The big five wild animals- where to site them in Kenya

A male lion at Lake Nakuru National Park

The big five wild animals are a precious pride in Kenya. Besides the big five wildlife, Kenya has diverse wildlife species and is keen on the conservation of these animals. Players in wildlife conservation range from government agencies to the private sector. Of interest to Kenya wildlife tourism is the big five animals.

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Why are they called the big five

The term originates from ancient wildlife hunters. They are also known as the 5 African animals. These animals were considered to be the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. They include;

  1. African elephant,
  2. lion,
  3. Leopard,
  4. Cape buffalo, and
  5. rhinoceros.

Most tourist agents and safaris guides always include the big five siting as one of their advertisements. It is, however, important to know which park you can site these animals. Below is a brief description of each big five animals and where it is found in Kenya.


The lion is regarded as the king of the juggle both in African stories and in modern documentaries. A family of lions is known as pride and is composed of 1 or 2 males, several females and young curbs. The male is easily identified by a shaggy mane and it’s larger than the female.

According to their socialization, a male lion kills all the little curbs if it takes on pride. It is after killing the curbs that he mates with the females. Upon maturing young male lions are chased away from the pride and become lone lions until when they are of age and have the strength to capture a pride of an “old” lion.

The female does the hunting while the male protects the territory and the pride from external aggression. Their preferred prey are the herbivores such as gazelles.
A male lion walk away from tourists at Lake Nakuru National Park

In Kenya, several parks are home to the King of the jungle. Some of the parks are Lake Nakuru National park, Nairobi National park, Amboseli, Tsavo

It is not easy to site a lion. It blends well with the jungle. A tour guide is important. Tour guides can easily be heard enquiring from each other, “where have you sited Kichwa.” Kichwa means head and in their communication, they are referring to the lion.


The jumbos are the largest animals on African/Kenya landscapes. Their family is composed of females and their young ones. The family is female-led. The leading female is called a matriarch. The bulls operate alone and only interact with the females during mating season.

Their movement is silent as their feet are well padded with elastic tissues. This has given them the name the gentle giants. When agitated they have been known to charge on vehicles. Be careful.

They are among the endangered animals in Kenya due to their ivory tusks. However, due to conservation efforts in Kenya, the number of poachers has reduced and their numbers have gradually increased. You can enjoy seeing elephants in Kenya’s big parks such as Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Amboseli national park, Maasai Mara game reserve, Mt. Kenya national park, Aberdare national park and Samburu national park.  Private parks like Lewa Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancies are also home to the jumbos.


Kenya has two types of rhinos that are, the white and black rhino. The white rhino has two sub-species namely the Northern and Southern rhino. The Northern rhino is functionally extinct.

Rhino is considered the most endangered species in Kenya. As such, Kenya has doubled its conservation efforts for this animal. Rhinos’ movements are closely monitored and tracked by heavily armed wardens 24 hours.

Seeing Rhinos in their natural habitat is a lifetime treat. You can sight Rhinos at Nairobi National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdares National Park, Meru National Park, Tsavo West National Park and private reserves like Lewa Conservancy, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Solio Game Reserve, Il Ngwesi Group Ranch among others.


Buffalos hang out in large numbers while grazing in the savannah. They are known to attack at astonishing speed when agitated. Therefore, they are among the most dangerous animals to a human being.

Although the lion is known to be their primary predator, buffalos have killed and injured lions.

They are not rare in Kenyan wildlife parks. Nairobi National Park, Maasai Mara National Park, Hells Gate National Park, and Samburu National Park among others are populous with buffalos.


Unlike the king of the jungle, leopards are active at night and spend their daytime resting mostly on the trees. They are very secretive and hence difficult to sight.

Although they share territories with lions they avoid competition by hunting at night. For you to enjoy seeing these least seen big five animals, you should drive through the park every early in the morning. Maasai Mara and Samburu National Reserve have known homes for this animal.

Where to find all the big five animals in Kenya

If you are interested to find all the big five animals in Kenya consider vising the Maasai Mara game reserve. However, due to the vastness of the reserve prepare for more than a day game drive.

You can also find a number of the animals either 3 or two in other parks such as Lake Nakuru National Park and smaller reserves like Ol Pejeta Conservancies, and Lewa Conservancies which have a good number of them all.

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