Vince O'Sullivan

Finding the Big Five in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a one of a kind wildlife destination that is slowly making its way back onto the safari scene as a contender for the best game viewing in Africa. Not only is it home to some of the last remaining untouched wildlife reserves on the continent, it boasts some of the highest elephant numbers in sub-Saharan Africa and healthy populations of lion, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and leopard. Here we detail the best places in Zimbabwe to view each member of the Big 5.


Elephant is one of the easiest wild animals to spot in Zimbabwe, with large numbers in almost all of the national parks and game reserves. However, after much deliberation, we have decided that the best place to see elephants in Zimbabwe is the Gonarezhou National Park. One of the last remaining hidden gems of the country, the park boasts jaw-dropping scenery and diverse wildlife sightings; and with few recorded visitors each year, it offers the possibility for a more exclusive safari experience. The name Gonarezhou is roughly translated to ‘Place of Many Elephants’ for good reason. A 2014 aerial survey put the population at over 11 000 in the park; one of the highest densities in Africa. What’s more, the mighty tuskers of Gonarezhou are known to be the biggest in the country.

Gonarezhou National Park


A safari holiday to Zimbabwe is simply incomplete without a lion sighting or two, and many argue that the best place in the country to do so is Mana Pools National Park. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Mana Pools is situated in northern Zimbabwe along a section of the lower Zambezi River. During the dry season, as the wildlife make their way to the river, or congregate around the large pools for which the park is known, lion sightings are absolutely incredible.

Mana Pools National Park


The choice for the best place to find leopards in Zimbabwe is an easy one. With the world’s densest population of leopard, Matobo Hills National Park is a good place as any to spot one of these magnificent predators. However, do be prepared to have your patience tested, as leopards are notoriously stealthy and often well camouflaged.

Did you know? The Matobo Hills – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is also home to the world’s highest concentrations of rock art and black eagles.

Because leopard sightings are so rare, we can also suggest visiting Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park to stand a chance of glimpsing them.

Matobo Hills National Park


Hwange National Park is an unbelievable safari destination; boasting the country’s largest and most varied wildlife population. Along with an immense elephant population, the 14 000km2 park is also home to a vast number of buffalo, which travel in large herds, taking advantage of the lush open grasslands and dense woodlands. The best time to view these stoic bovines is during the dry season around permanent water sources.

Big 5 Hwange National Park


Across Africa, rhino numbers are increasingly threatened by poaching and habitat loss. In Zimbabwe, there are an estimated 430 black rhinos and 290 white rhinos remaining, so we believe that the best place to spot them is a destination where they are most protected. Situated in southeast Zimbabwe, the Save Valley Conservancy is one of the largest private game reserves on the continent. Forming part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, the conservancy is partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation to provide intensive protection for a small population of black and white rhinos. Interestingly, along with these endangered animals, the area is also home to all other members of the Big 5, eland, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

Save Valley Conservancy

To find out more about the different Big 5 game viewing activities in Zimbabwe, or to book at stay at one of the Cresta Hotels properties in Harare, Victoria Falls, and Bulawayo, get in touch with us today!

Image Credits:
Vince O’Sullivan
Andrew Ashton
Terry Feuerborn
Audley Travel
Steven dosRemedios
Tammie Matson