Big 5 safaris

The “Big Five” refers to five large mammals found in Africa: the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo. But it’s not the size of these animals that earned them entry into this exclusive club. Big-game hunters came up with this term in the 19th century, to denote the five animals that were the most coveted kills in Africa. Why were they coveted? Because they were the most difficult and dangerous to track and hunt on foot.

These days, thankfully, any shooting you’ll do on safari will be done with a camera, not a gun – photographic safaris are legendary here – but the name persists.

Just about everyone who goes on an African safari dreams of coming home with all of the Big Five ticked off their wildlife-spotting list. But many people also think that you can see the Big Five in just about every national park and wildlife area in the continent. Wrong!

The reality is, just a handful of regions boast all five species. Lion numbers are dwindling, elephants are still targeted by poachers, rhino numbers keep dropping faster than flies, and leopards have suffered a drastic population decline in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks in part to a crazy loophole that lets hunters import ridiculous numbers of leopard trophies into the U.S.

So if you want to see the Big Five on your African safari adventure, you need to pick your destination, or destinations, carefully. It’s becoming harder and harder to guarantee sightings, but that’s where we can help. We’ll share with you some of our favourite wilderness areas where you’ve got a great chance of spotting the Big Five – and whatever other wildlife that’s on your wish list.

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“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.”

– Brian Jackman (writer)

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