The Big Five in Africa | African Overland Tours

So Who are the ‘Big 5’ Anyway?


Well, if you haven’t read about them in story books or heard about them on TV, you must be living in space! (No offence!) The Big 5 are 5 animals that were referred to as the 5 most difficult animals to hunt on foot by big-game hunters. As a result, safari guides and tour operators adopted the term to market seeing these dangerous animals. They include: the lion, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros. These animals can be spotted in Malawi, Uganda, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda. Seeing the Big 5 is a must-do for your bucket list!

Let’s start with the African lion. Certainly the most beautiful of all the animals and also referred to as ‘the King of the Jungle’ (mostly in storybooks and movies), this large and beautiful carnivore (meat-eater) are the most dangerous, as they can attack without provocation. Camouflaging themselves in the bush, they are not easy to spot, so when on safari, keep your eyes peeled at all times.


The African elephant is by far the most intimidating as it snorts and digs in the ground, getting ready to storm you! However, many have been tamed in certain reserves and one can interact with them quite happily and even ride on them. It is a herbivore (eating only foliage), so you may not be eaten, but you certainly could be chased and stomped upon! They are also well-camouflaged by the African bush.


When one sees a herd of African buffalo casually grazing in the veld, they don’t look dangerous at all, but be warned, they have been known to kill more people than any other animal. They weigh about 700 kgs and stand 4 to 6 feet tall. It only takes one look from these animals and a disgruntled snort to have you running in the opposite direction…!


African Leopards look like beautiful big cats (and they even purr!), but don’t be deceived, they can kill prey that are larger than themselves! Their eye-catching circles are called ‘rosettes’, once again providing good camouflage. However, what is dangerous about these animals is that they hide in trees to survey their territory, can charge at speeds of over 35 mph and are very agile on their feet. They tend to be more difficult to spot, being nocturnal animals and hiding away from predators.


Last, but not least is the great African Black or White rhinoceros (although grey in colour) – hunted for their beautiful ivory tusks by poachers. Now considered to be an endangered species, one must try to see them before they become extinct. Also herbivores they feed on leaves, bushes and branches. But once again, don’t be fooled by their calm demeanour, they readily have been known to attack predators, including humans.


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