How to see the Big 5 in one day: Kruger National Park

This guest post on Kruger National Park has been written by Sarah Carter, one half of Mr & Mrs Carter On Tour - a couple in their late thirties who are currently travelling the world with their backpacks until the money runs out. At the beginning of 2017 Sarah & her husband, Steve gave up their jobs, put their stuff in storage, and gave the cat to Sarah sister. They left the UK & embarked on a 1-year backpacking trip.  They love wildlife, culture, historical sites, and having a good party. 

There are so many National Parks in Africa where you can see some amazing wildlife. The choice is bewildering. However, Kruger remains one of the premier destinations and here’s why.

Everyone who goes on Safari wants to see the Big 5 – Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, Rhino. Elephants and Buffalo are pretty easy to spot in almost all Games Reserves. Lions are everywhere, but often out of sight so you may only get to see them from afar. In some parks, there are hundreds of Rhinos, and in others, they are few and far between. But there are no parks where you are guaranteed to see Leopards. They are elusive, they blend in, and there aren’t that many of them – less than 1000 in the whole of Kruger National Park - which is roughly the same size as Wales.

This makes seeing the Big 5 tough if you only go to one reserve, and its even tougher if you only go for one day.

Kruger was our last Game drive of our 6 week Africa tour. A bunch of people had joined for the last week, specifically to go to Kruger. Based on our experiences of other Game reserves, the rest of us were a little concerned they might not see anything in our single day of game driving. How wrong we were!

The perfect Safari day

Like all game drives, we were up before dawn and on our way from Hazyview to the Phabeni Gate – our gateway to Kruger National Park. The sun was barely up before we saw our first of the Big 5. I told you Buffalo were easy to spot. In this case, it was pretty difficult to miss them! They make the most effective roadblock.

We even got treated to a little floor show.

20 minutes later we saw our first of 3 Elephant families, complete with young. Is there anything more cute than a baby elephant? Especially one trying to act all macho in front of its mates. This one took particular exception to our truck and was adamant that we needed to keep off his manor. You don’t argue with an elephant, not even a baby one.

A quiet hour passed after this until we saw the Honey badger. Our guide told us he’d only seen 2 before. He also told us they are crazy and we should keep well away. Cool fact about Honey badgers; their skin is deliberately loose to allow them to wriggle away from predators that catch them. If you have half an hour to kill, google Honey badger and have a look at how crazy & plucky they are when confronted with lions

After a stop for breakfast, we were in for a real treat. Rhinos were around and we spent 15 minutes checking out these two before we got the call that resulted in a mad dash.

Game drives can be super boring. They are usually 45% staring at the bushes trying to see game & seeing nothing, 30% thinking you’ve seen something only to find out its yet another Zebra (sorry Zebra, but after the 1st hundred, you get kinda dull), & 20% thinking it’s the best day of your life as you see natures finest beasts. The other 5% is taken up by the most exhilarating chase when your guide gets a call that something cool is near.

The excitement builds, even amongst those of you who have seen it all before. In fact, sometimes the fact you’ve seen it all before makes it even more exciting. You know that there is likely something really really cool at the end of said mad dash. It is an indescribable feeling.

I remember how excited we all were. We all knew something big was coming. Our guide, like all good guides, did not get our hopes up. Our excitement and his discretion were instantly rewarded. This right here, is what we saw.

Not just a leopard, but a leopard on the hunt. Out in the open. Not hiding away like they usually do. It walked right in front of our truck. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it take anything down – but getting this close was super cool.

By 11 am we were all emotionally drained, but the morning had one last treat in store for us. Because what’s the perfect game drive without Lions? This pride were just chilling on a rock like you do.

You can see all of these animals in other Game reserves across Africa. But in 8 solid weeks of safaris in the last 15 years, this is the first time we’ve seen all the Big 5 in one day. If you are short on time & looking for a game reserve where your Game viewing is maximised, look no further than Kruger National Park.

