Experiences - Big Cats and The Big 5

Few life experiences can beat that of getting up close and personal with Africa’s Big Five and big cats. Asilia’s outstanding camps are located in some of the best pioneering areas in Kenya and Tanzania. On safari here, coveted sightings are common – in fact, you get so close to these glorious animals you can feel their extraordinary power.

Covering some 25 000km², the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem encompasses a wide range of habitats, which is why it is home to Africa’s highest variety and concentration of wildlife. Ruaha hosts an incredible 10% of the world’s lion, while Tarangire is famous for its vast elephant herds. These are the safari destinations of choice for discerning travellers looking for intense big cat and Big Five encounters. Predator/prey interactions are frequent: witnessing a kill is both primal and stirring. Moments such as are a reminder of why it is so important to keep these pristine wilderness areas intact for future generations.

590kg

Average weight of adult buffalo

12 to 16 years

Average life span of lion in the wild

About 100

Elephant are killed daily for their ivory

2 570

Cheetah remain in East Africa

Big Five

 

‘Big Five’ was a term originally used by hunters to identify the five most dangerous species to hunt on foot: rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard. Even if you are only hunting these animals through the lens of your camera, the Big Five still have the power to evoke awe and a sense of respect verging on fear. Each time you get up close to one of these iconic creatures you experience a real thrill of adventure (and a sense of your own microscopic importance to the planet).

The term ‘Big Five’ has become a definitive marker of the calibre of wild areas. Only a large expanse with a healthy ecosystem can sustain a healthy population of game such as elephant, buffalo and lion.

Best camps for the Big Five

All of our camps are specifically chosen to ensure incredible wildlife sightings, but if you have a special area of interest you may want to include one of our specifc camps below.

Rhino:

Buffalo:

Elephant:

Lion:

Leopard:

Rare Rhino Conservation at Ol Pejeta

Ol Pejeta Bush Camp in Kenya is the only place on earth where you are still able to see a northern white rhino.  Due to poaching only three live today, and they are all in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. They are given sanctuary in a 700-acre enclosure protected by 24-hour armed security – a sad necessity in today’s harsh world. And if you hope to glimpse a rhino in the wild, Ol Pejeta is the place to go. It has over 100 critically endangered black rhino and 20 southern white rhino.

This remarkable conservancy is a beacon of sustainable conservation. It boasts one of the greatest game-to-area ratios in Kenya, and its diverse range of habitats supports all of the Big Five as well as vulnerable species including Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, the locally threatened Jackson’s hartebeest and the African wild dog

Big Cats

 

Tanzania and Kenya are big cat territory. While the world-famous annual Great Migration puts the spotlight on the wildebeest and ungulates in herds so massive they can be seen from space, these beasts are closely followed by a healthy population of apex predators. Whether the wildebeest are fording rivers in the Western Corridor or the Mara River in the north, or calving on the succulent grass plains in the southern Serengeti, lion, leopard and cheetah – as well as hyena and wild dog – make sure that only the fittest survive.

Big Cat hot spots

Of course, all Asilia’s camps – strategically situated in remote and pristine locations along the migration route – are hot spots for world-class big cat viewing. In fact, we have some famous cats that have starred in National Geographic documentaries through the years. Our ‘Best of the Big Cats’ itinerary focuses on Namiri Plains and Rekero Camp. Remote, beautiful and game-rich Ruaha National Park is another gem that discerning travellers head to for particularly rewarding big-cat sightings, as is Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire National Park.

Namiri Plains (Serengeti, Tanzania)
East Africa’s very best cheetah-viewing opportunites are at Namiri Plains. This pioneering camp is in the remote eastern Serengeti, an area that is now teeming with cheetah and lion after being closed for 20 years to allow populations to recover.

Rekero Camp (Maasai Mara, Kenya)
The Maasai Mara contains the highest density of lion in Kenya. Other predators in the area include leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, black-backed and side-striped jackal and the rarest of them all, the elusive African wild dog.

Our guides are extremely knowledgeable and offer an in-depth look into the lives of the big cats of these areas. They know the prides well and can name almost all of the individual cats. (PS: Our Kenyan guides are rated on the Guiding System, which means you will be getting the best of the best!)

Given the cats’ curious nature and the iconic African backdrop of blue sky and waving grass, you will find that photographing them is fun and rewarding. It is also possible to learn about protection initiatives for the Mara’s big cats from a Kenya Wildlife Trust researcher.

Kwihala Camp (Ruaha National Park, Tanzania)
Eighty animal species and 10% of the world’s lion population can be found in Ruaha. The density of lions in the park is not only extremely high but prides are unusually large – it is not uncommon to see numbers of 20 or more. Other apex predators living here include leopard and cheetah, as well as almost 100 of the elusive African wild dog, black-backed jackal and hyena.

Jabali Ridge (Ruaha National Park, Tanzania)
Eighty animal species and 10% of the world’s lion population can be found in Ruaha. The density of lions in the park is not only extremely high but prides are unusually large – it is not uncommon to see numbers of 20 or more. Other apex predators living here include leopard and cheetah, as well as almost 100 of the elusive African wild dog, black-backed jackal and hyena.

