Kenya was a place where I always wanted to go. I have been to varied places : lands with different landscapes, countries with beautiful beaches, vintage towns, historical destinations but there was always part of my heart that felt something was missing and that something could only be found in Africa. Kenya and Tanzania are both famous for big game safaris.I’d watched hundreds of documentaries filmed there and been amazed by the sheer diversity of what there is to see and the abundance of it. Like everyone else I had this dream of seeing the BIG 5 and those of you who have been to Kenya, you know its not that easy. There is always atleast one of the BIG 5 that you will miss and trust me you will hate yourself all your life. I think I was among a few lucky ones and here is my story of “Spotting BIG 5 in Kenya”.
In Africa, the BIG 5 game animals are: the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros. The term “Big Five” was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. When I was on a South African expedition, I knew that these animals were ineluctable to encounter once you’re in their territory, so I packed as many AR-15 upper receivers as I could—for the rest of the equipment a guy I’d be meeting would bring— and some rifles for a good game.
Fun Fact : The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size.
Here are my Big 5 memories and some fun facts about them .
Simba k.a African Lion:
On our very last day of Safari, when I had lost all the hope of being able to see all big 5 and was just ready to head back to Nairobi, our guide Ruben took us on one last game drive. And buoy little did I know that I will see African Lion up so close. He walked pass by our safari van , looked at us ( I think he winked at me 😉 )and headed straight to his safe haven to relax. Catching him in motion at sunrise and surrounded with lionesses and cubs was amazing. To give yourself the best chance of seeing a lion in Kenya, head to the Masai Mara or Tsavo national Park.
Tembo a.k.a African Elephant :
We were repeatedly told by our guide to not go very close to African elephants . First I thought , he was being extra cautious. But when I saw an African Elephant threatening and chasing a safari Van , I was convinced it was better to see them from a distance. They are very easy to spot as they always roam in large groups and you will always find them grazing. Best place to spot these tusky elephants is Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara.
Fun Fact : African elephants communicate across large distances at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.
Nyati a.k.a Cape Buffalo :
Easiest to spot, hot tempered and the most dangerous animal in Africa , Cape Buffalo lives in herds and even leopards do not dare attack them alone. It is said that buffalo’s primary predator is the lion and they will try to rescue another member who has been attacked. They have been seen killing a lion after it has killed a member of the group. If you ever go to Crescent Island in Kenya where you can practically walk along deers, zebras and gazelles , pray that you never ever get in sight of a Cape buffalo. We did and it was a very narrow escape.
Fun Fact : African buffalo have never been domesticated and they have a very poor sight.
Chui a.k.a African Leopard :
The most elusive among Big 5 , leopard is very very hard to spot , forget about photographing them. These elusive felines hide high up in the treetops .The leopard is nocturnal, enjoy solitude and are rarely seen during the day. They are the least seen of the Big Five. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a leopard as it races down a tree trunk at dusk, getting ready for an evening of hunting. Not only did I see it climbing down the tree , it walked pass by our van inches away. While it is one of the smaller cats of the jungle, they are ferocious. Your best chance of spotting a leopard in Kenya is at the Masai Mara, Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks.
Fun Fact : For a long time I did not know the difference between cheetah and Leopard. Its all in the spots .
Kafiru k.a Rhino :
The second most elusive animal of Big 5 is Rhino. All thanks to hunting and poaching there numbers are dangerously low. There are two types to look out for, the Black rhino and the White rhino. It is said that there are only 540 black rhinos left in Kenya. And so if you are lucky enough to tick one of these off your Big Five list you can definitely call your safari a success. Some of the best places to see a rhino in Kenya are Lake Nakuru and Lewa Wildlife Converancy.
FunFact : Rhinos have poor vision and will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident. However, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent, thus often making up for their poor eyesight.
And there are my Big 5 of Africa! Whilst the big 5 should definitely be on the top of your list , don’t miss out on admiring some of the other wildlife forms. Kenya has abundance of wildlife and being able to see these animals in their natural habitat is the most satisfying part of being on a safari. When you are in jungle , middle of no where , with absolute no cellphone reception – your guide/driver is your life saver. So , huge thanks to Hirola Tours and specially our guide Ruben who made this trip a great success. I will love to hear about your safari experiences in Kenya and which of these Big 5 were you able to spot. If you need any help in planning a trip to Kenya , leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out. Thank you for stopping by.
PhotoCredits : PHOTOSTAINS
TourCredits : HIROLA TOURS