Where to Spot the Big 5 in South Africa

Where to Spot the Big 5 in South Africa

South Africa is known globally for some of the best wildlife safaris in the world. The potential to witness the African Big 5, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino, attracts nature lovers and wildlife photographers to its wildlife regions.

The term Big 5 was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. Today, it symbolizes the pinnacle of wildlife tourism, with visitors flocking to South Africa in hopes of catching a glimpse of these animals in their natural habitat. If you are therefore planning a safari trip, knowing where to spot the Big Five in South Africa will help us create the perfect itinerary for you.


African elephants are the largest land mammals with large ears, long trunks, and tusks. While generally peaceful, elephants can be dangerous when they feel threatened. Their massive size and strength make them potentially lethal, and they are known to charge when they perceive a threat to their young or their group. Lions are the only truly social big cats, living in prides that consist of a dominant male, related females and their cubs. Lions are apex predators and can be highly dangerous due to their strength, speed, and hunting abilities. They are known to take down large prey, including buffalo, and can pose a threat to humans if unarmed. Leopards are solitary cats with a distinctive spotted coat, allowing them to blend into their surroundings. They are excellent climbers and can ambush their prey from trees.

The buffalo, also known as the Cape buffalo, are large herbivores with distinctive, curved horns and a robust build. They are known to charge without warning and can be particularly dangerous if wounded or defending their herd. Cape buffaloes are responsible for more deaths among hunters in Africa than any other large animal. Black and white rhinos are large herbivores with tough, thick skin and horns on their noses. They are known for their poor eyesight but can be extremely aggressive when threatened. They may charge at perceived threats, and their powerful horns can cause serious injuries and even fatalities.

Kruger Walking Trek
Kruger Walking Trek

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park (KNP) is arguably the most famous safari destination in Africa for spotting the Big 5. Spanning nearly 2 million hectares, the park offers one of the highest densities of wild animals in South Africa, including the Big 5. Visitors can embark on self-driven safaris or guided game drives, which increase the chances of encountering these animals. The best time to visit is during the dry winter months from May to September, when animals are more likely to gather around water sources. Get close and personal to the big five during a small-group walking safari through the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa, departing from Johannesburg.

Lion Sands Tinga Lodge
Lion Sands Tinga Lodge

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Adjacent to the KNP, the Sabi Sands Game Reserve is famed for its unrivalled leopard sightings. Lions, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes also roam freely within the reserve, completing the Big Five ensemble. Guided game drives and walking safaris allow visitors to get a different perspective on the sights and sounds of the African bush. Lion Sands Tinga Lodge is located within the Lion Sands Game Reserve, along the banks of the Sabie River, Kruger National Park. The two-bedroom Hi’Nkweni Villa is located on the banks of the Sabie River, providing breath-taking views from this Sabi Sands villa.

Lazuli Bush Lodge, Hluhluwe
Lazuli Bush Lodge, Hluhluwe

Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park

Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal is known for its successful rhino conservation efforts. The park played a big role with conservation efforts that saved the white rhino from extinction. The park is home to both black and white rhinos, along with the rest of the Big 5. Hideaways Lazuli Bush Lodge is located in the heart of the Elephant Coast and has access to iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Sodwana Bay. 

Lost City and Sun City
Lost City and Sun City

Pilanesberg National Park

Located in the North West province, Pilanesberg National Park is set within the crater of an extinct volcano, creating a unique geological structure that supports a rich variety of plants and animals. This, combined with its location between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, results in unique overlaps of mammals, birds, and vegetation. Pilanesberg offers a high chance of spotting the Big 5, along with cheetahs and wild dogs, in a malaria-free zone.

Addo Elephant National Park

As the name suggests, Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is famous for its large elephant populations. The park is home to more than 600 elephants, along with the other members of the Big Five. Addo’s efforts in elephant conservation have made it a success story in protecting these majestic creatures. Besides the Big 5, the park also offers sightings of the rare black rhino and various antelope species.

The 20-day World In One Country tour is a small-group lodge safari, departing from Johannesburg to Cape Town through South Africa. One this tour, your will see the iconic Kruger National Park, the Drakensberg mountains and the Garden Route.

We are a leading safari tour operator that provides world-class guided group tours and tailor-made packages throughout Southern Africa, East Africa, and Madagascar, ensuring unique wildlife experiences.

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