Oliver’s Camp and Little Oliver’s (Tarangire National Park, Tanzania)
Tarangire boasts a remarkable concentration of big cats and large herds of elephant and buffalo. Adrenaline junkies choose Oliver’s and Little Oliver’s for the high-adventure experiences of guided walking safaris and fly camping deep in this game-rich wilderness.

Asilia’s Big Cat Conservation Initiatives

The IUCN Red List puts the status of lion and cheetah as vulnerable, and leopard as near threatened. Asilia Africa is involved in projects that support the big cats in the areas we work in. We take part in tracking programmes that follow the prides as they move and grow over the years. These programmes also keep an eye on the dynamics of the prides. It is important to understand which is the current dominant male lion, how many cubs are born and what happens to them, and even just their day-to-day lives: where the prides move, what it eats, who it fights with, and so on.

We support the following projects focused on Big Cats:

  • Mara Cheetah Project
  • Mara Lion Project
  • Serengeti Cheetah Project
  • Serengeti Lion Project
  • The African People and Wildlife Fund
  • Ruaha Carnivore Project

 

Insider Tips for Safari Success

 

It may be stating the obvious, but even experienced safari-goers sometimes forget the small details that help you get the most out of your bush experience. Here are a few of our top tips…

1. Get up and get out when the animals are most active

It can be tiring to get up early enough to be out as the sun rises, but it is well worth the effort. Early mornings usually bring the best sightings and wildlife encounters. Make a habit of taking a siesta in the heat of the day so you have plenty of energy for game drives.

2. Take a really good pair of binoculars with you

If you are in a group or have your kids with you, invest in a decent pair of binoculars for each person. The last thing you want when you’ve happened upon a special sighting is for someone else to be hogging the binoculars.

3. Don't look into your camera all the time

Don’t make the mistake of seeing the entire safari through the lens of a camera. Take the time to look around carefully and quietly and soak up the whole picture.

4. Ask questions – lots of them

Our guides are a font of knowledge – they really enjoy sharing their bush know-how with guests, and never get tired of answering questions. That said, it is good bush etiquette to keep the volume down: talking loudly may not only scare the animals away but it can be disruptive for the people with you.

5. Take the time to sit in silence

There is something magical about the sound of the breeze through the grass, the clicks and whirs of the beetles, and the bird calls. You’ll develop an ear for animal sounds, too.

6. Every now and then close your eyes and inhale deeply

The scents of the bush are as telling as the sights.

7. ‘Africa time’ rules during your safari

Don’t try to rush from one sighting to the next – enjoy the moment; something unexpected always happens in the bush.

Enquire about Going on A Big Cats & The Big 5 Experience

Best camps to witness Big Cats & the Big 5

  • Kimondo Camp
    Kimondo Camp

    Track the herds of the Great Migration from North to South.

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  • Rekero Camp
    Rekero Camp

    Enjoy an unsurpassed Masai Mara experience.

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  • Dunia Camp
    Dunia Camp

    Explore the heart of the Serengeti.

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  • The Highlands
    The Highlands

    Immerse yourself in the stunning crater highlands of the NCA.

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  • Olakira Camp
    Olakira Camp

    Live, breathe & feel the Great Migration.

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  • Encounter Mara
    Encounter Mara

    An award-winning camp in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.

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  • Sayari Camp
    Sayari Camp

    Spectacular game viewing on the northern Serengeti’s unspoilt plains.

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  • Mara Bush Houses
    Mara Bush Houses

    Personally design your own safari itinerary in the Mara.

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  • Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
    Ol Pejeta Bush Camp

    Discover pioneering conservation projects in action.

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  • Ubuntu Camp
    Ubuntu Camp

    Follow the vast herds of wildebeest as they cross the Serengeti.

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  • Naboisho Camp
    Naboisho Camp

    Safari in sheer exclusivity at Naboisho.

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Big Cat & The Big 5 Itineraries:

  • Kilimanjaro & Great Plains
    Kilimanjaro & Great Plains

    Climb Kilimanjaro, then visit the Serengeti.

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  • Magical Kenya
    Magical Kenya

    Explore magical Kenya with the most memorable experiences that will have you wanting to stay forever.

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  • Southern Circuit in Style
    Southern Circuit in Style

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  • Mount Kenya & Masai Mara on foot
    Mount Kenya & Masai Mara on foot

    For the adventurous.

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  • Birding
    Birding

    Discover Tanzania’s magnificent birdlife.

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  • Specialist Guided
    Specialist Guided

    Enjoy a safari 100% on your terms.

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Further Reading

African King: Caesar of the Notch Dynasty

This young cub has a rich heritage as the son of Caesar, one of the five sons of the legendary Maasai Mara lion, King Notch.

Read more

Top 10 African wildlife photography tips

If there’s one thing that makes a safari unsurpassed, it is the ability to capture amazing scenes and portraits of the rich wildlife.

Read more