We went to Kruger as part of Acacia Africa’s 46 days Nairobi to Johannesburg Overland tour. We did not get any discounts to endorse their products. We would however absolutely recommend them for your Africa adventure.

30 thoughts on “How to see the Big 5 in one day: Kruger National Park”

  1. Leopards are shy animals. It is difficult to spot them, and even if you spot them, it is not easy to click them. You got a neat shot of them. Did you get to see Giraffe? That is something I have not seen often in national parks.

  2. we did safari in tanzania was one hell of an experience..we dint spot big 5 in a day..u guyz were very lucky.. kruger national park i have never went but wish to visit someday

  3. Wow, I would love to go on a safari and experience the Big five some day. Your pictures are captivating and so is the description.

    1. We were extremely fortunate. But I think if there is anywhere that it is likely, Kruger is the place.

  4. Ah a picture of a Buffalo humping another Buffalo, must have been quiet a show on a safari, one thing I have not done is a safari, hopefully someday!

  5. Seeing the Big 5 is a dream of mine, so it’s amazing that you got to see all of them in one day! I’ve heard great things about Kruger National Park, so this positive post doesn’t surprise me to be honest Medha, but it does reinforce my hunger to go! x

    1. It is a genuinely awe inspiring place. There are some good deals to be had on Overland Safari tours currently if you do plan to go.

  6. I would love to do this! That’s so lucky that you got to see the Big 5 in the national park, knowing my luck I would be lucky to see one! Must have been an amazing experience to see them up close and especially watching the leopard on the hunt! The buffalos gave an interesting show!! Kruger National Park is now on my list!

    1. The leopard was probably the highlight of the tour for me, we got to watch him for quite a while and he crossed the track right in front of our jeep, so amazing!

  7. When I go to Marrakesh and do a Sahara desert tour that will be another major thing ticked off my bucket list, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to tick off so many of the biggest things on my list, But a safari still eludes me. I have done a night safari before, I’ve seen wild animals in their natural habitat but not big game. I actually had a friend who did some volunteering in Kruger park for a few months, she loved every second of it. (Maybe I might give it a go)

  8. WOW! What a variety of wildlife! It really must have been special to experience that in Kruger. It’s a dream of mine to go there one day too! And that “floor show!” Lol! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lol. The floor show was SO early in the morning I didn’t even catch it live! I was still nursing my coffee but thankfully my husband was on the ball (so to speak)

  9. Wow! This looks like an amazing experience! It makes me want to go on another safari as it has been quite awhile since I went on one in Kenya.

    1. Kenya is still one of our favourite safari destinations but you really can’t beat Kruger for the variety of wildlife. You can also do a night drive there. We didn’t see a great deal but it was still a great experience.

  10. I’d really like to visit Kruger Park and see these animals in the wild! Your photos are brilliant, especially of the two mating, ha! Thanks for your honesty about the boring side a of a game drive; most of us think we’ll see animals straight away!

    1. I shall pass on the praise re photos to my husband Steve – he is such a good photographer. Most people think safaris are non stop animals but believe me there are dull days. We spent an entire, freezing cold morning in the Ngorongoru crater seeing very litte. But even thoae daya are worth it.

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  12. Awesome! Going on Safari to see the Big 5 is definitely on my bucket list. Though I would want to see the Elephants and Buffalo, I think the the Lions, Leopards, & Rhinos would be my favorite! Though catching a Honey Badger in the wild must have been really cool! Being from Louisiana we had an american football player nicknamed the Honey Badger so we often saw tons of pics and funny memes about the Honey Badger!
    Looks like Kruger is going to be on my list for my first Safari for sure!

    1. You will not regret it! The Honey badger was possibly my fav just for its crqzy nature but I don’t I’ll see anything quite like that leopard every again!

    1. It is absolutely worth it & such a great experience for all the family. You will not be disappointed.

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