African Big 5

In Africa the term, African Big 5 refers to the

Big game hunters realized the Term "Big 5 or African Big 5" and refers to the most difficult 5 animals to Hunt by Foot.


Why African Big 5 Safari

Planning a Safari to Africa then the Big 5 quickly comes to mind, these incredible and magnificent animals are unique and splendid in their own. Witnessing any of the Big 5 will truly remain embedded for years to come.

In this article you will learn all there is to know about the Big 5. 

Each Animal below has a dedicated page with more relevant information on each animal in Africa. We hope and trust you'll enjoy the relevant information of the African Big 5 and their big 5 personality traits.

Viewing the: African Big 5

Self drive or organised safaris are the best ways to witness these amazing animals, bear in mind that the Leopard has to be one of the most difficult and is most often witnessed at night.

-African Big 5-



In Africa the most feared African Big 5

The African Lion is the second largest cat in the world the Tiger being the largest. Lion's are social and live in groups called a Pride. A pride can have up to 3 males and the rest will be females and their young. The pride size will depend on the availability of food and water. A Lion's roar can be heard as far a way as 8 km. A prides territory can extend as far as 260 square kilometers. It is the male's that will protect this territory. The thick mane of a male Lion safeguards them from fights. Female Lions primary job is to hunt and care for their young. Being smaller and slower they hunt together contributing to their successful rates.

  • Female Lions live together for life
  • They are the only big cats with Manes
  • They have the loudest roar of all the cats
  • Lions are the most social of all big cats
  • Male Lions eat first
  • The darker the mane the older the Lion

Frequently Asked Questions

Scientific Name of Lion:



Panthera leo

190 kg Male / 130 kg Female


lion and foot print

lion conservational status (vulnerable)

-Why They Matter-

The role that Lion's play in the environment is crucial. Without them entire ecosystems could falter. Experts estimate that by 2050 they could be near extinction. They play a vital role in the food-chain in assisting the control of the herbivore population.

Should the herbivore population not be regulated, then the population could cause competition among-st themselves and even cause some of them to go extinct. Lions have been known to kill large herbivores such as Giraffe and Elephant. Preying on herd animals Lions do prey on the weakest thus keeping the population resilient and healthy. Thus controlling parasites.

Lion truly is King of the Jungle. Unfortunately Lion Populations are dwindling. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is a Part of Africa where Lion sightings are frequent and magnificent. See our article on Lions in Trees.

Recognising a Lion

  • Lions are the largest of all cat species
  • They range in colour from almost white to deep brown, the most popular colouring being a tawny yellow gold, colour, males can sometimes even have a grey colouration
  • Lions have subtle markings in the face an around the eyes
  • Male lions develop manes, each uniquely in colour, length and thickness. Manes protect males during fights.
  • Leopard like rosette are seen on the young of lion but disappear quickly as they grow
  • Both the males and the females roar, on a quite night it can be heard up to 8km away, males roaring loader than females. This ascertains their territory.
  • Roars are important thought , they show position of lions , advertise their presence and position
  • Group roaring immediately reinforces the prides solidarity and also lets every animal around know not to try sneaking intrusions as the whole pride is there and it is not a random nomad lion.

Interesting Facts about Lion's

  • Lions are the largest carnivores in Africa
  • They are the only social cat in the bushveld.
  • Lions are experts at stalking and are extremely quick; How fast is a Lion? they can cover 100 meters in 6 seconds. They are able to use bare minimum are stalk coverage
  • Lions are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything that comes their way
  • Lions sleep for 20 hours of the day and prefer night time hunts although should the opportunity present itself during the day they will take it.
  • All lionesses will remain in a pride for life and are all related
  • Lions have protractile claws –the claws are pushed out by muscle contraction.
  • Lions have very rough tongues – this is used to separate meat from bone on a kill
  • Females do most of the hunting work although males will assist if the females are strong enough

-Lion vs Cheetah-

  • Same Family but from a different genus
  • Lion belongs to Panther Leo
  • Mainly belongs Felidae or cat family
  • Group is called Pride
  • Primary habitat is Africa
  • Few are still known to be in the Gir Forest in India
  • Same Family but from different genus
  • Cheetah belongs to Acinonyx jubatus
  • Cheetah's depend on their speed for successful hunts
  • While at speed their heels never touch the ground
  • Cheetah's can reach speeds of 96 km/h in 3 seconds
  • Cheetahs can purr while they inhale but can not roar like Lions

African Big 5


leopard facts

African Leopard

Are one of the African Big 5, they are primarily nocturnal animals. They are not social and prefer to live a solitary life. Agile and are superb swimmers. They can leap up to 6 meters, they will usually take their prey into trees where they are more protected from other predators. Leopards can run up to 57 km/h.

