The Big 5 – rather grimly – originally referred to the 5 hardest animals to hunt in Africa around the turn of the 20th century, when thousands of hunters came from Europe and North America to hunt them for sport. They were considered the hard to hunt animals because they were either very difficult to track, dangerous when cornered or wounded, or a mix of all of these aspects. Although hunting these animals is now rare, sadly it has continued amongst a few wealthy individuals, amidst much controversy and international outrage mainly via social media outlets. These days though, thankfully the vast majority come to see the ‘Big 5’ on safaris out of appreciation for the opportunity to get a special encounter with these unique animals, rather than to hunt them for trophies. The ‘Big 5’ include the lion, the leopard, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, and the rhinoceros. Although it’s unlikely (though not impossible) to see them in one single safari, this article gives you insight into some of the best places where to see each individually. 

Kadealo, Big 5 Hard to Hunt Animals, Lions, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

The Big 5 : Lions, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Arguably the Lion is the most popular out of the ‘Big 5’ hard to hunt animals people want to see, perhaps because it’s so associated with and deeply attached to Africa in people’s consciousness. Although two of the most popular National Parks in Africa – The Serengeti (northern Tanzania) and the Kruger National Park (South Africa) – are great places to spot Lions, mainly due to the fact that the populations in both are not in decline, Selous comes highly recommended because you are likely to be the only tourists around when you spot them, so you have the whole experience to yourself.

Kadealo, Big 5 Hard to Hunt Animals, Leopards, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

The Big 5: Leopards, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Leopards are mainly nocturnal beasts who primarily hunt at night. These hard to hunt animals can make themselves particularly tricky to be seen because very few Parks and Reserves in Africa allow night-time driving safaris. The exception to this is in Zambia, in South Luangwa National Park, which is indeed another good choice as night safaris greatly increase your chance of seeing leopards there. However, Lake Nakuru is arguably a better choice because the leopards here are commonly seen in the daytime – which is a real rarity. This is mainly due to landscape, which has a high density of fever trees which have very thick branches, which the leopards love to sleep in during the day. But also because Nakuru has a low population of lions, making the leopard naturally more prominent.   

Kadealo, Big 5 Hard to Hunt Animals, Elephants, Chobe National Park, Botswana

The Big 5: Elephants, Chobe National Park, Botswana

This National Park has to be the clear pick of the bunch simply because of the fact the Park is estimated to be home to around 70,000 elephants, best viewed in the dry season. So your chances of seeing these hard to hunt animals here are statistically better than anywhere else; except perhaps Selous Game Reserve mentioned above in Tanzania, which is said to have the highest density of elephants in Africa. However, Chobe National Park has the biggest overall population in Africa, and the elephants here are said to be some of the biggest elephants physically you can find in Africa. So Chobe just edges it’s way to the top of this for elephant viewing in this case.

Kadealo, Big 5 Hard to Hunt Animals, Rhino, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

The Big 5: Rhino, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Fastly becoming extinct, the rhinoceros is on par with lions for people’s favourites of the Big 5 hard to hunt animals. Sadly, the best places for viewing these endangered animals that could well be extinct in as little as 5-10 years if poaching for the ivory trade is not thwarted in the next few years is in conservation parks and sanctuaries. Undoubtedly the best of these has to be at Ol Pejeta in Kenya; It is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and thus is home to a great number of free-roaming black rhinos. But the icing on the cake here is that it is home to four of the last seven northern white rhinos in addition to Barake; a blind black rhino saved from poachers by the conservancy. A rather sobering fact to say the least. The black rhino is the most solitary and thus hard to spot compared to its white rhino cousin. So Ol Pejeta is probably the best place in Africa to have a chance of viewing these beautiful and hard to hunt animals – the second-largest land mammal in the world – before they could become extinct.


Kadealo, Big 5 Hard to Hunt Animals, Cape Buffalo, Krueger National Park, South Africa

The Big 5: Cape Buffalo, Krueger National Park, South Africa

Undoubtedly the easiest of the Big 5 hard to hunt animals to see, the Cape Buffalo is not endangered and is found in herds of up to an incredible 500. These hard to hunt animals are found all over in the easily accessible and affordable Krueger National Park. However, the best places are in the far north or far southern reaches of the Park. A few years ago a baby buffalo was snatched away by crocodiles and lions in Krueger, and video footage of this went viral on social media and via YouTube. Happily – and quite astonishingly – the baby was rescued by its herd relatively unscathed. So if you want the opportunity to see a similar experience, with some luck, Krueger National Park will present the opportunity of seeing something similar: The ultimate battle between the prey and the hunted.