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10 of the Best Places for Taking a Big Five Safari in Africa

Matthys van Aswegen

Author: Matthys van Aswegen - 20 February 2024

Last Update: 26 April 2023

Part of the African Safari Collection

Looking for an unforgettable experience? Embark on a Big Five Safari in Africa and see some of the world’s most majestic wildlife.

Buffalo.
Buffalo.

From classic game reserves to hidden gems, here are 10 of the best places where you can have a truly once-in-a-lifetime safari adventure. Watch lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos thrive in their natural habitats as they roam free. 

An Overview of Big Five Safari Experience in Africa

The term “Big Five” refers to the five most iconic animals to spot in their natural habitat: the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino.

African leopard female pose in beautiful evening light.
African leopard female pose in beautiful evening light.

By venturing into the heart of the African bush, visitors not only have the chance to encounter the Big Five, but they may also spot some of Africa’s other wondrous creatures, including giraffes, zebras, and cheetahs. With its vast and diverse ecosystems, Africa is a haven for wildlife, and a Big Five safari is an unforgettable way to experience it.

The 10 Best Places for Taking a Big Five Safari in Africa

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The reserve is located in southwestern Kenya and covers an area of approximately 1,510 square kilometers. It’s named after the Maasai people who have lived in the region for centuries.

The Masai Mara Reserve is known for its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and cultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy game drives and spot animals like lions, cheetahs, and wildebeest, which migrate to the reserve every year.

Lion mother with her cub in Masai Mara, Kenya.
Lion mother with her cub in Masai Mara, Kenya.

The reserve is also home to over 500 bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise. The Masai culture is also a highlight of the reserve, and visitors can learn about their traditions and customs, including their unique dressing style and way of life. 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Encompassing an area of 5,700 square miles, Serengeti National Park boasts an impressive variety of flora and fauna, including the ‘Big Five’. Its vast plains, rocky outcroppings, and rolling hills are home to over 500 species of birds and some of the most spectacular animal migrations on the planet.

Wildebeest herd in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
Wildebeest herd in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Visitors can hop on a safari vehicle or a hot air balloon and witness the Great Migration herds of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles grazing on the grasslands. The park also offers opportunities for cultural experiences with local Maasai tribes, adding an extra layer of authenticity to an already remarkable adventure.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

From its lush forests to its vast grasslands, this region is home to an astonishing array of wildlife, making it a must-see destination. Visitors can witness wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles roaming free in the savannahs, and can even catch a glimpse of the elusive black rhino.

Elephants in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania.
Elephants in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also boasts an array of breathtaking landmarks such as the Ngorongoro Crater, a massive volcanic caldera that spans over 600 meters and fosters some of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. This area offers one of the best Big Five safari tours in Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Spanning over 19,000 square kilometers, the Kruger National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the famous Big Five. Visitors to the park can embark on guided safaris, self-drive expeditions, or even walking tours.

Two black rhino in the Kruger National Park.
Two black rhino in the Kruger National Park.

The park is also a conservation success story, with concerted efforts to protect endangered species, such as the African wild dog and black rhino. 

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Covering an area of over 11,000 square kilometers, Chobe National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa along with a diverse array of other animals such as lions, leopards, hyenas, buffalos, and a multitude of bird species.

Young leopard resting on the tree in Chobe National Park, Botswana.
Young leopard resting on the tree in Chobe National Park, Botswana.

The park’s riverfront also offers breathtaking views of the Chobe River, where visitors can witness large herds of elephants coming down to quench their thirst or watch the spectacular scenery while cruising on a river safari. 

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Established in 1931, the park has grown to become one of the country’s most popular wildlife conservation parks, with an impressive population of more than 600 elephants.

Herd of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.
Herd of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy the sight of buffalo, various antelopes, and even the rare black rhino. The park also offers a diverse range of landscapes, from dense forests to vast valleys, making it a perfect setting for camping, hiking, and game drives.

Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.
Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.

Whether you’re an avid photographer, researcher or just curious about the conservation of wildlife, this park is the perfect destination to experience the biological wealth and beauty of South Africa

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park holds an impressive variety of wildlife, including more than 100 species of mammals, such as elephants, giraffes, lions, and rhinos. The landscape of the park is breathtaking and spans over 22,000 square kilometers, including vast salt pans and savannah plains.

Lion walking between prey animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
Lion walking between prey animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Visitors can enjoy self-drive tours or guided game drives through the park, as well as overnight stays at various lodges located inside the park. 

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Covering an area of approximately 14,650 square kilometers, the park is teeming with diverse wildlife, including elephants, lions, giraffes, and zebras. It’s not just the wildlife that draws visitors; Hwange National Park also boasts stunning landscapes, ranging from sandy dunes to open savannah.

Cheetah in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
Cheetah in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

For those interested in bird watching, the park is home to over 400 species of birds. The best time to visit is during the dry season, which runs from July to October, as it presents the best game viewing opportunities. 

Akagera National Park, Rwanda

Spanning over 1,100 square kilometers, Akagera National Park is home to diverse ecosystems ranging from wetlands to savannahs, harboring an abundance of flora and fauna.

Buffalo in Akagera National Park, Rwanda.
Buffalo in Akagera National Park, Rwanda.

A guided safari across the park’s sprawling terrain offers visitors a chance to catch a glimpse of majestic elephants, crafty hyenas, and agile antelopes. The picturesque Lake Ihema, which runs through the park, is also the perfect spot for bird-watching, with over 500 species of birds inhabiting the park. 

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Located in the northern region of the country, the park is named after the jaw-dropping Murchison Falls, which is a stunning 141-foot waterfall that cascades into the Nile River.

But the falls are not the only attraction at this park. Visitors can also experience lush savannah grasslands, sparkling river waters, and dense forests, which are home to a vast array of wildlife.

Murchison Falls, Uganda.
Murchison Falls, Uganda.

From elephants and giraffes to lions and hippos, this park is brimming with some of Africa’s most captivating creatures. And for those seeking adventure, Murchison Falls National Park also offers activities like guided hikes, game drives, and even river cruises.

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