Big Five Safaris
Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino – Africa’s mammal A-list.
Africa’s Iconic Big Five
When considering where to go on safari an obvious question will be what will I see? The answer, pretty much everywhere, is a huge amount – but the truth is that certain animals generate more excitement than others, the charismatic megafauna hogging the limelight over the more esoteric.
At the very top of this pyramid lie the Big Five which has become safari shorthand for the animals that everybody really wants to encounter. The term “Big Five” derives from the early days of the Great White Hunter and the species therein were considered the most challenging and sporting to shoot – which explains why some of the other iconic beasts of the African savanna – giraffe, zebra, wild dog, cheetah, wildebeest, hippos and crocs don’t make the list.
It’s now in general safari parlance as the most sought after mammals, not to shoot, but to see – and to get a full house is akin to hitting a six or knocking the baseball out of the park, it doesn’t get better than that. While we might contend that there are less grevy’s zebra than black rhino, there is no argument that encountering a Rhino is a very special experience.
The “Big Five” has also become shorthand for both the ecology and conservation status of any particular area. Any wilderness where all the Big Five naturally occur is going to be a classic – somewhere in East or Southern Africa which is well worth visiting. Buffalo – probably the easiest of the group to encounter – require lots of space, grass and water. Lions, once widespread across Africa are now almost entirely restricted to formally protected wildlife areas. Leopard remain widespread but in order to have any chance of seeing them must live in a place free from harassment, otherwise they melt into the cover. Rhino and elephant have to have both space and protection. Any Big Five area that has successfully protected all of the Big Five, particularly rhino and elephant, against the relentless onslaught of commercial poaching over the last few decades is one that is a conservation success.
“Big Five” areas can be relatively small – the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater has to be along the smallest at 100 square miles – or enormous, the Kruger National Park qualifies and is one if the largest parks in Africa. They can be fairly obscure, Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park is one while the more famous South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi Parks are not, similarly Meru in Kenya fits the bill while Amboseli does not. There are of course many Parks which host 4 of the 5 (in most cases having lost rhino sadly) which are irrefutably worth visiting – but the concept of “the Big Five” will always remain special and the kudos given to anywhere successfully protecting these magnificent creatures should be celebrated.
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- Mega buffalo herds on the plains of Katavi National Park
- Visit the place of elephants: Gonarezhou National Park
- Tracking leopard in Ruaha National Park
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Highlights for Big Five Safaris
Often the best safaris involve looking beyond the obvious highlights. It’s about the exhilarating encounters that will make your heart sing. These are encounters that nobody could ever predict, but that make your safari genuinely unique.
BEST TIME TO SEE THE BIG FIVE
The best chance of encountering the Big Five is in the dry season, when access across vast areas is at its greatest, the bush has died back sufficiently making sighting them more likely, and last remaining water sources make the concentration of mammals much greater.
East African seasons are harder to predict than the south where it’s generally wet from mid-November to late April – in East Africa steer clear of March, April and November.
BEST TIME TO SEE THE BIG FIVE
From authentic safari experiences to luxury escapes, we create entirely unique itineraries that are bespoke to each client’s desires. Take a look at some of the tailor-made trips we’ve created previously. Itineraries
Top Parks for spotting the Big Five
- The wildebeest migration
- Huge density of mammals
- Variety of experience
- Beautiful camps & lodges
- Strike out on a walking safari
- Take your camp with you on an authentic mobile safari
- Colourful carmine bee eaters
- Great for leopard
- Huge elephant population in dry season
- Superb guiding on foot and traditional 4×4
- Walking safaris amongst the best anywhere in Africa
- Size and variety of the park’s landscape
- Embark on a private expedition
- The winding waterways of the Delta
- Experience safari by mokoro
- Camping on islands
- Home to greatest migration on earth
- Classic African safari scenery
- Sweeping plains and epic wildlife
- Acacia trees across the horizon
- Brilliant walking off the beaten track
- Low visitor numbers
- Variety of breathtaking scenery
- Iconic baobab forests
- Excellent choice of superb private game reserves
- Guaranteed big five sightings
- One of the best known wildlife areas in the world
- Luxurious safari lodges
- Pristine wilderness
- Wild plains of Africa
- Low visitor numbers
- Combines perfectly with the Mahale Mountains
“The less-is-more formula Natural High advocates makes complete sense. Luxury lies in exposing the sensory, instinctive self to the scents and sounds of the wild.– DIANE FOSSEY
Our Favourite Camps & Lodges
A luxury mobile camp that moves seasonally to position itself perfectly to follow the wildebeest migration as they move around this vast National Park.Learn More
If a camp could be cloned and replanted in every wild place worth visiting it would be Musekese as it’s everything that a safari camp should be.Learn More
The camp is well suited for people who enjoy the bush without the fanfare. Its simplicity is what makes it, along with the great all round wildlife experience.Learn More
The camp commands stunning views over the plains and the open fronted dining room gives a very pleasant feeling of being a part of the landscape.Learn More
Wildlife is not a highlight here, but you do stand the chance of seeing a real gem such as wild dog, if you have the patience to look.Learn More
See the Big Five on foot
The world renowned Serengeti National Park is a good option for not only seeing the Big Five but you also have the chance to do whilst on foot.
