1. Masai Mara
Probably the most famous game reserve in Africa, the Masai Mara needs little introduction. The reserves offers some of the best game-viewing on the continent and you’ll encounter elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and giraffe on almost every game drive. The wildlife-rich area is also in no short supply of big cats, boasting leopard, cheetah and more lion than you’ll know what to do with! With all these oversized felines, it’s no surprise that BBC chose to film its Big Cat Diary series here.
Really, the Big Five are just a drop in the wildlife ocean of what you can expect to spot in the Mara. The seasonal Great Wildebeest Migration sweeps through each year, bringing more than two million wildebeest, topi, gazelle and zebra to the plains.
2. Okavango Delta
A maze of lagoons that lies in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta almost defies belief. This wildlife paradise is also unique from most others in the number of ways it can be explored, from intrepid walking safaris to traditional game drives and even from the water in a traditional mokoro or dugout canoe.
However you travel in the Delta, you’re guaranteed to spot some spectacular wildlife. You might struggle to tick rhino from your Big Five list (although they do exist!), but the other members of the group are all present and correct, with buffalo and leopard particularly common.
3. Mana Pools
Another magnificent spot for water-based game viewing (and another UNESCO World Heritage Site – the first in Zimbabwe no less), Mana Pools should be near the top of your ‘must book’ list for safari destinations to see the Big Five.
Hop in a canoe and watch elephant cross the mighty Zambezi just metres in front of where you float, or choose a more sedate boat cruise and spot lions skulking around the banks looking for prey. To truly discover the wildest corners of Mana Pool, enlist the services of wildlife guide extraordinaire, John Stevens, who will lead you in a combination of mobile camping and walking forcing you to really get back to nature.
4. Ngorongoro Crater
You might have envisioned spotting the Big Five on Africa’s wide, open plains, but did you think you might spy them from within an ancient volcano…?
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most spectacular wildlife wonderlands on earth and was formed two to three million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself. Today the crater is covered in lush vegetation attracting a plethora of magnificent animals, including enormous numbers of black rhino, landing itself as one of our top safari destinations to see the Big Five.
5. South Luangwa
A bit of a wild card in a round-up of safari destinations to see the Big Five as this national park doesn’t have any rhino, but it does have something else up its sleeve that might be of interest…
One of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the whole of Southern Africa, the South Luangwa teems with game, and there are big cats aplenty. As well as lion, you can expect to see many other felines and the park is especially famous for leopard sighting, earning it the nickname “The Valley of the Leopard.” As well as cats, there’s a huge number of elephant and buffalo to spot, not to mention crocodile, hippo, zebra… Tempted yet?
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