The ‘Big Five’ and the other lesser known – but just as important! – ‘Little Five’ are words synonymous with a safari to Africa. The Big Five are Buffalo, Lion, Elephant, Leopard and Rhino and can be found together in many national parks, game reserves and privately owned conservancies in Southern and Eastern Africa. In South Africa the best known park is, of course, the Kruger National Park. Nearly two million hectares in extent, the Kruger was gazetted in 1898 to protect the South African lowveld wildlife. A plethora of environmental techniques and policies makes the region an ongoing conservation success. There are also privately owned reserves contiguous with the Kruger which feature beautiful and often luxurious safari lodges and camps. Such areas include the well known Sabi Sands where seeing a huge variety of animals is almost guaranteed on an African Big Five Safari.
Many of these properties accommodate children and offer specialist children’s programs, so an African Big Five Safari is not just for adults! Children’s guides keep children happy and enthralled, including trying to find the ‘Little Five’: buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle as well as tracking and identifying animals, birds, and insects. Children are kept occupied for hours with short bush walks and spotting “creepy crawlies”, whilst other staff might teach them how to bake animal-themed cookies in the camp’s bush oven (for everyone’s afternoon tea!) whilst adults are busy on a game drive.
For those who like ‘lists’, how about the ‘Birding Six’? These include Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel’s fishing Owl and Saddle-bill Stork. And then there are the “Little Six Antelope”: Grey Duiker, Sharpe’s Grysbok, Steenbok, Klipspringer, Livingstone Suni and Oribi.
An African Big Five Safari is, surely, only possible on land? Not so! For those with a love of the sea and who visit South Africa’s gorgeous coastline there is also the ‘Marine Big Five’ which includes the Southern Right Whale, Cape Fur Seal, common Dolphin, Great White Shark and African Penguin. The best time for whale watching in South Africa is between July and November; several places on the Garden Route feature marine activities although the Walker Bay/Hermanus region is especially well known for easy access to marine wildlife with excellent guiding.