Who Are the Big 5 Animals in Africa?

big 5 animals in Africa

The Big 5 Animals of Africa, namely the African Elephant, the Black Rhinoceros, the Cape Buffalo, the African Lion, and the African Leopard, are an embodiment of the grandeur and beauty of the wilderness. This term “Big Five” traces back to big-game hunters, referring to the five most challenging animals to hunt on foot. 

Today, these creatures have become the cynosure of wildlife enthusiasts and tourists, drawing them to the heart of Africa. They represent the perfect blend of power, majesty, and grace, each unique in their characteristics and behaviors.

Let us delve into an exploration of these magnificent beings, their habitats, behaviors, and the roles they play in the African ecosystem.

How to Book Your Big Five Animals Safari with Us

You can contact one of the best travel agencies in Kenya to book your safari and witness the big five game in Kenya. You can also send an email at  james@ajkenyasafaris.com or safarioffers@ajkenyasafaris.com.  You can also call or WhatsApp us at +254-748-258-880.

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Big Five Animals Facts - Characteristics of the Big Five Animals

The Big Five animals have specific characteristics that make them stand out from other African wildlife. We will look at some of  the facts and information related to these animals.

1. African Lions

With an estimated kill of over 15 big animals per year, it comes as no surprise that the lion is dubbed the king of the ‘jungle’. Africa alone has over 20,000 lions, making the continent your safest bet of lion safaris yet. Here are ten facts about lions that you should know as you look forward to your African safari adventure.

  • Lions have a lifespan of 10-14 years
  • Female lions do most of the hunting. Take that, male chauvinists!
  • This might come as a heartbreak to the lion king fans, but lions do not actually live in the jungle. They are found on the savannah grasslands
  • You can hear a lion roar from as far as 8kms away. Talk about that mighty roar!
  • That lion’s power comes from power naps that can last for over 20 hours per day.
  • Male lions typically weigh 190kgs while female lions weigh 130kgs
  • Lions have a maximum speed of 80km/h
  • The rate at which lion populations are dwindling worldwide has got the animal on the UN red alert
Lion - the king of the jungle
Lion is the King of the Jungle

2. African Elephants

Disney has half the world fooled with that elephant-are-afraid-of-the-mouse tale. Here are 5 legit elephant facts.

  • There are close to 500,000 elephants in Africa
  • Adult elephants have no prey. Baby elephants, however, are at risk of predator attacks.
  • There are 3 species of elephants; the Asian, African savannah, and African forest elephant. So no, an elephant isn’t just an elephant
  • We’ll tell you why you should not be under an elephant. Male elephants are as heavy as 7500kgs while female elephants can weigh up to 6,000kgs.
  • Think of elephant tusks as your incisors under enlargement. Elephant tusks are just elongated incisors
elephants in African - big 5 animals
An Elephant at Amboseli with Kilimanjaro

3. African Rhinos

Forget the white rhino-black rhino philosophy, both come in the same grey color. Here are five more interesting facts about rhinos.

  • The rhino is the second largest mammal on land with the black rhino weighing anywhere from 1000kgs and the white rhino from 3500kgs.
  • Rhinos can run as fast as 30km/hour over short bursts!
  • Running in a zigzag to escape a rhino is actually not a midwife’s Due to their humongous size rhinos cannot only run in a straight line.
  • Hard as the rhino horn may look, it is actually made from the same material your nails are made of.
  • Rhinos reportedly have very small brains but make no mistake, these creatures are as intelligent as dogs.
Rhino at Ol Pejeta
AjKenyaSafaris.com Car with a Rhino at Ol Pejeta

4. African Leopards

The leopard is a ruthless killer as it is a hunter. They slowly and quietly stalk their prey until a range of 10m is achieved. They then pounce on the unsuspecting prey, killing them with a lethal throat bite.  Here are five more interesting facts about leopards.

