The ultimate guide to the best safaris to see the Big Five

The ultimate guide to the best safaris to see the Big Five

Who does not dream of an exciting safari in the heart of Africa – and a few, if not all, tick off the so-called Big Five from their bucket list?

Whether lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos or elephants that have targeted you, here are our expert guides to the best places to find them.

We also have all the advice you need for the ultimate safari vacation, from the best time of the year to the trip to top family tips.

LIONS – SOUTH AFRICA

Eye to eye: Shambala has no fence, no barrier, not even a vehicle door between you and a lion's pride

Eye to eye: Shambala has no fence, no barrier, not even a vehicle door between you and a lion's pride

Eye to eye: Shambala has no fence, no barrier, not even a vehicle door between you and a lion's pride

Check in: The Shambala Private Game Reserve, 120 miles north of Johannesburg.

sighting: Not for the faint of heart – you'll be in close proximity in Shambala. On an accompanied walk in the bush there is no fence, no barrier, not even a vehicle door between you and a lion's pride.

The reserve was designed by South African insurance billionaire Douw Steyn (the man behind comparethemarket.com), who worked it out 30 years ago from an old watermelon farm and a cattle farm.

He brought lions first, followed by the rest of the Big Five, adding gnus, giraffes, zebras and cheetahs to the mix. Steyn did not want a zoo, so he left it to the zoo. He wanted nature in the shell, where numbers of animals according to the law of the wilderness rise or fall.

The rooms: Luxury lovers can choose from eight large, honeycomb-style chalets with king-size beds, sleek bathrooms, outdoor showers and personal butlers.

If that's not enough, then go ahead and rent the six-bedroom lodge that Steyn built for his friend Nelson Mandela, who completed his autobiography Long Walk To Freedom.

At Zulu Lodge, guests discuss with the camp's cooks about the daily menus before dining at a fire pit and enjoying the freshest local South African fresh food. It is also a perfect place to watch the stars before a midnight game drive.

  • The stay in Shambala (shambalaprivategamereserve.co.za) starts at £ 699 per night for two people sharing a chalet. All meals, game drives and bush walks are included. Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) offers five nights including flights from £ 3,500.

Gareth Huw Davies

LEOPARD – NAMIBIA

I've been discovered: Leopards are the heaviest of the Big Five since they're nocturnal. Therefore, you need a knowledgeable guide

I've been discovered: Leopards are the heaviest of the Big Five since they're nocturnal. Therefore, you need a knowledgeable guide

I've been discovered: Leopards are the heaviest of the Big Five since they're nocturnal. So you need a knowledgeable guide

Check in: The nature reserve Okonjima, halfway between the capital Windhoek and the famous Etosha National Park.

sighting: Leopards are the heaviest of the Big Five since they are nocturnal. Therefore, they doze rather than run around during the day.

Leopards are also very well camouflaged and master of disguise, so you need a knowledgeable guide to find them.

At the family-run Okonjima, home of the charity The AfriCat Foundation, you'll drive off in small groups with off-road vehicles and be able to travel long enough to catch your prey.

Employees use radios to exchange sightings and to recommend closer points. Then they use their experience to target vegetation types where leopards are known. When leaders recognize them, you need patience to do the same. What looks like a nude patch can hide a gorgeous boring leopard.

The rooms: The individual villas have double beds in front of large picture windows, so you never lose the theater in Africa. The large bathrooms could have come from a five-star hotel, and most villas have steam chairs on private terraces.

There is a common room in the barn area for meals, drinks and downtime, where the sofas look like an African Soho house.

Staff members present presentations on the charity's efforts, and guests can shop locally for local crafts or sponsor a leopard and receive updates at home.

  • Freedom Africa (freedomafrica.co.uk) offers seven days self-drive tours in Namibia, including the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the Okonjima Nature Reserve (okonjima.com) with rental cars and accommodation from £ 886 per person.

Neil Simpson

RHINOS – SWAZILAND

You can watch white rhinos in the shallows in the heart of Swaziland between South Africa and Mozambique

You can watch white rhinos in the shallows in the heart of Swaziland between South Africa and Mozambique

You can watch white rhinos in the shallows in the heart of Swaziland between South Africa and Mozambique

Check in: The Beehive Village at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (biggameparks.org), a four-hour drive from Johannesburg.

sighting: A group of rhinos is called a crash. A crash is what you can see and hear in a muddy water hole in the heart of Swaziland, inland between South Africa and Mozambique. It is at the forefront of efforts to save wild rhinos – poachers are said to be killing two dozen per week across the border near the Kruger National Park.

Here you can see white rhinos rolling in the shallows, tinkering on land, and blowing wind in the loudest, longest explosions everyone in our land Rover has had the misfortune to break. But with huge, effectively armored frames and surprisingly sharp horns, a rhinoceros should not be laughed at. So we sat in silence and photographed from a safe distance.

The one-week vacation also includes a one-hour drive through the country to a sister camp in Hlane Royal National Park to see the critically endangered Black Rhino.

