If you travel to Tanzania and go on a safari in the Serengeti, you will likely hear a lot about the Big Five in Africa.  The Big Five originated from hunters, and it refers to the top five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. The Big Five include the African elephant, black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, lion and leopard.  Today, tourists from around the world travel to Africa for a chance to see the Big Five in their natural habitat. The first leg of my trip to Tanzania was spent in the Serengeti, looking for the Big Five.

The African elephant was the first Big Five animal I spotted on my safari. Our tour group actually came across a huge herd of elephants (including a few newborn elephants) just a few minutes after we entered the Serengeti. Even though elephants are such large animals, they are still very graceful. Elephants were all over the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, so we ended up seeing them all over the place.

The Cape buffalo was the next Big Five animal we saw. In fact, we saw hundreds of cape buffalo and they were all running! Our tour guide explained they were migrating. It was incredible to see these guys moving so fast. Later, we saw a group of Cape buffaloes grazing in the grass. We sat for quiet awhile just watching these animals. They reminded me of cows.

Next, we spotted the leopard. Actually, our tour guide saw the leopard and pointed him out to us. There is no way I would have noticed the leopard if the tour guide wasn’t there. The leopard was sitting in a tree, more than a football stadium length away. You can barely see him in the picture above. He is sitting on a branch on the right side of the tree. If you look closely, you can see his tail hanging off the branch. Our tour guide said leopards are the hardest of the Big Five animals to find in Africa, and often people don’t end up seeing all five because of the leopard is so elusive.

Then we found the lions. The picture above is actually of a pregnant female lion. Our tour guide said she was probably only a few days away from giving birth. The day after I took this picture, we spotted a male lion lounging with a few female lions. We watched them for at least an hour or two. The male lion slept for most of the time, while the females were up and about, walking all over the place. Eventually, the male lion got up and had sex with one of the female lions (it lasted a total of 9 seconds) and then went back to sleep.  It was something I will never forget.

The final Big Five animal we came across in Africa was the black rhinoceros which we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater. The rhino is not as large as the elephant or hippo (which we also saw earlier that day), but our tour guide said they are just as dangerous. He told us if the rhino wanted to, he could easily tear our car in half. There were a few times I didn’t think we’d see all Big Five animals, especially on the morning before we spotted the rhinos. It was the final day of our safari and we were headed into the Ngorongoro Crater. Our tour guide said our chances of seeing the rhino was good, but nothing is for sure.

It is important to note that a safari through the Serengeti isn’t all about the Big Five in Africa. We saw loads of animals! Including giraffes, gazelle, zebra, monkeys, cheetahs, wildebeest, hyenas, ostriches and more. Though I had seen many of these animals at the zoo, seeing them in their natural environment was something else. When I mentioned this to my tour guide, and told him he is so lucky to live so close to these animals, he laugh and said, “Yes, but I have never seen a deer and I bet you have seen many coming from Seattle.” He was right. I should be thankful to live in a place surrounded by deer, whales, bald eagles and more. I guess it is all about perspective.

Have you ever seen the Big Five in Africa? What is your favorite animal? We would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great places to visit around the world!