What are Africa’s ‘Big Five’ Animals?

Anyone who has researched travel in Africa has probably come across the term, ‘Big Five’, but what does it actually refer to? The term ‘Big Five’ refers the following African animals; lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant. Clearly all big animals, but why these animals and not the hippo or the giraffe?

Well, the ‘Big Five’ is an old game hunting term used to define these five animals which were hard to hunt. Although no longer applicable in terms of game hunting, ‘Big Five’ is now used by safari tour operators to describe this popular group of animals (although in South Africa they have a ‘Big Seven’, adding the Great White Shark and the Southern Right Whale to the list).

Here’s some quick facts about the ‘Big Five’:

  • African Lions live in prides in sub-Saharan Africa. Although males are pushed out between 2-4 years old, females tend to stay in the same pride for life. They hunt both alone and in a group depending on the size of prey, but are also happy to scavenge left-over kills.
  • African Leopards are more solitary than lions and are usually found hiding up in the trees hidden by their excellent camouflage. They are nocturnal and can swim, unlike the lion, and can run as speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
  • Black and White Rhinos are increasingly endangered, are only found in south-African countries and, unlike their names suggest, are both grey.
  • There are different breeds of Cape Buffalo; Forest Buffalo, West African Savannah Buffalo, Central African Savannah Buffalo and Southern Savannah Buffalo. All live in herds that can reach in their thousands, and tend to stay as close as possible to water sources.
  • The African Elephant is still a vulnerable species, despite ivory hunting being banned many years ago. These animals can reach 14-feet tall and weigh up to 12,000lbs, but despite these impressive statistics, they are also vegetarian and very affectionate animals. As mentioned, many of these and other African animals face on-going dangers from hunting, poaching and destroyed habitats. Those wishing to support and improve these animal’s chances of survival can do so on a conservation programme, such as via Amanzi Travel who provide tailor-made volunteer conservation and wildlife sanctuary programmes throughout Africa.


A truly life changing experience, working on wildlife and community volunteering projects in Africa over eight years ago, convinced Gemma Whitehouse to give up her job as a Marketing Manager for an international organisation and use her skills and expertise to set up a company that would offer others the same amazing opportunities with a service second to none - thus Amanzi Travel was born.

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