Gestation period of 90 to 105 days with a litter of 1 to 6 kittens. Cubs will suckle for 3 months and kept hidden for up to 8 weeks. Leopards have the largest territory of all the big cats. This ability has ensured their survival in various geographic areas. Leopards are carnivores and are of the best ambush predators.

  • Pound for pound the strongest of the big cats
  • Can leap 6 meters horizontally and 3 meters vertically
  • They are also very strong swimmers
  • Leopards will purr when content and growl when angry almost like that of a cat
  • Distinctive dark spots called rosettes

Frequently Asked Questions

Scientific Name:



Panthera pardus

17 to 90 kg


leopard and print 1

-Why They Matter-

Like that of the Lion, Leopards too play a vital role in the ecosystem in which they find themselves. Leopards today are unfortunately endangered. They have fared slightly better than other big cats due to their wide distribution and adaptability. Loss of habitat and prey has greatly diminished the numbers of these magnificent cats.

African Big 5


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African Elephant

Can live up to 70 years in the wild. They are the largest of all land mammals, and can spend up to 16 hours a day eating. They consume between 300 two 500 pounds of food per day. They have bad eyesight however the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Males will only leave the herd at the age of between 12 to 15 years.

Elephants can give birth every 3 to 4 years and the gestation period is 2 years. Babies when born can weigh approximately 250 pounds. It is the only mammal that can not jump. The average weight of an elephant heart is between 27 to 47 pounds. Only at the age of, 16 can the female Elephant reproduce but rarely has more than 4 children.

  • They have the longest pregnancy of all mammals 22 months
  • They prefer one tusk from the other, just like humans being left or right handed
  • The Trunk has 40 000 muscles in it
  • The trunk can sense size, shape and the temperature of the object

Frequently Asked Questions

Scientific Name:




2000 to 6000 kg


elephant and print

Elephant's Mating

Elephant vs Rhino

-Interesting Facts-

The tusk of an elephant is in actual fact incisors that grow throughout the elephants life. Growing an average of 7 inches per year. They are used to dig for salt, water and roots, debark trees clear paths and occasionally fight.The elephants ears are enormous and are used to cool the body down when warm.Their is a very structured order in elephants. The femals spend their lives in tight family groups of grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. The eldest female would usually lead the group.

African Big 5


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The White Rhino or Square Lipped Rhino is the largest of the 5 Rhino species. The large square lipped mouth is used to graze. They are also the most social of all rhino species. Originally mistranslated from dutch to English the wide rhino was named white rhino. Commonly known as a crash of Rhino's. Female become sexually mature at the age of 6 years. Males 10 to 12 years. Gestation of 16 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scientific Name:




White: 2300 kg Black: 1400 kg

Black Rhino Critically Endangered 

rhino and print
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mud bathing and wallowing
rhinos on safari hluhluwe

-Interesting Facts-

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park has the largest population of White Rhino in the world. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is also world renown for it's safe the Rhino campaign where Rhinos where saved from near extinction. Methods and techniques developed in Hluhluwe are still in use today for game capture. Visit the centenary center where can still today witness some of the artifacts used. Rhino's can be seen wallowing in mud which is done to cool them down. White Rhino's can run very fast considering their size upto 40 km/h in short bursts.

White Rhino scientific name: Ceratotherium simum

African Big 5

African Big 5


Cape Buffalo Facts


African Buffalo have incredible sense of smell compared to that of their eye sight and hearing abilities. Buffalo will travel through water due to the fact that Lion's don't like to get wet. When herds travel the younger or weaker will stay in the center of the herd as a protective measure. Buffalo are seriously aggressive if injured and hence the fact that they are one of the African Big 5.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scientific Name:



Syncerus caffer

590 kg

Population Decreasing

buffalo and print

-Interesting Facts-

buffalo facts
buffalo with baby

Buffalo are known as ambush hunters, they kill more hunters than any other animal. The Buffalo's (hide) neck can be as thick as 2 inches. Buffalo have exceptional memories. One will usually see birds sitting on Buffalo these are Ox-peckers and they remove ticks and insects from the Buffalo. Lone Buffalo are usually known as Dagga Boys they are older and have passed their prime and have been separated from the herd.

Conservation Status of the Big 5


Many factors are used to assess a species' conservation status, including: the number remaining, the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates and known threats.


The conservation status of a species is an indicator of how likely it is to remain alive at present or in the near future. Many factors are used to assess a species' conservation status, including: the number remaining, the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates and known threats.

rhino conservation status


Likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve.


Any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range

Critically Endangered

Species is one which has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

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Heritage Tours & Safaris was established in 2003, the company is based in the heart of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Todate the company is the largest privately owned safari tour company and would like to invite you to discover the true beauty that Zululand has to offer.

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Heritage Tours & Safaris would like to invite you to discover the true Zululand, South Africa. The company offers a wide variety of day safaris and overnight safari packages. Established in 2003 the company is today the largest privately owned safari specialist company in Zululand.