Discover Africa’s Big Five Wildlife

For any adventurer or wildlife enthusiast, Africa is a magical place beyond comparison. South Africa is home to some of the world’s best beaches, wines, and adventures, but it’s the wildlife that attracts visitors from all over the world.

The term ‘Big Five’, originated from the top five animals that are most difficult to hunt on foot due to their speed, size, and hostility. They are the buffalo, leopard, rhino, elephant and the African lion. The term has become synonymous with Africa and is even seen on South Africa’s currency, the Rand. Seeing the Big Five in their natural habitat can only be described as the holy grail of wildlife encounters.

Close up photo of a black & white zebra

In addition to the Big Five game reserves, Africa is also home to other top species such as the springbok, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, and ostrich. There is a wealth of discoveries to be made as you explore Africa’s wildlife and nature. So, keep your eyes open and your cameras ready.

South Africa has some of the best wildlife and conservation reserves on the continent. With the rhino being one of the most critically endangered species due to poaching for their horns, an increasing number of game reserves throughout the country are contributing to its conservation by saving the rhino from extinction.

Indoor pool with a river rock

Two of these reserves are the Aquila Private Game Reserve in Touwsriver and Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve 68km towards Sutherland. Just 180km from Cape Town, these game reserves are easily accessible from the Cape Town International Airport or with transportation provided by hotels. If you are looking for a wildlife experience in the heart of the Karoo then be sure to visit both Aquila and Inverdoorn. Expect to see the Big Five with a private game drive and choose to relax by the pools while watching elephants grazing hundreds of meters away.

Elephant walking on a dirt road eating grass.

Discover the Big Five
Being the largest mammal on land, the African Elephant is also assumed to be one of the most intelligent. The best way to identify an African Elephant is by looking at its giant ears which are in the shape of the African continent.

The mighty roar of African Lions can be heard 8km away, that is, when they are not sleeping which can be between 16-20 hours per day. As male lions are much bigger than females and have a full mane, they are often too slow and exposed to hunt.

Two rhinos sleeping in the dirt

Rhinos are the second largest land mammals, there are two rhino species found in Africa, the Black and White Rhino. Over 7,000 rhinos have been poached over the last 10 years, making it the most critically threatened of the Big Five.

Unlike the lion, leopards are elusive, making them one of the most difficult to spot in the wild. They also differ from cheetahs who are much faster and will chase their prey over long distances.

Due to their unpredictable nature and perhaps the most dangerous of the Big Five, the Cape buffalo is responsible for over 200 human deaths per year, so stay back! It is recommended that you take a good pair of binoculars or camera along if you want a closer look.

The delightful thing about a game drive is that every encounter with wildlife is absolutely unique. You may not always get to see all the animals you anticipated, so keep in mind that these animals are roaming freely and might not be as visible as you wish.

Close up photo of an ostrich

A short drive from these game reserves is some of South Africa’s most remarkable towns. The charming town of Ceres is easily accessible by car or with the Ceres Rail Company’s steam train from Cape Town. Ceres is one of the biggest fruit producing towns in South Africa and home to the ever-popular Klondyke Cherry Farm offering cherry picking for families. During the winter, the town is transformed into a winter wonderland with crowds flocking to witness the snow-covered landscape while children build snowmen.

Stop over at Tolhuis Bistro, located in Mitchell’s Pass just outside Ceres for their traditional “moer koffie” (ground filter coffee) served in enamel pots, and their famous “roosterkoek” (grill-cake). Another quaint town in the area is Sutherland, famed for being the coldest town in South Africa. Its clear night skies are enjoyed best by the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) which is the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere. Visitors are invited to stargaze from the local Planetarium or book a night stargazing tour to learn about our galaxy. Sutherland also produces some of the country’s best Karoo lamb which is offered at the Cluster d’ Hote restaurant.

A trip to South Africa offers a variety of adventures including witnessing the Big Five in their natural habitat and exploring traditional small towns. All that’s left to do is pack your bags and plan your African vacation.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Driaan J. Are you interested in traveling to Capetown? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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