Guided game drives offer outstanding viewing opportunities in some of Africa’s most game-rich national parks and private game reserves. Grab a front seat.
With an astounding wealth of fauna and flora, welcoming people and sunny blue skies, Africa is a dream destination and there is no other continent that is so closely connected with its environment. After all, it’s home to some of the planet’s most noted and majestic species, as well as a multitude of smaller, lesser-known creatures you may never have heard of. Considering that over 1,100 mammal and almost 2,400 bird species live here, there is something for everyone. The first thing you should realise about Africa’s wildlife is that while you’ll see a great variety, you shouldn’t count on seeing everything on your first safari. Africa’s parks are epic tracts of wilderness – often larger than some European countries – with plenty of places to hide, even for the Big Five! Remember, there are no guarantees in the wilderness.
The term “Big Five” was originally coined by big-game hunters, and referred to the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot in Africa. So, the Big Five weren’t chosen for their size, but rather for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved. Elusive, fast and dangerous, each animal has, in its own right, earned its place on the list of the most coveted safari sightings. The term Big Five is still used today in most tourist and wildlife guides, and is usually high on the priority list and a real treat for many a visitor to African game reserves. The Big Five are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.
However, enjoying the African bush is not just about the iconic must-see Big Five animals. Each animal, big and small, plays a vital role in Africa’s ecosystem. Move over Big Five, here come a symposium of other Fives, whose members bear the names of their much more impressive namesakes:
- The little five: Elephant shrew, Rhino beetle, Leopard tortoise, Lion ant, Buffalo weaver
- The plant five: Rhino thistle, buffalo thorn, lions tail, elephant grass and leopard tree
- The endemic five (as found in northern Kenya): Somali ostrich, Gerenuk, Reticulated giraffe, Lesser kudu, Grevy zebra
- The feathered five (as found in Uganda): Shoebill stork, Green-breasted Pita, African Green-broadbill, Grauers warbler and Papyrus gonolek
- Africa’s ugly five: Crocodile, hyena, wildebeest, Marabou stork, Monitor lizard
Strangely, it’s the uncertainty of the unknown that I enjoy the most about the safari experience – it makes my eyes work harder as I try not to miss anything in the long grass, the hazy horizon, or thick lush bush, which only adds to the reward and satisfaction when I do spot something really special!