Entries in facts on big five on safari (2)


Seeing the Big Five on a Luxury Safari in Africa - the African Lion, the African Elephant, the African Leopard, the Cape Buffalo and the Rhino

AFRICA - Africa is the second largest continent, home to the world's longest river, biggest desert, storybook safaris and the big five. SAFARI - Derived from the Swahili word for 'journey' or 'expedition', safari was originally associated with hunting big game. US President Teddy Roosevelt popularized the idea of safari when he embarked on one himself, with the desire to fill the Smithsonian Institute with African specimens. Many of the animals they brought back were members of the big five.THE BIG FIVE - Coined by big-game hunters as the 5 most difficult animals to hunt in Africa: the African lion, the African elephant, the African leopard, the Cape buffalo and the rhino. Today, the concept of safari has greatly evolved - ridding of its hunting connotation and affirming itself as a socially and environmentally-conscious trip during which travelers can appreciate the African continent and its extraordinary wildlife, and that is the definition that we support. Meanwhile, numerous conservation programs strive to restore the numbers of these animals in the wild. (Visit our signature experience page to find out how you can get involved) 

Beyond the encyclopedic definition of a safari, is our signature luxury safari. In addition to thrilling wildlife sightings, breathtaking panoramic landscapes, gorgeous sunrises & sunsets and unobstructred star-filled skies, a luxury African safari lets you enjoy all of the above from the most intimate and magnificent safari lodges on the continent. 

Rooftop beds for stargazing, Swarovski binoculars, palatial open-aired suites with fireplaces, thatched gazebos and massive canopied beds, private decks, spillway pools, and outdoor free-standing porcelain tubs, all looking out onto the beautiful and remote wilderness. 

And those are just the amenities, as far the experiences are concerned - prepare yourself for candlelit dinners in the bush or aboard a floating pontoon on the Zambezi river, champagne while watching a lion kill, a hot air balloon ride over the Great Migration, the ability to trail a pod of whales along the continental shelf from your private plane and so much more...

As we often say though, luxury isn't just about single malt scotches and high thread counts. For us, it's also about singularly exceptional access to some of the greatest wonders of our world. Coming face-to-face with the Big Five is one of those wondrous experiences and will most likely be the highlight of your trip.

We've put together a short description of each member of the Big 5 so you know what to look for on your safari!


Lions once roamed most of the African continent as well as parts of Asia and Europe. Today, they can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa, with the only exception being a small population of Asian lions residing in India's Gir Forest. Lions live in groups, the males being the protectors and the females, the primary hunters. The easy way to differentiate the sex of a lion on your safari is to know that only males boast manes. Female lions hunt in packs as the animals they track down are often much faster, these include antelopes, zebras, wildebeest etc...Aside from teamwork, they have the added advantage of camouflage as their golden color blends inconspicuously with the light greens and yellows of the African savannah.


Weighing up to 8 tons, the African elephant is the largest land mammal on Earth. Other than size, dominant characteristics include large ears and of course their signature trunk - a versatile tool used to send warnings, greet others, bathe, drink water and pick up objects that weigh as much as 550 pounds. Reputed to have a sense of smell four times greater than bloodhounds, elephants can detect water up to 12 miles away. And as you might suspect, they need a lot of it - up to 50 gallons and 200-600 pounds of food per day. They have a slightly abnormal social structure, as females and calves often cohabitate whereas males typically live in isolation. Other standard elephant behavior that you might witness on safari is a lot of ear flapping and very messy mud baths - both of which are done for cooling purposes. 


Sleek & powerful, the leopard is the most elusive of large carnivores and fully capable of hunting and killing beyond its size. If you've ever wondered why leopards can look slightly different, it is mainly based on their habitat. Forest dwellers boast dark coats whereas leopards who live in warmer areas are much lighter - just as East African leopards have circular spots (aka rosettes) and southern African leopards have square ones. They are strong climbers and will often store their kills in trees to avoid theft from lions and hyenas (relatively lazy species that prefer to steal than hunt for themselves). Leopards can weigh up to 140 pounds and can run as fast as 36mph. 


