A trip to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without a carefully planned expedition to catch a glimpse of five of the most majestic animals in the South African jungle. Lions, Leopards, Rhinos, African Elephants and Cape Buffalos, nicknamed ‘The Big 5’, are known for being extremely dangerous to hunt on foot. National Geographic has termed them the must-see list of iconic ‘mega fauna’. The Big 5 live amongst hundreds of other beautiful species in national parks and the wild terrains of Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
When to Go
Seeing any of the big 5 is an unforgettable experience and safari enthusiasts are known to get up at the crack of dawn in order to increase the chances of witnessing these creatures in their natural habitat. It is widely thought that the best time of the year for spotting them is during the dry season from July to October. As rivers dry up, animals are forced to group together to drink the remaining water. Thinner flora and folliage during dry season means the animals are more exposed, less able to hide therefore easier to spot in some areas of South Africa.
There are numerous excellent areas for safaris all around South Africa and researching thoroughly is highly recommended. Not all 5 animals may make an appearance and that shouldn’t detract from the overall experience. However, there are some places where, with the aid of a good guide and a little bit of luck, you may be able to see all 5 of them.
Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Famous for being one of the easiest places to spot the Big 5, this is a popular safari destination. Located south of Serengeti National park, Ngorongoro was formed after the collapse of a volcano during an eruption and is occupied by 30.000 different species. The Crater has been nicknamed the Garden of Eden and it’s easy to see why. Early in the morning, as the sun rises upon the caldera and the sky lights up in hues of pink and blue, the scenery feels almost biblical.
Kruger National Park
Kruger Park prides itself for all-year-round Big 5 sightings. It has great infrastructure and facilities include wheelchair accessibility, WIFI spots and both walking as well as driving safaris. There are plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes as well as the choice of private reserves with far less crowds, making the experience even more unique.
Most companies organise 3-5 day tours, with optional extra activities. Some organise longer, 7-day treks. It is not guaranteed that you will spot all 5 in one day or even throughout the duration of the safari, but the breathtaking beauty of the wilderness and the numerous other animals roaming free will more than make up for it. Make sure to check the weather for the particular area you are visiting as weather can be quite unpredictable. It gets quite cold during dry season so pack appropriately!