Africa’s so incredible and vast that you have to see it multiple times – and from different perspectives! Experiencing a Big 5 safari in real life stirs you deeply, and seeing these world-renowned creatures in their natural habitat is a true treat. I still remember my first time, gazing up in awe at the wrinkles of an elephant towering over me, blinking slowly with those long lashes as we drifted past on a boat. And, of course, getting full-body goosebumps when a lion stared right into my soul as it walked right past our game drive vehicle. Seeing these creatures will change your life, and even more so when experiencing the Big 5 from land, water and sky. Here’s how and where…

Experiencing the Big 5 from a boat

Experiencing the Big 5 from water will float your boat, Image Credit: Lolebei Safari Camp

We Like The Big 5, And We Cannot Lie

The Big 5 consists of the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and African buffalo, which are Africa’s most famous large animals. There are many reasons why they made this short list, and experiencing the Big 5’s sheer size and strength is something you’ll always remember.

Each of these wildlife species have their own charms, which makes ticking all five off your list is such a treat! In Africa, there are certain locations that are best for viewing the Big 5, whether from land, water, or even sky! And as the World’s Most Awarded Safari Company, we know these places better than, well, an elephant knows its trunk!

sabi sabi bush lodge safari kruger

I always shiver in wonder and respect when I meet a lion

Where to See The Big 5 from Land

The classic safari entails heading out in an open 4×4 game drive vehicle to look for wildlife. Most lodges offer twice-daily game drives, one in the early morning and another in the late afternoon, when wildlife is most active. You’ll stop for a coffee or sundowner break, which is a highlight on its own!

Experiencing the Big 5 like the leopard at Londolozi

Just imagine following in the footsteps of leopards

If you stay at certain luxury lodges, like those in private game reserves, you can also enjoy night game drives. This means you stay out after dark to see the nocturnal animals. This is a personal favourite of mine, as it feels like you’re looking through the peephole of another world since few people see them as they hide under the cloak of night.

On a night game drive at Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange National Park

Night game drives are always an exciting experience, Image Credit: Wilderness

One of the most widely known Big 5 safari destinations in Africa and one of our most requested destinations is the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

But amidst these wild landscapes teeming with wondrous wildlife , you also get some of the best luxury lodges in the world. The Greater Kruger is home to many private concessions, where you can opt for a more private or even exclusive-use option.

Big 5 sighting in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Our real-life unicorn, the rhino

Get Even Closer to The Ground on a Walking Safari

When staying in a private reserve, you also get to take part in special activities like walking safaris, where you take on the African bush on foot! Yes, just you and your hiking boots, following your guide in a single file as a whole new world opens up. These are my favourite safari memories, and I’ve done quite a few! It just never gets old as you notice all the tiny details and connections you might’ve missed otherwise.

Furthermore, walking free through the bush makes you feel immensely powerful yet extremely vulnerable at the same time, a delightful juxtaposition of emotions.

If you want the very best Big 5 walking safari, we also highly recommend the birthplace of this activity, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Walking safari in the Kruger with an elephant sighting

Walking safaris in Africa provide the perfect way to view nature at eye level, Image Credit: Rhino Walking Safaris

Seeing The Big 5 from Water

There’s something magical about silently gliding along water and meeting the eyes of wildlife lapping up the water from the riverbank. It moves you, just like the water does.

Botswana is by far our most popular water-based safari destination, home to both the Okavango Delta and Chobe River. I especially love going on a mokoro safari, a traditional canoe reminiscent of the gondolas in Venice. Because you’re sitting lower than on a boat, you feel closer to the animals and can take truly spectacular photos!

Experiencing the Big 5 on water in Botswana

A whole new world, a a dazzling place I never knew, Image Credit: Wilderness Vumbura Plains

That being said, if you’re a true wildlife photography enthusiast, amateur or pro, there are some lodges that offer cruises on specially-adapted boats to help you get the perfect, stabilised and crystal-clear captures. The Chobe River region is renowned for its photo safaris, as well as for being the “Land of the Gentle Giants”, so expect fantastic elephant sightings!

Other recommended destinations for water safaris are Zimbabwe and Zambia, both sharing access to the Zambezi River. Feeding the renowned Victoria Falls, it’s the fourth-longest river in Africa and largest flowing river in Africa that flows into the Indian Ocean. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it’s got views of the Big 5! There are many excellent lodges located right on the riverbank.

Elephant sighting while on a Zambezi River cruise

Explore the riverbanks, islands and channels on a comfortable river cruise, Image Credit: Chiawa Camp

And Now: Experiencing The Big 5 From The Sky

Take your safari to new heights (literally!) by going on a hot air balloon ride. This is exactly as dreamy as it sounds, and often ends with a bubbly breakfast under a tree in the middle of the savannah. Now this is the kind of life you were meant to live, right?

The best places to see the Big 5 from a hot air balloon are in East Africa‘s Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Heißluftballons über der Serengeti - Romantikurlaub in Afrika

A hot air balloon safari in East Africa is one of the most romantic experiences

But it’s not only the Big 5 that steal the show… These countries are also where the Great Wildebeest Migration puts on its annual show! However, please note that you need to plan far in advance and get expert advice as they don’t stay in the same place for long. But don’t worry, our Travel Experts have the right people on speed dial to help you get a front-row seat.

A Great Migration river-crossing

Seeing the Great Migration from the sky will give you a full picture of the masses of wildlife

Experiencing The Big 5 is a Few Clicks Away

So now you know your Big 5 better than your ABCs, and you also have an idea of where to go! However, Africa has more to offer than just the Big 5. Yes, there are many, many more fascinating animals and experiences we can recommend to you.

Just a word of warning: you might never want to go anywhere but Africa for your holidays after experiencing it once. But the good news is that we know our continent better than anyone else and will tailor-make a highly personalised adventure that will blow your safari socks off!

The first step? Reach out to our Travel Experts, who’ll get to know you a bit better before recommending the safari you could not even have conjured in your wildest dreams. Go on, try it. See you in Africa!

Buffao on safari at Elephant Camp in Victoria Falls

A buffalo is known for its temper and impressive horns, Image Credit: Tania de Kock

Experiencing the Big 5 from the sky

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