Dome from home: Grass and mud huts at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg

Dome from home: Grass and mud huts at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg

Dome from home: Grass and mud huts at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg

The rooms: At Mlilwane Camp, you sleep in huge beehives, but these traditional dome-shaped huts are mostly made up of grasses and mud. Inside, they have high ceilings, proper beds and bathrooms, but low doors and no windows, so those with claustrophobia want to clarify, though it's perfect for those who want to sleep in complete darkness. For a touch of luxury there is a swimming pool. Meals are often enjoyed outdoors around the community fire pit.

  • Explore (explore.co.uk) offers an eight-day tour of Kingdom Of Swaziland with accommodation, flights and most meals from £ 1,585 per person.

Bridget McGrouther

Elephants – Kenya

Momentum: Visitors to the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya can experience elephants up close

Momentum: Visitors to the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya can experience elephants up close

Momentum: Visitors to the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya can experience elephants up close

Check in: The Sasaab Lodge in the Samburu National Reserve.

sighting: You can see elephants splashing just meters from your riverside room – framing the perfect Big Five photo with the jagged summit of distant Mount Kenya. Elephants like to play in the water. On the banks of the muddy, glacier-fed river Ewaso Ng & # 39; iro, several improvised but entertaining shows should be placed in the first row of the day. Better yet, you do not have to leave the Samburu Reserve to see the other members of the Big Five club, as they are all out there – somewhere.

If you are looking for more emotional encounters, consider a trip to Nairobi in the beautiful Giraffe Manor (where you can hand feed giraffes). Then visit the nearby David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a sanctuary for orphaned elephants that lost their mothers to poachers, hunters, or illegal pet traps. Watch as they squeak, roam, and scrabble for huge milk bottles while their pet owners try to keep order.

The rooms: At Sasaab Lodge, the luxurious "tent citadels" include open-air showers, four-poster beds, plunge pools, and viewing decks. And while the roof can be thatched above you and the walls are not there (to allow for a constant breeze), you can still use your time via the lodge's WiFi. There is a spa for sunset massages and an infinity pool for a candlelit swimming.

On early morning safaris, your guide stops to cook coffee and cook eggs, bacon and pancakes. Back in the camp, the chef uses products from the in-house vegetable garden.

John Nichol

BUFFALOES – KENYA

Powerful:

Powerful:

Mighty: Buffaloes, the widowmakers, are the deadliest of the Big Five

Check in: The Porini Mara Camp in the Serengeti-Mara Wilderness.

sighting: Buffaloes, known as "widow makers," are probably the deadliest of the Big Five, allegedly killing 200 people a year. In a briefing before the safari, the guides explain what to do when a buffalo attacks: Lie flat on the ground so he can not throw you on the horns. Those we found were too busy charging each other. But the feeling of danger makes it even more real.

The rooms: Ideal if you want to sleep in a tent long after a haunting Safari in the Out Of Africa style. In the tiny camp Porini Mara there are only six solid tents in full height, all with hot showers and sinks. They also have comfortable beds with rustic wooden frames, bedside tables and lamps. Settle on sofas in your open plan living area and pull yourself into the mess tent, where there is a shared dining table for 12 people. The hearty British classics are more Delia Smith than Karen Blixen.

  • Africa Sky (africaskysafari.com) offers a three-night three-night safari in Porini Mara (porini.com) and nights at other camps, including all meals and parking, from £ 2,865 per person.

Sandra Howard

YOUR BIG FIVE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

1. WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR SHOULD WE GO?

Most try to avoid their country's rainy season as many resorts are nearby if floods make them inaccessible. However, some say that safaris are better in the rainy season – when many animals are born, you see more babies. The daytime temperatures (and room rates) are lower and there are fewer tourists. Information on different seasons can be found on africatravel.com.

2. WILL THE CHILDREN BE SAFE?

Game reserves are not prone to ruling out small children, although most advise that they need to be at least six years old to get the most out of their experience. Experts recommend South Africa as the best destination for families. It's two hours before GMT and you can fly directly to Johannesburg before you get a relatively short transfer to camp. Visit thomascook.com for family-friendly safari ideas.

3. WHERE CAN WE TRY Somewhat NEW?

Zambia and Botswana are fans who opt for the expansion of "hiking safaris" where you can escape the four-wheel drive vehicles and explore nature on foot, for example on a mountain gorilla hike. There are also canoe or kayak trips through the Okavango Delta in Botswana, or hot air balloon rides over the Serengeti offer different views. Fossil hunting is also worth a search. Draft horses can combine a trip to the Kruger National Park with a luxurious train ride for two nights to Cape Town. Visit discover africa.com.

4. WHAT IS DIFFERENT TO SEE?

The big migrations are usually next on the list for vacationers who have ticked off the Big Five. The Masai Mara in Kenya and the Tanzanian part of the Serengeti are best for wildebeest. Get more boastful rights by seeing some of the rarest races on the continent. If you want to see the very rare African wild dog, Botswana is the place to be. For more information, visit the charity bpctrust.org.

5. CAN WE HEAD TO THE BEACH?

For many vacationers a week on safari followed by a week on the beach holiday sky. Traveling to Kenya is most likely associated with beach access, as well as Tanzanian safaris, where you can spend your downtime on Zanzibar. Further inspiration can be found on kuoni.co.uk.

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