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Perfect African Safari Itinerary to Spot the Big 5 

Big Five is a commonly used term among wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. It is the dream of every wildlife lover to spot the magnificent Big 5- lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros. The term ‘Big 5’ is not just a reference to their size; they are all on the larger-than-life-size in terms of their magnificence and reputation. The term is used to indicate the majestic animals that can be difficult to sight and dangerous to hunt because of their unpredictable behavior.

It is a real trophy for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers if they can spot and photograph those five animals. But how and where to spot them? This is where embarking on guided big 5 safaris comes into play. You are sure to locate them in the vast and diverse landscapes of Africa with rich biodiversity if you are with trusted naturalists. 

Let us plan comprehensive Africa safaris that will offer you the ultimate safari experience and increase your chances of spotting these incredible animals in their natural habitat.

Masai Mara

The first week in Kenya – Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Start your Big Five safari adventure in Nairobi and spend the day getting familiar with the local culture. Visit local attractions such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which cares for orphaned rhinos and elephants.

Depart for Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the most popular and famous destinations among wildlife lovers. It is a prime location to spot the Big Five because of the vast savannah that is home to abundant wildlife. Plan some exciting game drives and go to the best spots for wildlife sightings under the expert guidance of experienced guides. 

  • Highlight – Enjoy witnessing the Great Migration if you are there between July and September. Interact with the indigenous Maasai people for cultural experiences.
  • Tip- As rhino numbers have reduced due to poaching, you can still spot the animal in Lake Nakuru and the Lewa Wilderness Conservancy towards the north of Kenya.
Ngorongoro Crater

Second week in Tanzania – Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Once you have explored Kenya, cross over into Tanzania, which has more than a quarter of its area assigned to national parks and game reserves. The lion population here is about four times higher than the rest of the content.

Tanzania safaris also offer an exceptional experience, with vast landscapes that will leave you awe-struck. Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area are the top areas to spot all of the Big Five and the elusive leopard. Ngorongoro crater, which is the result of centuries of volcanic activity, is home to wildlife and Masai people. 

  • Highlight – As you scour the vast landscapes for the Big Five, remember to look up for incredible birdwatching opportunities. Witness the Wildebeest Migration across the massive plains of the Serengeti and visit Lake Victoria, the second-largest freshwater lake, and take one of the available Kilimanjaro tours to visit the highest mountain in Africa.
  • Tip- In addition to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, visit the protected areas such as Lake Manyara National Parks and Arusha.

Third week in South Africa – Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is known to offer a wealth of wildlife encounters and the largest game reserves in Africa. Explore the various regions with distinct ecosystems under knowledgeable rangers and take guided safaris to enjoy the diverse wildlife populations. The Big Five can be spotted in the Okavango Delta.

  • Highlight – Watch out for other wildlife species such as giraffes, zebra, antelope, baboons, wildebeest, hyenas, and wild dogs.
  • Tip- Watch out for both black and white rhinos in Kruger. Or you can track white rhinos in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. 
Elephant Etosha

Fourth week in Namibia – Etosha National Park and the Waterberg Plateau Park

The vast landscape of Namibia is a lot different from other destinations in Africa. Etosha National Park is well famous for its huge sand dunes and salt pan that is home to the four of the Big 5. The only thing that needs to be added to the big five is the buffalo, which can be easily sighted at Waterberg Plateau. 

  • Highlight – Along with enjoying the wildlife spotting, see some of the most magnificent sunsets as you sit under the brightly star-lit sky. Interact with the local Himba people and see the ancient Bushmen’s rock art.
  • Tip- Try to make the most of your trip and spot cheetahs, as Namibia boasts the largest population of wild cheetahs.

Now that you have spotted all the Big Five on an exciting African Safari, it is time to return to Nairobi. Spend the time relaxing and exploring the vibrant local markets to shop for souvenirs or try local delicacies.


Some useful tips to plan a successful itinerary for Big Five Safari

  • Choose reputable and professional safari operators who are known to provide knowledgeable and expert guides who can enhance wildlife safari experience and raise your chance to spot the Big Five.
  • Research beforehand to learn about the best locations and the right time for successful wildlife sightings, as migration patterns can vary based on seasons and with each destination.
  • Show respect for the local culture and practice responsible tourism by respecting the wildlife and their natural habitats.
  • Support local tourism and tour operators and opt for eco-friendly accommodations to show that you care for the planet and its biodiversity.
  • Remember to carry a good camera with a telephoto lens, or you will miss the chance to capture some stunning wildlife with your lens. Carry some extra memory cards and batteries with longer life and, of course, the binoculars.
  • Stay close to the wildlife and follow the instructions of your tour guide to avoid any unpleasant situation, as wildlife can be unpredictable.
  • Pack appropriate clothing because of the varying weather conditions and remember to pack sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Consult your doctor before you travel to Africa and ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medications for complete health safety.
  • Get comprehensive travel insurance to take care of any unexpected situations during your safari and to enjoy a seamless experience.
African savanna

Final Thoughts

Wildlife safaris should always be well-planned and carefully thought out. Make good use of the above African safari itinerary that offers you a big chance to witness the Big Five. Whether it is the diverse landscapes of Kruger National Park, the unique ecosystem of the Ngorongoro Crater, or the vast savannah of Maasai Mara,  you can certainly make your dream of spotting the Big Five come true.

Embark on a journey of an unforgettable wildlife experience, and do not miss the chance to spot those magnificent animals in their natural habitats and come back with some cherished memories that will last you for a lifetime!

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