All of the Big Five can be found here, as well as the park hosting the biggest mammal migration in the world. Strike out with an experienced armed guide, tracker and lightweight camp on an unbeatable walking safari across the vast plains of the Serengeti.
From Our Travel Guides
About the Serengeti Plains Formation
Tanzania’s Top Safari Highlights
The Best Small Safari Camps in Tanzania
Meet Our Travel Experts
It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary. The Natural High team have unrivalled experience and will take your ideas and turn them into your trip of a lifetime.
Into The Wild Brochure
Need some more inspiration? Request a copy of Into The Wild, our comprehensive anthology of safaris and wilderness travel.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
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Although our holiday was expensive, it was very well planned and the lodging and guides were outstanding….
John and Laurie Neufeld ..
Catherine put together an excellent tour package that encompassed Victoria Falls and the Garden Route in South Africa. This was the second time we hav…
Tim & Linda Robinson ..
Excellent photographic safari to South Luangwa lead by Simon Stafford.
Kafunta camp in South Luangwa was excellent, exceeding all our expectation. The staff and guilds were superb, so friendly, with nothing being too much…
John & Sally
I would use this company again.
Natural High Safaris planned the perfect trip for us. From the locations, the specific camps, to the order in which we visited the camps – it was all…
Much higher than high!
This was our third bespoke safari with Natural High Safari. Catherine Ronan with her resourceful exuberance has given us trips for life every time. No…
Sunita & Jayesh Gajjar CR
Another superb walking holiday in Zambia accompanied by Natural High’s Rod
A well planned and brilliantly executed itinerary, originally compiled three years’ ago and which NH rolled over twice, in the process accommodating t…
Charles & Jo Mercey
Excellent service! Simply, the best!!
Excellent service all along the planning process! And throughout the trip, everything worked out perfectly!! Vanessa Janion gave us a very personal s…
A trip we will never forget.
We were very happy with our trip. Our lodges, the people who worked there and our guides (Benson and Yasini) were awesome. We loved Tanzania and it’…
Covered all the different territories of Morocco.
Excellent service-would recommend-went above and beyond our expectations-very enjoyable and memorable vacation…
Natural High Safaris are exceptional, expert tour operators. 5 stars *****
Natural High Safaris are fantastic tour operators whom we have used numerous times. We recently had a wonderful trip to Namibia organised by Catherin…
James & Cecily Rogers CR
Never so pampered in my life while seeing iconic images for real
We worked with two tour groups. The other tour group was more helpful with respect to details about going to Kenya (background info, customs, common p…
Judith and Matt Ochs
Fabulous trip. The trek in the Atlas Mountains was superb
Highly recommended. The hotels recommended were great, all the logistics worked perfectly. The trek in the Atlas Mountains was amazing. The guide was …
Jonathan and Jill Whitehead VJ
Great birding and walking holiday in Kenya
Natural High provided us with excellent advice as to where we should stay in Kenya: we wanted to walk and our main interest was birds. Laikipia (stayi…
Charles & Jo
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Victoria Foot CR
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I would like to thank you for an amazing holiday you created for us. Luckely we could leave on Nov 30th with Ethiopian. The arrival in Tanzania was …
Benny Lecocq VJ
Excellent bespoke service. A fantastic trip that went beyond our expectations. Have used them previously and will continue to do so – they know their …
Our second unforgettable trip with Natural High, hopefully not the last!
Fantastic Christmas trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, organised at very short notice. Wonderful staff at every camp, an unforgettable family experience. …
Claire & George
Outstanding customer service well above the call of duty.
Natural High arranged a trip to remember …accommodation first class, transportation on very long road trips was excellent. Spotless . air conditioni…
Personal service and excellent organisation
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