The African Big Five animals are the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros (black/white). Why are they called the Big Five? The term Big Five game was first used by hunters because they are the most dangerous and challenging animals to hunt on foot.
For most travelers to the African continent, a safari adventure includes game drives to catch a glimpse of the Big Five animals.
I have outlined some of the best destinations for a safari vacation for the Big Five viewing games. Also, as a bonus, I added some tips to make sure that you fully enjoy your game drive adventure on the Dark Continent.
Now without any further ado, where should you go?
Best Destinations for the Big Five
First, before choosing a destination for your safari vacation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I indeed want to see all the Big Five animals during my African safari vacation?
- Apart from the Big Five, are there other mammals as well as other wildlife (reptiles, birds, etc.) that I want to see during my safari?
The answers to these questions will help you choose your African safari destinations.
Here are some of the African countries where you can see all the Big Five animals:
- South Africa
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Keep an open mind when choosing your African safari destination. Many countries contain only 4 of the Big Five animals. A good example of this is Zambia. Over most of the Zambian territory, you will not find any rhinoceros, one of the animals of the Big Five. Nevertheless, Zambia is well-renowned to offer the best safari experience of the Dark Continent.
Day and Night Drives
Game drives could be a 2-hour excursion to a whole day! Often time, you will be able to go on day and night drives.
The day drives are usually done early in the morning and late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. Moreover, the animals are most active during those times.
The Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa is a private concession where you are allowed to drive off the roads. By doing so, you can get even closer to the animals. However, in National Parks and Game Reserves managed by the government, you have to stay on the roads!
Night drives allow you to observe many nocturnal species that you would otherwise miss. A spotlight is used to find the wildlife in the dark. The animals are spotted by the reflection of their eyes. Most of the National Parks and Reserves don’t offer night drives on their territory. Therefore, the only way to experience a night drive is to go on private concessions or wildlife conservancies.
Open or Close Sided 4X4 Vehicles?
First of all, some safari companies use for their game drives a minivan or a minibus. Please, don’t settle for that! The vehicle of choice is a 4X4 vehicle!
Most of the 4X4 vehicles could sit up to 10 persons. However, you should request when possible to be no more than 5-6 people per vehicle. By doing so, you will thoroughly enjoy wildlife sightings.
Now the big question: open or close sided 4X4 vehicles?
In East Africa, close sided 4X4 vehicles are the vehicles of choice for game drives. Why? Because of the distance traveled while on a game drive and the weather! The close sided vehicles always have roof hatches and regular windows.
In Southern Africa, the safari companies prefer to use open-sided 4X4 vehicles, which are built for rough terrain. These vehicles usually have a canopy to protect you from the scorching sun.
By using open-sided vehicles, this allows you to experience the surrounding sounds and smells. Regardless of your safari destination, you should always opt for an open-sided 4X4 vehicle for your game viewing drives.
Many African countries offer game drives that focus on the Big Five animals. However, you should widen your horizon a bit, while you are researching safari destinations. Besides the Big Five, there are other animals worth seeing on the African continent!
If you are looking for a safari experience with loads of game drives, read my full review about the Kruger Park Safari here.
If you have any questions about game drives, please leave a comment below. I would love to get your feedback!