10 Facts About The Big Five
Africa is without a doubt the destination of choice for travelers looking to experience the world’s best game-viewing. Out of all the images and feedback we receive the “Big Five” is always mentioned. One of the most frequent questions asked is, "what are the Big Five?” The “Big Five” consists of the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and African buffalo.
We have compiled a list of 10 facts about the “Big Five” so that you can show off your African wildlife knowledge on your next safari!
African elephants communicate with each other from 5 miles away and at a frequency that humans cannot hear.
African elephants are the world's largest land animals. The biggest can be up to 7.5m long, 3.3m high at the shoulder, and 6 tons in weight.
African lions are the most social of all the big cats and live together in prides. A pride consists of about 15 lions.
Male lions defend the pride’s territory while females do most of the hunting. Despite this, the males eat first.
Rhinos are very inventive and make their own sunblock. Rhinos which will soak in mud for up to three hours at a time, rely on mud to protect their skin from biting pests and the blistering sun.
The closest living rhino “relatives” are tapirs, horses and zebras. They are part of a group of mammals called odd-toed ungulates.
The leopard is a very strong climber and pound for pound, the strongest climber of the large cats.
Leopard cubs are born blind and completely rely on their mothers. Their eyes begin to open after about ten or more days and for the first few months, their eyes are bright blue.
The African buffalo is one of the most abundant of Africa’s large herbivores. It will also not live in an area with less than 10 inches of rain water.
Unfortunately all of these wonderful animals are all victims of population decline due to a mixture of environmental issues along with poaching and trophy killing. For example, In 1975 there were an estimated 250,000 lions in Africa, yet today the continent-wide population stands at 25-30,000.
At African Travel, Inc. we are passionate about the conservation of this beautiful continent along with protecting the landscapes and animals for years to come. Find out how you can give back on your next safari by adding a volunteer tour to your trip.
My Return To South Africa
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting my homeland South Africa. This visit was special for so many reasons – one of the main ones was getting to experience the wonderful work being done by The Amy Foundation. The Amy Biehl Foundations story is remarkable, and continues to attract volunteers from all over the world. As I grew up on the cape flats of Cape Town during apartheid, I know first hand the hardships that face the communities in this area.
The Amy Foundation aims to empower and uplift the youth of the communities by providing after-school programs in dance, drama, sports, music, cooking and more to children living in vulnerable communities around Cape Town. The programs help to keep kids off the street and engaged in an environment where they can learn life skills and most importantly, have fun!
I also experienced a safari at Shamwari Game Reserve, which was truly breathtaking.
Returning to the bush and experiencing the sights and sounds of Africa while on safari is truly one of my favorite things in the world. I am in a constant state of euphoria as I listen and see the magic unfold in the bush. Watching the sky change from day to night is like witnessing a beautiful masterpiece being painted before your eyes. Being in nature and completely surrounded by Africa’s wildlife is an experience everyone should have. One of my favorite moments on safari was being encircled by elephants. Being so close to the gentle giants is a moment I will cherish forever.
Being amongst the wildlife also made me more passionate than ever about the need to protect and preserve this magical landscape for decades to come. Shamwari Game Reserve is home to some of the most advanced anti poaching units in the country. It is also home to The TreadRight Bat Hawk which works to aid Shamwari’s mission to stop poaching and protect the Africa’s wildlife.
The sustainable development and conservation philosophies of the Amy Biehl Foundation and Shamwari Game Reserve supports African Travel, Inc’s. vision to make a meaningful difference in the communities where we do business and reaffirms our pledge to the TreadRight Foundation. Our parent company, The Travel Corporation founded The TreadRight Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps to ensure the communities and environments we visit remain vibrant for generations to come.
My first visit to South Africa
How does someone terrified of flying conquer this fear? Well, if they’re anything like me, they travel to South Africa!
After 20+ hours of traveling with bated breath and clutched hands, the flight attendant announced our impending arrival in Johannesburg. These magic words brought a sigh of relief and I turned to Lilly, my traveling companion and African Travel’s Director of Operations, who happens to share my fear of aeronautics. We did it! I dared to peek out the window and was rewarded with the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever encountered. It was instantaneous love.
During our stay in Johannesburg, we toured Soweto, visited Liliesleaf, and wandered through Mandela’s Square. Soweto – which is an acronym for “South Western Townships” – was my favorite; a melting pot of culture and history, rich with stories of the past and scars from the struggle against apartheid. The township was originally created to house black laborers and ensure segregation, but Soweto today is a land of democratic leadership, vibrant color and surprising juxtaposition.
Soweto’s history is apparent on every corner, but the township has created several memorials to honor their difficult past. We visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which commemoratives 12-year-old Hector Pieterson who was shot in 1976 during what was meant to be a peaceful protest of high school students against the mandatory use of Afrikaans in the black schools. We also visited Nelson Mandela’s home, now a museum, paying homage to his dedication to promoting human rights, democracy, reconciliation and tolerance.
This part of the journey was poignant and bittersweet. We shed a tear for the suffering of the past, but left with smiles on our faces and hope in our hearts as South Africa’s future is bright.
The “Mother City” of Cape Town was next on our list, and I cherished every single minute. Even sitting in traffic was a lovely experience, as the scenic drive to The Twelve Apostles Hotel was truly breathtaking. In all, we enjoyed five days and four nights of Cape Town’s legendary culture and hospitality, touring all the surrounding areas that make this destination a must-visit. The Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, and the Winelands were among our adventures – believe me when I say that nothing can compare to savoring a glass of world-class wine while soaking up legendary panoramic landscapes.
As a spectacular finale, we spent three days and two nights in the Thornybush Reserve, which is a small private game reserve adjacent to Kruger Park in the northeastern region of South Africa. Our guide introduced us to a bevy of animals from the moment we landed; we were greeted by a warthog at the airport, and on our first game drive we saw three of the Big Five! There is something incredibly special about the bush and witnessing dozens of majestic animals roaming free in their natural habitat. Thornybush is known for its Big Five viewing, and twice-daily game drives are available in the morning and evening.
I was also impressed with the trackers and rangers, who skillfully navigate the bush without any directions or signs. The only traffic jam we encountered was a herd of elephants blocking the road, which was a nice change from the gridlocked congestion I’m used to back home. On our final night we were treated to a beautiful outdoor dinner in the bush, and we stopped on the way back to the lodge to do some stargazing. I have never seen so many stars in my life – it was truly an unforgettable experience that drove home just how small we really are.
The day we departed, the entire staff came to send us off, which is just the kind of heartwarming gesture I learned to expect from the South Africans. This journey was so much more than anything I ever could have imagined – it was the trip of a lifetime, one that I will cherish to the end of my days.