The rhino, with its distinctive horn, is the second largest land mammal after the elephant. There are 2 main types of rhino - black & white, though they are all grey in color. The terms are in fact a result of a mistranslation. Early Dutch settlers in South Africa referred to white rhinos as 'Weid mond rhino' meaning 'wide-mouth rhino'. This is because the easiest way to distinguish the two is by their mouths. Black rhinos are grazers and therefore have smaller hook-shaped lips that help them to grasp firmly onto vegetation. They are slightly shorter and typically weigh less, 1,700 - 3,000 pounds versus the white rhino, 4,000 - 6,000 pounds. We've also observed that a white rhino will run in front of its mother whereas a black rhino trots behind. Unfortunately, this incredible species is one of the most endangered animals in the world but many great organizations are actively devoted to protecting rhinos and ensuring their survival. (FUN FACT: Rhinos once roamed throughout Eurasia and were depicted in cave paintings by early Europeans)


The Cape buffalo is the only member of the buffalo and cattle tribe that occurs naturally on the African continent. The species is relatively short in stature, standing at 51-59 inches but is massive when it comes to weight, topping out at nearly 2,000 pounds. They congregate in herds of several hundred and spend the bulk of their time grazing in open grasslands, swamps and forests, almost always near a large source of water. Strength in numbers is key for the buffalo as lone wanderers who separate from the herd are vulnerable to lions. They can run up to 35mph and can occasionally outrun their predators, but they are slow to gain speed and often fall victim to ambush attacks. Despite their docile cow-like appearance, Cape buffalo are extremely dangerous, and observers are always surprised by the force demonstrated when males fight over rank and females.  


Know the Big Five on Your Safari

There are an endless number of wild animals you might encounter on a luxury safari. The most well known wildlife you might see on your safari has been labeled the Big Five.  Lions and tigers and rhinos? Oh my! Get to know Africa's Big Five so you know exactly what-and who!-to expect on your next safari.


Name: Leopard

Size: 1.5-2.6 ft tall, 3 to 6 ft long with a 2-3.5 ft tail, 70-180 lbs

Lifespan: Up to 20 years

Diet: Gazelle, impala, deer and wildebeast are a leopard’s favorite. They also might hunt monkeys and birds.

Where in Africa do they live?: Throughout most of Africa on rocky landscapes with dense bush. They can, however, adapt to cold climates as well. 

Fun Fact: Leopards are amazing swimmers! They can hunt on land and in water.


Name: Rhino

Size: 4.5-6 ft tall, 750-8,000 lbs!

Lifespan: Up to 35 years

Diet: All rhinos are herbivores. White rhinos use their square-shaped lips to eat grass most efficiently, while other types of rhino prefer eating the foliage off trees and bushes.

Where in Africa do they live?: Various parts of Africa. From savannas to tropical forests, rhinos adapt easily. 

Fun Fact: Although rhinos are one of the most endangered species on the planet, they are getting help! In 2010, all countries with rhinos signed an agreement to monitor populations and increase law enforcement surrounding these creatures.


Name: Lion

Size: Up to 9-10 ft. in length and anywhere from 265-550 lbs

Lifespan: 12-15 years

Diet: Lions have strong jaws and forelimbs that enable them to hunt large prey such as zebra and wildebeest. Females are the primary hunters in a pride, and lions are known to steal food from other animals like their Big Five friend the leopard. 

Where in Africa do they live?: Lions live in a savannah habitat, anywhere from the southern Sahara to northern South Africa.

Fun Fact: A lion's roar can be heard from up to five miles away!


Name: African Buffalo

Size: 6-11 ft in length and 1,100-2,000 lbs in weight

Lifespan: Up to 20 years

Diet: They consume various grasses and other vegetation. It is also extremely important for them to drink enough water, so these buffalos rarely stray far from a water source.

Where in Africa do they live?: Various woodlands, savannahs, and grasslands of Africa. 

Fun Fact: A buffalo's hide can be 2 inches thick, making it difficult for other bulls to penetrate with their horns when they fight.


Name: African Elephant

Size: Between 5 and 14 ft tall, weighin in at 6,000-15,000 lbs

Lifespan: They can grow as old as 70 years old

Diet: Elephants eat about 350 lbs. of bamboo, grass, leaves, and roots per day. Sometimes they will even steal farmer's sugarcane and banana crops.

Where in Africa do they live?: South of the Sahara Desert, African elephants live in the rainforests of west and central Africa.

Fun Fact: The phrase "memory like an elephant" comes from an elephant's ability to remember the journey to a distant watering hold during the dry season.


If you are fascinated by all of this wildlife, a luxury safari is certainly the trip for you. Take a look at our many luxury African safaris right here!