Beyond the big five animals

Game viewing. That’s why most of us haul ourselves what seems like halfway round the world to remote spots in Africa. It’s the hope that we’ll see something extraordinary, something truly thrilling which will allow us to marvel at just how incredible the natural world is.

For most first-timers and “rookie” safari-goers, tick lists are topped by the Big Five – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion. And every game drive or foray into the bush carries with it the expectation of seeing at least one of them, if not all.

Which is rather sad, really, because there is SO much more to the African wilderness than the Big Five.

Lions can actually be quite “boring” in the heat of the day

Sadly, most of today’s safaris are marketed on the strength of your chances of seeing those incredibly iconic aforementioned animals, with some destinations even attempting to guarantee sightings. Which is just ridiculous, because unless your game is chained up or drugged there are NEVER any guarantees of what you will see.

But, to be fair, there are some places where the likelihood of seeing them are extremely good. The Sabi Sands private game reserve in South Africa is one of them, as is the Timbavati.

Then again, what do you do when you’ve seen the Big Five? Give up? Go home? Tick Africa off your list and go somewhere else instead? Definitely not, because if you do, you are missing the absolute gems that good game drives kick up.

Take birds, for example. A lot of people I have met on safari are not the least interested in anything avian. Which is very sad, because when the inevitable quiet period comes on any game drive, there are always birds to look at.

You don ‘t have to take your interest in birds to twitcher proportions to appreciate some of the amazing species we have in Africa – being open minded and inquisitive is enough to guarantee that you’ll never be bored on a game vehicle.

The Lilac-breasted roller has to be one of Africa’s most stunning birds

Likewise, when the bigger animals are ducking for cover or nowhere to be found, there will always be insects around. “Ugh” is the response of the majority of safari-goers.

But insects are fascinating. And when you add arachnids into the mix (spiders, scorpions etc) then you are never going to be lost for something interesting to look at and find out more about.

Intriguing spider specimen on a game walk

Which brings me nicely to reptiles. Snakes, lizards, chameleons etc are also incredibly interesting things to hunt for on a game drive and brilliant at breaking up the monotony of constant impala!

I think the greatest lesson that Africa has to teach is that all of the above are interconnected and dependent on one another, and that, for me, is the biggest marvel of any game drive.

Enjoy your game viewing! 😉

3 thoughts on “Beyond the big five animals”

  1. A great post Sharon!

    I completely agree that visitors on African safaris can be way too focused on the Big 5.

    The key to a great safari experience is to open your mind to the flora and fauna around you.

    Don’t be too obsessed with that lion shot or leopard photo. As you truly point out, there is so much more to see than just the Big five.

    Have a child-like mind and be in awe of everything around you and you will have an amazing safari experience!

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