South Africa: The Big Five

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted a new blog here! Not to worry though, because here is a post on my vacation back in March to South Africa. As you can imagine, I took loads of pictures and trying to sort and edit them was quite a task. Usually when I am on vacation I like to balance nature and cultural activities. This time, I went with friends to visit another friend who lives in South Africa. I befriended them when we were all studying biology together, and even though we are all doing different things now, we still see each other regularly and every once in a while we take a trip together. We were in South Africa for a little over a week (10 days, including two days for traveling to and from South Africa) and it was my first time ever on African soil. And being all biologists, we visited as many nature reserves as we could! Of course, when going to South Africa, one of the biggest things to do is spot the ‘Big Five’. I can proudly say that we have! 😀

For those of you who don’t know, the Big Five are five animals that are the most dangerous to hunt on foot. Back in the days, people used to hunt much more – to the point of some species becoming endangered or even extinct. Nowadays, the laws are much stricter and the big five is now being hunted for photographs. Lots of safari trips are dedicated to capturing the big five. Which animals belong to the big five, you ask? Well, they are the elephant, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, the lion and the leopard.

The first member of the big five that I spotted was the elephant. A single elephant was roaming about in one of the game reserves we started with on our journey. Later on, we saw more elephants, especially in the other parks we visited. In one of the other parks, we almost got in an accident with an elephant that wanted to take the shortest route from the road to a tree behind our car. Fortunately it all ended well. Take a look at the pictures I selected below. Click twice to get a larger image.

Just after spotting my first elephant, I also spotted my first buffaloes in that same park. A herd of buffaloes, munching away and looking very docile. Hard to imagine that these are fearsome creatures, but when you would try to hunt one of them, the others will attack and a wounded buffalo is very aggressive and will certainly use its large horns. Yikes! Best to stay away and let them be!

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My first rhino I also spotted the same day, but a few hours later. In between, I saw so many other animals and beautiful landscapes, I wasn’t even aware of that I had seen 3 out of 5 members of the big five already. Fortunately, camera’s these days record the date and time of when the photo was taken. Also interesting: these three animals are all herbivores, yet they are dangerous!

Encountering the leopard and lion proved to be harder. It wasn’t until we went on a guided safari in Kruger park nearly at the end of our trip that we saw both of them. At first I thought it would be difficult to see the leopard, but just when I was about to let go of the idea that we would be seeing a leopard, we saw 3 of them in one day, merely two hours apart! And the next day 2 more! They are really beautiful animals!

Turned out the lion was the most elusive animal to see. I imagined being surrounded by lions all the time in Kruger park. Not sure why though, maybe because of all these wild life documentaries I watched all these years? Anyways, we only saw lions 1 day on our whole trip. But on that day we did see about 5 lions, both males and females. Nothing exciting happened though, they were just relaxing and half a sleep. That is, if they could sleep with all the safari jeeps standing around.

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How many lions can you spot?

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South Africa was definitely quite the adventure! I will try to write more blogs on the other animals I photographed there, so keep an eye out for new blogs!

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