The Complete Guide to The Big 5 Of Africa

Seeing the big 5 in Africa has been a dream of most tourists who wish to explore the continent.

They say the big 5 names was coined as a result of being difficult to hunt them by foot and are the commonly poached animals as well as they are also among the most dangerous animals.

The Big Of Africa, Male Lion

The big 5 of Africa: What animals are in a list?

Wondering which African animals make a list of the big 5 of Africa? The big 5 animals include;

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Elephant
  • Buffalo
  • Rhino

It is only in Africa where you can find some countries that harbor all the big 5 animals.

Countries where all the big 5 of Africa animals can be found, include Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Malawi.

Getting To Know The African Big 5 Animals

African Elephant

The Big 5 Of Africa, African Elephant


The African elephant is a  large herbivore with thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and large, fan-shaped ears.

There are two distinct species of African elephant, the African forest elephant, and the African bush elephant.

Elephants are difficult to hunt because, despite their large size, they are able to hide in tall grass and are more likely to charge than the other species.

The black rhinoceros

The Big 5 in Africa, Rhinoceros

Black Rhinoceros is a large herbivore having two upright horns on the nasal bridge. Its thick protective skin, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure, is very hard to puncture.

It is now critically endangered, and hunting is extremely limited due to this.

The African buffalo or Cape buffalo

The Big 5 in Africa, Cape buffalo

Is a large horned bovid and are the only animals within the Big 5 that are not endangered or threatened. The Cape buffalo is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big 5 with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.

The lion

The Big 5 of Africa, Lioness and Cubs

These are one of the big 5 of Africa animals, Lions are the large carnivorous feline of Africa and northwest India, having a short, tawny coat, a tufted tail, and in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders.

Lions are desirable to hunters because of the very real danger involved in hunting them.

The leopard

The Big 5 in Africa, Leopard

Leopard makes a list of The Big 5 of Africa because of a large, carnivorous feline having either tawny fur with dark rosette-like markings or black fur.

The leopard is considered the most difficult of the big 5 to hunt because of their nocturnal and secretive nature.

They are wary of humans and will take flight in the face of danger.

The leopard is solitary by nature, and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may hunt during the day in some areas.

Leopards can be found in the savanna grasslands, brushland and forested areas in Africa.

They prey on a wide variety of species, from insects, rodents, and reptiles, to birds and mammals, including antelopes as large as elands, and even giraffes and are strong swimmers that sometimes eat fish and even crabs.

The Big 5 in Africa and The Wildlife

The big 5 in Africa are animals that have become major concerns for wildlife conservationists in recent years.

The African lion, African leopard, and African bush elephant are all classified as vulnerable.

The southern white rhinoceros is classified as near threatened while the black rhinoceros is classified as critically endangered, so hunting them is greatly restricted for the latter.

The African buffalo is the most popular big five game animal to hunt, as its conservation status is least concern, but it is experiencing a population decline in uncontrolled areas due to poaching and urbanization.

Interesting things about the Big 5 of Africa

Having a trip for The Big 5 in Africa safari is not complete without know some the interesting things of these animals. Below are interesting facts about the big 5 of africa.


  • Weight: About 170 kg.
  • Diet: Carnivorous diet. Lions are opportunists. They can eat the remains of an animal someone else has killed. They can also hunt and eat animals ranging from the small hare to a huge African buffalo.
  • Life Span: Around 16 years in the wild.

Interesting facts about lions

  1. The roar of a male lion can be heard up to a distance of 8 km!
  2. Interestingly, lionesses do most of the hunting and bring the prey home. And guess what, the lionesses wait for the lions to finish eating the food they bring and then consume only the leftovers! Add to all this, it is they who have to bring up the lion cubs.
  3. Lions are not nocturnal but can see at night.
  4. Lions are mostly seen just before sunrise or just after sunset.
  5. Lions are opportunistic feeders that will hunt at any time.
  6. Lions are the only cats that leave in groups (pride)
  7. A lion’s roar can be heard about 8 km away
  8. The Lions sleep up to 20 hours a day.
  9. The darker a lion’s mane, the older he is.

