What Are the Big 5 on African Safaris?

Lion Safari Africa

You might have noticed that many safari lodges refer to the Big 5. If you are planning a safari holiday you will want to know what wildlife you have the chance to see. Whilst there will be other animals in addition to the big 5, it is certainly a good place to start.

So what animals comprise the Big 5 on African safaris:


Most safari reserves will have lions. If they are at the top of your list make sure that you check the lion population at your chosen reserve. Try to find out if they are seen regularly.


Never assume that a reserve will have elephants. Some of the smaller private reserves do not have them. Or might only have a few. If elephants are at the top of your list, do some research before choosing a reserve.


Leopards are notoriously difficult to see. Just because a reserve has a leopard population does not mean that you will see one.


Rhinos can be very elusive. It is understandable why they avoid humans. They have been hunted close to extinction. Only 5000 black rhino remain in the wild in Africa. There is hope, as the white rhino numbers are up to 20,000 now. There were fewer than 100 in 1895.


The African Buffalo or Cape Buffalo makes up the final member of the big 5. Whilst they do not tend to be at the top of anyone’s list. It is still fantastic to see these creatures in their natural habitats. Buffalo in Africa is thought to have killed more big game hunters than any other animal.

Why are they called the Big 5?

Sadly the name is thought to originate from big game hunting. The big 5 being the 5 most difficult big mammals to hunt. Some say it is based on how dangerous the animals were to hunt. In my opinion, it is a shame that it is still used so widely. I am completely against hunting. In my experience the lodges I have stayed in and the rangers that I have met are widely anti-hunting too. So do not let this put you off going on safari.

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