The Big five Africa Safari

leopard stretching at the Masai Mara Big five safaris

The big five Africa safari is all about some incredible five mammal species. The name big five was coined by trophy hunters who were on hunting expeditions back in the day. This were the most dangerous and difficult Animals to hunt. Today they are hunted using the lens by tourist on Africa safari adventures. Kenya is one of the best safari destinations in Africa to see the big five

What are the big five animals?

1 The Lion

Majestic and commonly referred to as the king of the jungle

Life span 12-15 yrs

Gestation 3.5 months

Weaned at 7-10 months

lion cubs palying during Amboseli 3 Days safari

Largest African carnivore

Females allo suckle

Predominantly nocturnal, also active in the day

Manes Fully developed by 5 yrs

Males leave pride at 2-3 years

Females remain in natal pride

Males taking over a pride, kill any cubs up to a year old fathered by another male.

Infanticide induces females into oestrus again

Roaring can be heard 5 km away

2 Leopard

Life span 12-15 yrs

Gestation 3 months

Weaned at approx. 3 months

Haul Prey up to 3 times its own size in trees

Predominantly nocturnal

Leopard yawns at the Masai Mara Kenya Tanzania adventure safaris


Do not roar but make a repeated rasping cough

Defend territories

3 African Elephant

Life span 60 -70 Years

Matriach leads a breeding herd of related cows and calves

Bulls tusks are bulkier but females tusks tend to be longer

Females remain in their natal herd, males leave a breeding herd at the age of 12- 15 years old

Bulls become solitary or form bachelor herds with a dominant hierarchy

Males testes are contained within the body near the kidneys

They have no scrotum

Temporal glands, situated behind the eye, below the ear secrete a strong smalling fluid when the elephant is excited or under stress.

Do not sweat but use their ears(with a network of veins behind the ears) to lower body temperature., they splash water, mud or sand over their bodies.

Tim walking at Amboseli National park during a 3 Days Amboseli safari

Low frequencies transmitted through the ground can be picked up through their sensitive feet

Largest brain of any land mammal

Skin can be 1.5 inches thick in certain areas, especially on the legs and trunk

Thin in areas behind the ears

Exess skin and wrinkles trp moisture, which takes longer to evaporate

Wallowing and bathing in mud protects the elephant from the sun and insects and maintains skin condition

Thick skin and a thin layer of fat beneath, anables the elephant to tolerate cold temperatures

4 The Black rhino

Anterior horn 0.5-1.3m long, cows horns are longer and more slender , posterior horn can be as long as anterior horn

Can run approx. 45km/h

Head short and compact

Shorter rounder ears than white

Prehensile upper lip

Black rhino on the move at on a big cat and rhino conservation safari kenya

Back more concave than white rhino

Tail held out straight when alarmed

Cleft in the rear foot track not prominent

Hump on neck is not very obvious, walks with head held high

More solitary than white Rhino

Cheek teeth are cusped, ideal for nipping off twigs

Mark territory with large communal dung middens

Bulls also spray urine onto bushes, practise ground scuffing and vegetation horning

5 The Cape Buffalo

Bulk grazer and water dependent

Can run approx. 55 km/h

Gregarious -not territorial, but have home ranges

Males and females have a dominance hierarchy within the herd

silhouette of a buffalo at Masai Mara on a  4 Days savannah and walking adventure safari

Old bulls become solitary or form small bachelor herds

Herds will defend an individual being attacked by predators

Calves remain in the centre of the herd

Where are the Big five found?

The big five can be found in several parks and reserves in Kenya. Some of the parks and reserves are a one stop shop for the big five africa safari but due to the elusive nature of especially the black rhino and the leopard, we recommend taking a combination of different parks and reserves. This greatly improves your chances of seeing the big five on safari, in their natural habitat. Some of the best places to see the Rhino are the Olpejeta conservancy, Solio ranch, lewa conservancy, Lake Nakuru, Tsavo West, and the Masai Mara.

Best places to see the elusive leopard are Tsavo West, Lake Nakuru, Samburu national reserve and the Masai Mara.

Best Places to see the African elephant in Kenya are Tsavo East and West, Amboseli, Samburu and Masai Mara

The buffalo are common and you can see them in most of the parks and reserves in Kenya

The best places to see lions in Kenya are Samburu National reserve, Lake Nakuru (tree climbing lions) Masai Mara, Amboseli, Nairobi National park, Tsavo East.

Below are our best big five safaris, they give you the best chances of seeing the big five.  

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