Tanzania Big Five Destinations

The allure of the Tanzania Big Five beckons travelers from far and wide travels to witness the ultimate destination and to encounter these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, Tanzania holds a special place in the hearts of wildlife enthusiasts. From the regal lions of the sweeping Serengeti to the gentle giants of Ngorongoro, Tanzania’s diverse and well-preserved national parks offer an unparalleled opportunity to witness the wonders of the Big Five. With its commitment to conservation and vast untamed wilderness, Tanzania stands unrivaled as the best country to spot these awe-inspiring wild animals, captivating visitors with its rich biodiversity and unforgettable safari experiences.

The term “Big Five” has long been in use, but its origins have an unsavory past. In the past, hunters commonly targeted animals from the Big Five as a challenge. These animals were considered the most difficult to hunt. Thankfully, in present times, hunting of these animals is no longer practiced, and instead, we capture their beauty through the lens of a camera, taking exquisite photographs.
When tourists visit Tanzania today, their aim is to create lasting memories by capturing numerous stunning photos of each of the Big Five animals.

1. Lion
2. Leopard
3. Elephant
4. Rhino
5. Buffalo

Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Family: cats (Felidae)
Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti
Population in Tanzania: ca. 15.000 (2010)
Diet: antelope, gazelle, gnus, buffalo, zebras
Head-and-body length: 140 – 250 cm
Weight: 120 – 270 kg
Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 years
Life Span: ca. 15 years (zoo animals up to 25 years)
IUCN Status: Vulnerable

The lion is undeniably the most iconic member of the Big Five animals. Lions can be found living in pride of up to 25 individuals, showcasing their social nature. Male lions are distinguished by their majestic manes and are primarily responsible for defending the pride’s territory rather than hunting. It is the lionesses who showcase remarkable hunting skills by stealthily tracking and closing in on their prey. Surprisingly, lions have few natural adversaries in the wild. However, they can face challenges from hyena packs, known for their scavenging tendencies and occasional theft of lion kills. If you have a desire to witness the awe-inspiring presence of a lion in its natural habitat, we invite you to explore our range of safari tours today.

Lions can be seen in several places within Tanzania, including Serengeti national park, Selous game reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara national park and Tarangire national park. These National Park are their natural habitats and provide them with ample space to be vicious game hunters.

Best time to see them: February – March, June – November (in the southern parks)

Scientific Name: Panthera Pardus
Family: Felidae
Habitat Northern Circuit: Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire
Population Tanzania: ca. 15.000 to 20.000
Diet: antelopes, wild boars, birds, zebras
Head-and-body length: 90 to 185 cm
Weight: 25 to 100 kg
Sexual Maturity: ca. 3 years
Life Span: ca. 12 to 18 years
IUCN Status: Vulnerable

A leopard, is known as one of the more elusive members of the Big Five, it can be quite challenging to spot a leopard as they are primarily nocturnal hunters, spending most of their daytime hours in slumber and Unlike lions, leopards have a preference for smaller prey, These majestic creatures are often found perched in trees and are known for hunting during the early morning or evening hours. Once a leopard successfully captures its prey, it skillfully carries it up a tree keeping it out of reach from scavengers and leopards can be spotted in the same national parks where lions reside, offering an opportunity to witness the beauty of both species.

Where can I see leopards in Tanzania?
While black leopards are missing from Tanzania, spotted leopards in northern Tanzania and southern Tanzania can be spotted on game drives at various national parks. You can see these enormous animals in Ruaha national park, along the Great Ruaha River. These predatory animals can also be seen in several other locations, including Arusha national park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ngorongoro Crater.

Best time to see them:
February – March, June – November (in the southern parks)

Scientific Name: loxodonta africana
Family: elephants (Elephantidae)
Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Arusha
Population in Tanzania: ca. 43.000 (2014)
Diet: grasses, leaves, twigs
Head-and-body length: 250 – 750 cm
Weight: 3200 – 6500 kg
Sexual Maturity: ca. 12 – 15 years
Life Span: ca. 40 bis 80 years
IUCN Status: Endangered

When you embark on a Tanzanian safari adventure, you cannot miss the awe-inspiring African Elephant as it peacefully grazes on plants, including tree bark, leaves, and fruits, a prominent member of the Big Five. Tanzania is home to a significant elephant population, with Tarangire National Park being the ultimate destination to witness their magnificence. Along the Tarangire River, it is not uncommon to spot over a hundred elephants at once, showcasing the positive impact of strict penalties for illegal hunting. During your safari, you will not only have the opportunity to witness the iconic wildebeest migration but also observe the largest land mammal.

Where can I see elephants in Tanzania?
Some of the locations where these mighty animals can be seen include Arusha, Nyerere (Selous), Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, and Lake Manyara.
For large herds of Elephants, be sure to book a stay in Tarangire as they come by the dozen!

Best time to see them:
February – March, June – November (in the southern parks)

Scientific Name: Diceros Bicornis
Family: Rhinocerotidae
Habitat Northern Circuit: Ngorongoro, Serengeti
Population in Tanzania: less then 1000
Diet: leaves, branches, twigs, bark, thorns
Head-and-body length: 280 – 360 cm
Weight: 800 – 2500 kg
Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 – 6 years
Life Span: up to 45 years
IUCN Status: critically endangered

The rhinoceros is most difficult to spot. It is an endangered species and therefore very rarely seen. Rhinos can be found in both Serengeti national park and the Ngorongoro Crater. Our customers get to see the rhino more regularly in the crater and the population is also growing in numbers at the moment. This has to do with the fact that the market for ivory has been curbed, so that the rhino is hunted less often.

How many rhinos are left in Tanzania?
There are less than 80 reported black rhinoceros left in Tanzania, and can often only be seen on private reserves. Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which are sold in illegal trade. The African rhino must be protected as there is a huge risk of their extinction, so we ask every reader to consider donating what you can to their protection.

Where can I see a rhino in Tanzania?
Some of the sites where these animals can be visited within Tanzania include Serengeti, Tarangire, and the Ngorongoro Crater

Best time to see them:
February – March, June – November (in the southern parks)

Scientific Name: Syncerus Caffer
Family: Bovidae
Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Arusha
Population: 100.000+
Diet: grasses
Head-and-body length: 240 – 340 cm
Weight: 300 – 900 kg
Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 – 5 years
Life Span: ca. 18 to 25 years
IUCN Status: least concern

The buffalo is a member of the Big Five that is easy to spot. It can be found in all Tanzanian national parks. Buffalos live in large groups. They are very strong animals but are also herbivores and only eat grass.

Where can I see the African buffalo?
When it comes to popular destinations where you can glimpse these magnificent animals, visiting Kilimanjaro, Selous, Tarangire, Arusha, and Ngorongoro Crater won’t disappoint.

Best time to see them:
February – March, June – November (in the southern parks)