Where to spot the Big Five in Botswana

discoverafrica 26 July 2018
Part of the Botswana Safari Collection
Back to the Our Blog

A Botswana safari in Africa is a great place to start as a first-time safari-goer. This premium wildlife destination will almost guarantee sightings of the most famous of Africa's mammals; the Big Five. 

From the secretive leopard to the threatened rhino, everyone has a Big Five favourite. This handy guide will show you the best places for spotting every one of them in the beautiful land of Botswana. Take a look: 

Cape buffalo

A large herd of buffalo crash through the plains of Northern Botswana

The northern Okavango Delta is the best place to see these enormous bovines. Favouring the lush grasses of the Delta (the Duba Plains in particular), the buffalo is quite at home in the placid waters and can number in the tens of thousands.

Herds are divided into groups of rogue males who are too old to compete for breeding rights and their herds of origin. The bachelor group will remain in areas permanently and these are the animals you are most likely to see around camps and lodges, drinking from water holes, living out the rest of their days in peace (until the famous buffalo-hunting lions get wind of them). Buffalo are a common sight on walking safaris.

Best safari for buffalo sightings: 



Botswana is famous for having the highest concentration of African elephants. These majestic beasts thrive in Botswana and are heavily protected. The greatest number can be found in the Chobe National Park, where about 50 000 elephants enjoy mud baths and lush vegetation. The dry season sees elephants making their home along the permanent waters of the Chobe river where they will stay for the remainder of the season.

Elephant mothers are incredibly protective of their young and the herd will stop at nothing to protect their calves, facing off against lions, crocodiles and even hippos. Lone males in musk are very aggressive, spurred on by the social dynamics of the different herds and plenty of hormones. Elephants are wonderful to see on a walking safari, but can be provoked to violence if they feel threatened. Experienced walking safari guides will know exactly what to look out for, so you’ll be in safe hands.

Best safari for celebrating Botswana's elephants: 



Lions are abundant all over Botswana, but have the highest numbers in the Savute region of the Chobe National Park. This area consists of dry savannah and grassy plains, the perfect setting for ambush predation. The unpredictable nature of the Savute means that it does flood, making these lions adapted to hunting in all sorts of terrain.

The Savute lions were the first recorded lions to take down an elephant, a feat that could only have been achieved by a large pride with excellent strategy and teamwork. In contrast to the Savute lions, the lions of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve are much smaller in number but have some amazing adaptations, such as not having to drink water for months at a time and only relying on moisture from food.  

Meet the kings of the Botswana bush: 


The recently reintroduced rhino in Botswana are thriving, but their exact location has been kept a relative secret in order to protect them

Rhino have been poached to near-extinction in Africa and the threat has increased over the years. For this reason, rhinos (especially black rhino) are heavily protected and not generally found in all areas of Botswana. A recent joint project with South Africa has resulted in the first group of rhinos being reintroduced into northern Botswana where their numbers will hopefully grow.

The best place to see rhino is the Moremi Game Reserve adjacent to the Okavango Delta. This is a rather exclusive reserve, known for excellent camps and a wide variety of safari activities on offer. Read more about Botswana’s commitment to protecting rhinos here.



Leopards are one of the most versatile of the big cats, being able to climb, claw and use their powerful jaws to hoist a kill up a tree. They aren’t fussy eaters either, resorting to insects and birds when larger prey isn’t available. The Tuli Block is a wonderful wedge of land where Botswana borders Zimbabwe and South Africa. Your chance of seeing leopard in Mashatu Game Reserve is strong. Although there are plenty of leopards in Africa, they are rarely seen due to their elusive nature and threats from other big predators.

Alternatively, Moremi Game Reserve is another great place to spot leopard, as well as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, although they occur is much lower numbers.

The Big Five are a quintessential part of any safari, and Botswana’s natural beauty and dedication to wildlife and nature conservation means that you’ll be spoilt for choice. We'll create a bespoke safari to suit your budget here. 

Some related info

25 reasons why you should explore Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is one of the largest conservation areas in Botswana and is also home to one of the largest concentration of elephants population on the African continent, estimated at to be between 45,000 to 70,000, making it one of Africa’s top safari destinations in the world. If you’re planning a Botswana safari, here are 25 reasons why you need to explore the Chobe National…

A short guide to Mashatu Game Reserve

The little corner of Botswana known as the Tuli Block is sandwiched between Zimbabwe and South Africa’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe National Park. In the Northern part of the reserve is Mashatu Game Reserve. This private concession is something of a secret in the safari world, but a secret that is increasingly being told. The most striking feature of the reserve is the…

12 reasons why you should visit Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Did you know that Central Kalahari Game Reserve is also a habitat for the Kalahari’s famous Black-maned lions, as well as cheetah, springbok, gemsbok, ostrich and wildebeest? It is also the second largest wildlife game reserve in the world, located in Botswana. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve has two permanent accommodations namely; Kalahari Plains Camp and Tau Pan Camp. If you’re…

Ten reasons why an Okavango Delta safari should be on your bucket list

One off Africa's most popular safari destinations is Okavango Delta. Every year, thousands of wildlife enthusiasts flock to Botswana to witness the world's largest inland delta, which is home to a massive variety of wildlife. If you want to experience an authentic African safari, here are ten reasons why an Okavango Delta should definitely be on your travel bucket list.     A…

10 reasons why you should visit the Moremi Game Reserve

Rated as one of the most beautiful game reserves in Africa, Botswana's Moremi Game Reserves is ideal for travellers looking to experience an authentic African safari experience.  If you're planning a Botswana Okavango Delta safari adventure, The Moremi Game Reserve boasts spectacular game viewing and bird watching, in fact, it's estimated to be home to close to 400 species of birds, many…

A traveller’s guide to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is a salt pan - with an area of 3,900 kilometers. Situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana. However, it is one of the largest salt flats in the world. Lying south-west of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park comprises nutritious grasslands, attracting thousands of…

You Might Also Like

 | Two weeks in Botswana - a luxury safari itinerary

Two weeks in Botswana - a luxury safari itinerary

The ideal safari to capture Botswana's unrivalled beauty and abundance of flora and fauna through the lens...

 | 10-day wild Botswana and Zimbabwe safari

10-day wild Botswana and Zimbabwe safari

Tour the pristine habitats of Botswana and Zimbabwe's finest wildlife-rich assets with the twist of refined luxury...

 | Pangolin photography tour of Botswana

Pangolin photography tour of Botswana

Immerse yourself in the wildlife and stunning natural beauty of the Chobe riverfront and pristine Okavango Delta as you capture nature's most spectacular beauty...