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When and Where to Witness Africa’s Big 5


The Big 5 are without a doubt Africa’s mega stars, and they are what motivates visitors to go on early morning and late evening game viewing trips.

Although witnessing any of the Big 5 in their natural settings remains an amazing pleasure and is usually at the top of travelers’ safari bucket lists.

There is no disputing that giraffe and zebra are more attractive animals than buffalo or that cheetah can sometimes be easier to spot than leopard.

The name “Big 5” was first used by big game hunters in the 19th century, who identified the African elephant, Cape buffalo, African lion, leopard, and rhinoceros as the five most hazardous animals to hunt in Africa while on foot.

The Big 5 are now fortunately protected in national parks and private wildlife reserves, and the phrase is often used to refer to photography safaris.

By protecting these amazing species from encroachments like poaching, wildlife trafficking, and habitat damage, today’s visitors actively support conservation efforts.

What Time of Year Is the Best to See the Big 5?

In Africa, the prime safari season lasts from around July through October. This occurs throughout the cold, dry winter on the continent. There are various factors that make them simpler to locate at certain times:

In contrast to the long, lush grass and heavy foliage of summer, the absence of rain causes the vegetation to dry out and thin down, making it literally easier to see a rhino or buffalo.

The leopard in particular, which spends a lot of time in trees, will have less leaves in the winter, making it easier to see these elegant cats.

The absence of rain also causes ponds, streams, puddles, and other minor waterways to dry up, which forces wildlife to gather around the surviving significant lakes and rivers.

To avoid wandering too far from the few remaining water, the majority of animals must drink each day.

This is especially true of buffalo and elephant herds, which frequently move to rivers that provide lilies, such the Chobe near the boundary of Namibia and Botswana.

Also Read: The Big 5 Africa: The Ugly 5, The Shy 5, and The Small 5 Animals of Africa

The Big 5 Africa: The Ugly 5, The Shy 5, and The Small 5 Animals of Africa

Where Can You Find the Big 5 in the Best Locations?

The Big 5 animals can be found in various populations throughout Africa. The following locations provide the highest chances of sighting them all during a single safari – or, if you’re extremely lucky, on a single game drive or day:

Around 30 000 creatures live in this Tanzanian crater, unable to scale the sheer walls and thriving instead in the diverse ecology. It blends well with the Tarangire and Serengeti.

  • Madikwe Private Game Reserve
    Madikwe, a former farmland in South Africa that is being methodically restored, features all five of the Big 5 in addition to luxurious lodges and collaboration among several guides. It goes well with Sun City, the biggest resort in Africa.
  • The Kruger National Parka must-see on the itinerary of any safari traveler, whether they are first-timers or seasoned African adventurers. This enormous portion of South Africa, which is about the size of Israel or Belgium, is a fantastic place to begin.
  • Sabi Sand Game Reserve
    The beauty of Sabi Sands is that only visitors are permitted inside while animals are free to roam, sharing an unfenced border with Kruger.

How to Photograph the Big 5

African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

In Chobe, a boat is the traditional means of seeing elephants. This allows you to see them swimming, wading through the mud, and dousing themselves with water.

The biggest terrestrial mammal in the world, male African elephants may grow to a height of four meters (13 feet) and a weight of seven thousand kilograms (fifteen thousand pounds).

Their notoriously big ears help them regulate their body temperature, and their incisors develop into tusks that they employ as weapons, tools, and for propulsion.

While adult males reside alone or in bachelor herds, related females dwell in family groupings with their calves. Elephants socialize in many different family groupings and are sociable animals.

Also Read: Tanzania Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area – The Biggest Crater in the World

Tanzania Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area – The Biggest Crater in the World

Where to find large herds

Botswana’s Chobe National Park
Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park
Kenya’s Amboseli National Park
South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park
Namibia’s Etosha National Park

Getting the shot:

To place them in the context of the surrounding environment, use a wide-angle lens. To capture certain physical features, like as their tusks, trunks, or incredibly expressive eyes, use a zoom lens.

If you can get into a hide, shoot them from several angles to emphasize their size, such as from the ground up.


A herd of buffalo on the move may be frightening to see; one such herd was sighted in Hwange.

South and East Africa are home to the big, horned African or Cape buffalo. Both sexes have horns that run the length of their skulls like a continuous bone shield.

Since they are highly bold and unpredictable, buffalo have never been domesticated.

They are not related to other cattle, such as the Asian water buffalo, and are not the forefathers of domestic cattle.

Since they are extremely capable of self-defense and will gore predators to protect their herd members, buffalos are no easy meal and can only be hunted by lions in packs.

A herd of buffalo can readily terrify a pride of lions, and there are videos of stubborn buffalo just “walking off” after assaulting young lions.

Where to find large herds

In Botswana, Chobe
South African Addo
Zimbabwe’s Hwange
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve

Also Read: Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa – Africa Facts Zone

Getting the shot:

Since of the blackness of their skins, buffalo are challenging to shoot because it constantly challenges your exposure.

