An African Safari is generally quite high on the bucket list of any traveler, and between Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia, there is no shortage of options or availability!
Each country is a popular safari destination in their own right, however when Mike and myself had the opportunity to spend two weeks traveling through one of these countries, we opted for Tanzania. Figuring that we couldn’t go wrong on safari in the Serengeti National Park, we chose an absolute classic African Safari setting which pretty much guaranteed that we would spot the “Big Five!”
“The big five” animals of Africa are the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant. While African wildlife is definitely not limited to just those above mentioned, the term “big five” was coined by game hunters, referring to the most difficult and dangerous African beasts to catch on foot. Nowadays Safari tour companies have turned this into a clever marketing term, as today it is more about choosing which lens to shoot them with! We managed to ‘shoot’ the following Big 4 – missing out on a shot of a Rhino. The Rhino is the hardest to spot in the wild, however, as they have been hunted to nerally the point of extinction.
All animals below “shot” by Mike Jerrard!
The King of the savanna (not the jungle!), lions are the largest, fiercest and most sociable of African cats. They live in prides of up to 40 lions and the lionesses will do all the hunting, sharing their prey with the males of a pride. Thankfully we remained within the confines of our Safari truck, however If you find yourself on foot within close proximity to a lion, DON’T turn and run! Easier said than done, I know, however a running target will look prey and will therefore probably be seen as such! Try to make yourself look big instead, while gradually backing away.
The largest land mammal in the world, the African Elephant weighs up to 6 tonnes! You many recognize him by his large trunk, huge ears that cool the body when flapped, and highly sought after tusks. Keep your distance from wild elephants as the can be dangerous, especially herds of mothers with young elephants. Remember that if an elephant is flapping it’s ears and kicking up dust there’s a high likelihood it is about to charge – and make sure if in a vehicle you have a way to drive forward – elephants can run faster than a car can reverse!!
The African buffalo weighs a little less than a ton, and has a reputation for being bad tempered, aggressive and dangerous. Single buffaloes can be unpredictable and wild, however they are usually quite tame when in a herd…notwithstanding a tendency to stampede in mass when startled!
They are a cousin of the lion, however slightly smaller. Leopards are excellent at camouflage which leads to the impression that they are rare, and are active at night which also allows them to stay hidden. They prefer hunting in the dark and use the day to lounge around in trees. Leopards are very independent, and will only rarely be seen together during mating.
Next time we go to Africa hopefully we can spot a Rhino in order to say that we have truly seen the African Big Five!
Which is your favorite African Animal?
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Photo credits: All wildlife photography by Mike Jerrard of Mapping Megan. Reference: Http://www.ifonly.com/