  • Most leopards have light-colored fur with dark rose-shaped spots known as rosettes. Dark furred leopards do exist, though their dark color makes it hard to view the spots around their fur.
  • Leopards can run as fast as 58km/h. Their 6-meter forward leap is also as impressive
  • Leopards are nocturnal prey, preferring to spend their days on trees or in caves. They are more active during the night though, which is when they go hunting.
  • Leopards are highly territorial, choosing to strictly limit their interactions to mating only.
  • Leopards have a 12-17 year lifespan
Leopard - big 5 animals
A Leopard is a Member of the Big Five

5. African/Cape Buffaloes

You are twice more likely to be killed by a cape buffalo than a lion? Interesting? Here are 5 more fascinating facts about cape buffaloes

  • Four times stronger than an Ox, a buffalo is more likely to win in a fight with a lion. Well, not surprising seeing that cape buffaloes are as tall as 11 feet with a maximum weight of 1900 pounds and dagger-like horns.
  • Buffaloes are surprisingly good swimmers
  • Male cape buffaloes weigh anywhere between 650-800kgs while female buffaloes weigh between 550-700kgs
  • Buffaloes have a lifespan of about 18-20 years
  • Buffaloes are extremely moody. A calm buffalo can charge at you within seconds.
Buffalo with a bird
A Buffalo with a Bird on its Back

Where to Find the Big 5 Safari Animals in Africa

The big five animals can all be found in the African savannah and bush-land. Other inhabitants such as national parks, game reserves and other protected areas are also great places to spot the big five animals.

1. Kenya - Big 5 Animals

On the eastern side of Africa lies Kenya. A country proud of being home to the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the Diani Beach, and over 52 national parks and game reserves. It is also while in this East African country that you will find Mt Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa.

Particularly stunning, however, is its high appeal and adaptation to being the leading Big Five safari destination in Africa. As mentioned, the country boasts slightly over 52 national parks, a large majority of which house the Big 5 animals.

The best national parks for game drives in Kenya are:

The Mara needs little introduction. The park outdoes itself when it comes to iconic grassland savannas, hot air balloon safaris, and the show-stopping Wildebeest Migration.

More than 100  wildlife species thrive in the Mara including lions, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, rhinos, hippos, wildebeests, and more. On a safari in Masai Mara, your Big 5 game viewing chances are at the highest.

Big five safari adventures in Kenya come at all shapes and prices;

  • Budget safaris average at $200 per person sharing
  • Mid budget safaris at $300 PPS
  • Luxury safaris at $550+ per person sharing

Kenya should definitely be your African country of choice if what you are looking for is fulfilling, fun, and adventurous Big five safaris.

Best Time to Visit Kenya

The month of July all through to September are the best months to visit Kenya for a number of reasons. First, the mentioned months are dry and wildlife is way easier to spot during the dry seasons. Secondly, the extraordinary Wildebeest Migration, July to October, falls within the months.

2. Tanzania - Big Five Animals

On the eastern wing of Africa, north of Kenya and west of Rwanda lies Tanzania. The country has gained massive popularity for its beautiful attractions like Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti national park, Zanzibar beaches, and the Mafia Island.

Tanzania has the world to offer when it comes to game drives. Parks to look out for being the Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and Tangire National parks. The Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Manyara parks are equally promising.

There are 300 animal species in the Serengeti alone, the Serengeti Big 5 being one preceded by its reputation. The park additionally offers insane sceneries, perceptive ambiances, and amazing landscapes.

The nearby Ngorongoro has over 26 black rhinos, 70 to 75 lions, 300 elephants, and over 4000 buffaloes. Now, this is not to say that Tanzania is only limited to wildlife. Her coast is lined with some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, museums, and the interesting Swahili culture.

