The Big Five

Africa’s Big Five – lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and buffalo – are well known among the continent’s big mammals. “These five wild animals were originally termed ‘the Big Five’ by big game hunters who found them to be the most difficult and dangerous African animals to hunt on foot. These days the term ‘Big Five’ is frequently used in the African safari industry, where sightings, encounters and photo opportunities of these heavyweights are highly sought-after”. They are also featured on South African currency.

Copy source: African Budget Safaris


Since the establishment of the Kruger National Park in 1898, lion populations have increased significantly. In the 1920s, Stevenson-Hamilton counted only 600 lion in the area. Today, the Kruger Park is home to a population of approximately 2000 lion – one of the largest populations in Africa.

Lion kill images © J. Kjaerandsen

Copy source: Siyabona Africa

© K. James
© J. Kjaerandsen


By 1896 white rhino were extinct in the Lowveld, while elsewhere a relic 50 animals survived between the White and Black Umfolozi rivers in Zululand. Successful conservation measures made it possible to re-introduce 337 rhino from 1961 onwards, and the Kruger Park now safeguards the world’s largest population.

White rhino coat their hides in mud during the hot summer months to reduce fly bites and to regulate body temperature. Given their size, rhino can remove huge quantities of mud with each wallow. Over time, this has created depressions in the veld which then fill during the rainy season and form pans.

Copy source: Siyabona Africa

© K. Kongshavn

Above images © J. Kjaerandsen


Leopard are notoriously elusive – as well as nocturnal.

Despite leopard inhabiting all sixteen major vegetation types in the Kruger, they tend favour dense riverine bush bordering rivers such as the Sabie and Shingwedzi which makes them difficult to spot.

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© K. Kongshavn


Elephants are the world’s largest land animal and are known for their intelligence.

“Females and their young are typically spotted in herds led by a matriarch. Male elephants are normally found in small bachelor herds or as solitary bulls once mature”.

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© A. Lalis

Top left and bottom right images © K. James

Top right and bottom left images © J. Kjaerandsen


This formidable-looking herbivore is often overlooked as one of the Big Five as they are the only members of the Big Five that are listed as ‘least concern’ on the IUCN red list.

A buffalo herd does not occupy a fixed territory. In winter, buffalo in Kruger National Park concentrate within eight kilometers of permanent water, especially along the Sabie, Olifants, Letaba and Shingwedzi rivers. The sight of a herd of several hundred buffalo raising clouds of red dust as they trek to water is one of the most memorable that the Park can offer.

Herd photographs © C. Tungphatthong

Copy source: Siyabona Africa & African Budget Safaris

© J. Kjaerandsen