The African Elephant

  • Weight: 4 to 6 tons.
  • Diet: They graze and also uproot trees and shrubs. And how much do they eat? 300 Kgs a day.
  • Life Span: 60 to 70 years.

Interesting Facts about Elephant

  1. African elephants communicate across distances at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.
  2. The elephant’s gestation period of 22 months giving birth to calves weighing 120kg! Elephant cows give birth standing up with members of the herd forming a protective circle around her as her calf is born.
  3. Elephants love to swim.

Interesting Facts about Leopard

  1. Leopard is solitary and secretive, staying hidden during the day and they are the least seen of the Big 5.
  2. The Leopard is the strongest climber of the African big cats with excellent night vision.
  3. Leopards are anti-social loners mostly interact with each other when mating and raising young cubs.
  4. Leopards are staunch advocates of living alone. So much so, that they actually fight any other leopard they accidentally encounter! However, they do sometimes hunt with their mate.
  5. Leopards have a special ability: they can hang upside down from trees! It is interesting to watch a full-grown leopard do that though?
  6. Leopard is excellent in tree climbing and often safeguard their kill in a tree to prevent other predators from stealing their catch.

The Rhino

  • Weight: 1 to 2 tons. (The weight of an average car.)
  • Diet: Leaves, buds, and shoots of plants are what a species of Rhino called the Black Rhino eats. The White Rhino eats grass. But yes, all rhinos are veggies.
  • Life Span: 35 to 40 years.

Interesting Facts about Rhino

  1. Rhinos have poor vision and will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident. However, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent, thus often making up for their poor eyesight.
  2. The rhino is the most endangered species of the Big 5 in Africa
  3. Rhinos feed at night and rest during the day.
  4. They have a gestation period of 16 months.

The African Buffalo

  • Weight: 900 Kg.
  • Diet: Grass, grass and still more grass! And some leaves at times. 
  • Life Span: 16 Years.

Interesting Facts about African Buffalo

  1. The primary predator to the buffalo is the Lion.
  2. The African buffalo is not closely related to the water buffalo even though they superficially resemble each other.
  3. Unlike the water buffalo, the dangerous African buffalo has never been domesticated.
  4. Buffalos can be very dangerous when provoked.
  5. Buffalos apparently have excellent memories and will ambush hunters who they have encountered before.
  6. Buffalos drink 40 l of water a day so never wander too far away from a watering hole. Lions often lie in wait for them near the water and it will usually take several lions to bring a buffalo down.
  7. Female buffalos have strong bonds and if one individual is attacked the entire herd will defend it, often killing lions and other predators in the process.

Did you know that besides of Serengeti National Park being a famous for its high concentration of the Big and Small Cats,  it is also home to the spectacular annual wildebeest migration and also home to the Big 5 of Africa?

Best Tanzania Parks to the African Big 5


  • Arusha National Park but can be difficult to sight one.
  • Tarangire National Park
  • Lake Manyara National Park but also difficult to spot.
  • Ngorongoro – They can be found at the rim of the crater.
  • Serengeti National Park

The African Elephant

  • Arusha National Park
  • Tarangire National Park – very huge herds
  • Lake Manyara National Park.
  • Ngorongoro Crater – Plenty in the rainy season.
  • Serengeti National Park – Plenty

The Rhino

The Cape Buffalo

  • All Northern National Parks Of Tanzania

The Lion

  • Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti National Park.

The other African countries that the Big 5  can be found are Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Angola, Rwanda, and Malawi.

Did you know that today the expression of the Big 5 takes on a gentler form, referring to seeing the Big Five on a wildlife safari on the African continent and not on a hunting expedition?

Big Five Safaris in Tanzania

Big Five African game have an edge over the wildlife areas missing one or more of these iconic species because safari-goers from across the globe are eager to spot the famous rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant combination.

We have plenty of safaris to many of Tanzania’s best Big Five game reserves and national parks, so contact us if you are searching for an incredible Big Five wildlife experience. Our consultants can also tailor-make a safari to Big Five African destinations for you!

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