Africa’s Fabulous “Big Five”

They are the standouts of any Africa safari, the wildlife that for many define what a journey to the savannah is all about. We’re talking about the iconic and wild forms of lion, leopard, African buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros.

The term ‘Big Five’ goes back to the colonial days of game hunters and the difficulty of pursuing on foot and ultimately killing these beautiful animals. Fortunately, our species for the most part has abandoned the legal pursuit of vanquishing these gifts of nature, and instead, we now try to protect and preserve them.
On safari in Kenya, you’ll have unlimited opportunities to see and sometimes get close to these iconic creatures in our country’s expansive wildlife national parks.

The Lion King

It would be difficult to go on safari without expectations of seeing the ‘king of the jungle’. Fortunately, several of Kenya’s parks feature multiple prides of lions. The Tsavo Parks are home to the appropriately named Tsavo lions, a fascinating sub-species whose males sport unusually short manes.

Samburu Park to the north also offers safari-goers a chance to see the fearsome felines as does Amboseli Park on the Tanzanian border.

But for sheer number of prides and therefore individual lions, a visit to the Masai Mara is essential. The park and its surrounding conservancies offer the best chance to watch these great predators on the prowl, especially during the season (July – October) of the Great Migration.

The Always Elusive Leopard

Sleek and mysterious, the leopard is a night hunter, on the prowl between sunset and sunrise. From its natural perch high on a tree branch, this graceful predator scans the horizon for its usual prey of grazers – antelope, gazelle, zebra, or wildebeest.


Leopards are found in the Masai Mara, Amboseli, the Tsavo Parks but also in smaller reserves like Nakuru National Park and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. At Ol Pejeta you can go on nighttime safaris which increases your chances of a sighting.

Elephants – Africa’s Giants

Perhaps the most beloved of the “Big Five” and maybe all of Africa’s wildlife, the mighty elephant marches through most of Kenya’s wildlife parks. You’ll see the towering pachyderm, often in family groups parading to and from their watering holes. An herbivore, the elephant is often spotted tearing off great branches of leaves on which to feed.
Samburu Park boasts an elephant population of almost 1000 of the great creatures. However, Amboseli, a smaller park has such a huge density of elephants that you are guaranteed to see them… and probably many times during your visit.

The African or Cape Buffalo

This fierce animal is the only one of the “Big Five” that isn’t endangered or considered vulnerable. Amongst hunters, it was always considered the most dangerous as it was easily provoked and would charge its pursuers, especially when wounded.

You’ll find this distinctive and sometimes ornery horned bovid in almost all of Kenya’s wildlife parks.

The Shy and Unusual Rhino

With its huge hulking body and unique set of horns rising from its nasal bridge, the big rhino is a special treat to witness. Despite their great form and threatening appearance, rhinos are quite shy, and finding them in the wild is not always easy.

Of the “Big Five”, the rhino is the most endangered and so special sanctuaries have been created for their protection from poachers and to nurture back the dwindling population.

You’ll find rhinos in most of the wildlife parks but especially in the sanctuaries harbored at Nairobi National Park, Ol Pejeta, and Lake Nakuru.

These five unique species, all with their particular story will highlight your safari and inspire awareness to protect them for future generations to enjoy. 

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