A Serengeti big 5 safari won’t cost you much;

  • A budget safari averages at $275 PPS
  • Mod-range safaris at $400 PPS
  • Luxury safaris at $600+ PPS

Best to Visit Tanzania

The best time to tout Tanzania is from late June to October during the dry season. You can also witness Wildebeest calving from January to February.

find the big five in Kenya and tanzania
Find All the Members of the Big Five in Kenya and Tanzania

3. Botswana - Big 5 Animals Africa

When on a lion safari to Botswana, do make a point of stopping over the Okavango. The air is crispier here, the lions fiercer, and the savannah fierier.

Some of the attractions that put Botswana on the map include the Okavango delta, Kalahari Desert and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. That and, of course, the immense wealth of Big 5 animals present in the country.

So where exactly is Botswana? Botswana lies on the southern side of Africa, north of South Africa and east of Namibia. The country is great for first-time safaris, with populations of over 130, 000 elephants ready to welcome the curious guests.

The Chobe National Park, for example, houses 50,000 elephants well complimented by generous amounts of lions, cape buffaloes, and hyenas. The massive 700kg Cape buffalo is also housed in the Okavango, as well as the sharp sensed rhino, elusive leopard, and the trunked elephant.

Other Big Five African animal parks in Botswana include the Moremi Game Reserve, the Nxai Pan, and the Khama Rhino sanctuary. Next, let’s detail the average cost of a Safari in Botswana:

  • A budget safari to Botswana costs $350 PPS
  • Mid-range safaris $525 PPS
  • Luxury safaris $750+ PPS

Best Time to Visit Botswana

Big five safaris to Botswana are best done in the dry seasons between May and October.

4. South Africa - Big 5 Animals in Kenya

Perhaps the most alluring of South Africa is the thrill that comes with the search for the Big five animals. Don’t, however, get it twisted, South Africa is home to other attractions, the Table Mountains and the Cape of Good Hope being the most popular.

To honor her astounding beauty are the World Travel Awards and the Lilizela Tourism Awards. South Africa as a Big 5 safari destination needs little introduction. There are at least 100,000 known species of plants and animals spread across the 20 national parks in the country.

10,000 of these are lions, 4500 leopards, 4000 rhinos, and 24,000 elephants. Your best chance of viewing all the big five animals are the Kruger, Kgalagadi, Addo, Mapungubwe, and Hluhluwe national parks.

The Addo Elephant Park, for example, boasts 600 elephants, spotted hyenas, over 48 black rhinos, lions, 400 cape buffaloes, and the non flying dung beetles. All the mentioned parks also have a lot to offer when it comes to their scenery, and exciting activities to engage in.

To see the Big 5 animals in South Africa, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t cost an arm and leg.

  • Budget lion safari South Africa ranges at $225 PPS
  • Mid-luxury safari adventures at $225 PPS
  • Luxury lion safaris at $575+ PPS

Best time to visit South Africa

The dry month running from May to September is the best time to visit. Animals are easier to spot then, especially at the water points where they all gather for refreshment.

Elephant feeding
Elephant Feeding on a Tree Branch

5. Zimbabwe

You might have heard about the Victoria Falls, and if not, a safari adventure to Zimbabwe might be your best chance yet. Zimbabwe, like Botswana, is on the southern side of Africa, and thanks to its distinctive safari opportunities, the country is best for first-time safaris.

Your best chance of the Big five game spotting in Zimbabwe is the Matobo Hills, Mana pools, Hwange, and Gonarezhou National Parks. With a 430 black rhino population and an additional 290 white rhinos, your chance of viewing the highly endangered creatures is high.

The Matobo Hills National Parks, for example, is renowned for housing the world’s densest leopard population, while Gonarezhou boasts over 11,000 elephants.

  • Budget safaris to Zimbabwe cost $225 PPS
  • Mid-range safaris range at $375 PPS
  • Luxury safaris range $550+

Best Time for Safari Adventures to Zimbabwe

The mild temperature months of May to October are the best time to visit Zimbabwe. The temperatures do however go to high extremes in October and September.