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The Big Five - Kruger National Park, South Africa

There is a term in Africa called The Big Five. It's in reference to five particular animals: the lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, bush elephant, and water buffalo. On my self drive through Kruger park in South Africa I was on the lookout for these.

They are called the big five game animals because historically they have been the hardest to hunt on foot. This is a term that goes back to British colonial days when these were more widely hunted. Today they are hunted by poachers. They are considered the hardest to hunt on foot because of the danger involved. Today the Big Five is more of a tourist thing, how many can you spot when on a safari.

In this post I'll introduce you to the Big Five as I experienced them on my self drive safari. As always, these are all original photos and no stock images are used (it's probably obvious).

Encountering these animals can be a big scary, even in a car. My car was very small and at times I was very close to these big animals. If the bigger ones chose to attack, my car would offer little protection.

I'll post the Big Five here and provide more details and pictures/videos on posts over the next 5 days.


The Elephant

As I've posted before, for me this was the scariest of them all. I knew from my trips to India these are very unpredictable animals. I've heard numerous stories of the damage they can inflict. You just never know what's going through their heads!

Lone elephants like this was less a concern to me (maybe foolishly so). But many times I came in view of a herd of elephants. This caused increased anxiety because of the multiplicity of unpredictability. Additionally, if there were baby elephants with them that added an exponential factor.

These are beautiful creatures to watch in their own environment. This is not a zoo I was driving through, but their natural habitat.


The Rhinoceros

Most the time I viewed these at a distance. Only once did I get up close to one of these magnificent beasts. This photo op was the only time.

These animals are just so strong! That's the frightening aspect of them. Knowing they are one of the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot, combined with their size, made this a very nervous stop for photos. But then who could resist?

There are seldom any park rangers nearby in this huge park and many times I was the only person viewing. So if you get in trouble you're on your own!


The Lion

I hope you can see him in the picture lying in the grass. These could be difficult to spot. I only had one close encounter with them. I'll post on that in this series.

I don't remember actually ever spotting these on my own. For me, they were the hardest to find. I only encountered them when I saw another vehicle stopped and taking pictures. These majestic beasts garnered a lot of attention and people would stop for long periods photographing them. Lucky for me, or I may never have seen one on my own.


The Buffalo

Second to the elephants, these were the most common sitings of the Big 5. These didn't make me as nervous as the rhinos or elephants, simply because they just seemed so friendly to my naive eyes. I mean, I just felt like getting out of my car and patting their heads!

They could often be seen in the distance wallowing in the waters. But occasionally I got lucky and I would get a close encounter like this one.


The Leopard

Although I spotted these more than lions, they were still very difficult to find. See this one lounging in the tree?

Leopards and cheetahs look very similar. Their spots are different but that's difficult for me to detect. I mostly discerned the difference by their habitat. Cheetahs can't climb trees.

I have a separate post on a fantastic encounter with a leopard I'll post in this series. Additionally , I'll post more detailed photos and videos of all the Big 5 individually.

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Mike Wells
Mike Wells
May 06
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love the pictures especially this was out in the open wild not in a zoo. What a wonderful time for you to experience. All these animals would have made me a little uncomfortable to get out of vehicle and take pictures

May 07
Replying to

There are a big fines for exiting your vehicle in the park. All the shots were taken from my car window, but but I do have one story about exiting my car that I will post about on the last post of this series.

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