredictability. It is their huge horns and the huge numbers they travel in, sometimes 500 and more. Luckily, this makes them easy to spot on a safari, while their boss stature makes them amazing to photograph. We recommend you head back to the Kruger, simply because it has the widest array of animals, although Cape buffalo can be seen at every place on our list. Just remember to keep your distance.