However, one of the most evocative views to capture is a moving herd that is backlit and is surrounded by dust clouds.

Because of their massive horns and mysterious facial expressions, lone bulls can make excellent character studies.

Bulls enjoy rolling about in the mud, which creates beautifully textured black and white photographs. Watch out for tiny birds called oxpeckers that nip fleas and ticks out of their ears.

The juxtaposition between the delicate birds and the overwhelming enormity of the buffalo may make for some excellent photographs.

African Lion (Panthera leo)

A rare glimpse in the Sabi Sands as the lion looks over his domain.

Lions were among the most common big terrestrial animals after humans around 10 000 years ago.

With the majority of the world’s wild lions living in sub-Saharan Africa, they are currently a vulnerable species.

In contrast to other cats, lions are exceptionally sociable; a pride includes of related mothers, their cubs, and a few adult males.

Prides snooze comfortably throughout the day and hunt during the gloomy hours between darkness and morning. Females are the top predators and frequently hunt in packs.

How to locate them:

South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve
Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve
Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park
Kenya’s Mara people
Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park

Getting the shot:

The opportunity to monitor lions whether they are sleeping throughout the day, getting ready to hunt at twilight, or engaged in a kill at dawn can help you get an exceptional lion photograph.

Night drives, which give you the chance to photograph a pride in a playful mood before hunting or after feeding, are only available on private reserves and concessions.

Don’t forget to capture some broad shots of the activity surrounding a kill, such as approaching vultures, sniffing hyenas, or skulking jackals, if you are fortunate enough to see lions dining.

The perfect topic, cubs are frequently more active throughout the day than adults. All of their endearing characteristics, from their big paws and ears to their kitten-like growls, are highlighted by a close-up.

Also Read: Fun Facts on Leopards: Habits, Diet and Other Facts

Fun Facts on Leopards: Habits, Diet and Other Facts

Leopard (Panthera pardus) (Panthera pardus)

A leopard gets out of her tree of safety and strolls forth to explore what the Masai Mara has in store.

Similar to jaguars in size and weight, leopards have rosettes on their coats, and like jaguars, melanistic leopards are known as black panthers.

Leopards are solitary animals that are powerful enough to pull their food into trees and away from other predators and scavengers.

They also have outstanding camouflage skills. Leopards are among the swiftest large cats, with top speeds of 58 km/36 mph.

Leopards are nocturnal, timid, and masters of camouflage, which makes them difficult to locate and watch in the wild.

In order to ensure that your game watching takes place in reserves with frequent sightings of leopards and a healthy, stable population of these cats, let your adviser know if this is the animal you are most eager to see.

How to locate them:

South Africa’s Sabi Sands
From Botswana, Moremi
Kenya’s Mara people
Zambia’s South Luangwa

Getting the shot:

When photographing a leopard, triple check your exposure settings and comb through your photographs in between shots.

Use your camera’s spot meter feature to acquire the best possible measurement of the light where the leopard is, not the sky, and then manually enter the numbers or use your auto exposure lock function to stop your leopard from being underexposed if it is in a tree with a brilliant sky background.

When shooting in low light, increase your ISO and set your aperture to its widest setting.

Because your depth of field will be quite narrow, spend some time to consider the focal point of the photograph you are creating. The eyes of leopards are often the focus of the most moving photographs of them.

Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum)

The adult rhinos in Phinda don’t care about a single lion since his horns might easily gore him to death. This was a fortunate capture.

Rhinos range in color from light grey to medium brown; nevertheless, which subspecies a rhino belongs to is determined by the form of its upper lip, not by its color.

White rhinos have a large, square top lip, whereas “black” rhinos have a hooked, pointed upper lip. The demand for rhino horns in Asia has led to the species being listed as critically endangered.

A rhino horn will regrow if severed since it is formed of keratin, the same material that makes up human hair and nails.

Even rhinos who may have survived the initial attack generally die of shock and blood loss when their horns are cut off with a chainsaw or machete because the base of the horn under the skin is highly valued in the illegal trade.

How to locate them:

Botswana’s Moremi, South Africa’s Madikwe and Sabi Sand, and Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve
Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Tanzania’s Grumeti Game Reserve

Also Read: African Lions Plus Facts About African Lions

African Lions Plus Facts About African Lions

Getting the shot:

Similar to elephants, rhinos’ sheer size offers a wide range of composition possibilities. While a zoom enables you to concentrate on the interesting details of their prehistoric-looking bodies, a broad perspective provides context.

The expressiveness of their ears and eyes, together with the bouncy antics of newborn calves, more than make up for the adults’ somewhat inactive lifestyles.

Rhinos provide for interesting compositions that show a lone figure in an open setting as well as upbeat pictures of young animals without horns.

We endorse Rhinos Without Borders because we think their strategy has the highest chance of success if you’d like to contribute to the rhino’s survival.

You may assist in a massive operation that involves helicopters, veterinarians, trucks, and special bomas to transport rhinos from South African poaching hotspots to safety and security in Botswana.


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