The Big Five
Africa’s Big 5 was originally a hunting term and refers to the five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt down on foot
And these are the Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Cape Buffalo.
Big game hunters coined the term which is now a marketing term used by safari tour operators and indicates that the game reserve is large enough to maintain these amazing animals and offer an authentic safari experience. All game lodges in the Big Five reserves offer two open safarivehicle game drives per day to give you the best chance of seeing the Big Five
Wildlife conservationists have expressed major concern in recent years regarding the rapid decline the Big 5 populations as they become more and more vulnerable to poaching (especially the black and white rhinoceros that are almost facing imminent extinction)
Since 1990 SA’s bank notes all feature a Big 5 animal on their different denominations.
African Elephant The Worlds larges land mammal! Male African elephants can reach 3m tall and weigh between 4,000 -7,500kg. They travel in herds which can get big and they are led by the matriarch. The bulls are “kicked out” of the heard when the get sexually active and then usually live alone or in small bachelor groups. Musth, pronounced ‘must’, is when males experience increases in testosterone levels of a factor of 60 or more. The changes prepare them for competing for females and make them much more aggressive. The elephant's gestation period is 22 months – longer than any other land animal in the world and then she gives birth to a 120kg baby and it only takes a few minutes. The elephant’s life cycle is quite similar to humans and they can live to 60/65 years old.
Rhinoceros There are 2 main species, the Black rhinoceros which has 2 horns on the skull, a larger front one and a smaller back one with a pointed hooked lip. The horns are used in defence, intimidation, digging up roots and breaking branches during eating. The pointed hooked lip helps with browsing as they are browsers and not grazers.
The White rhinoceros also has 2 horns, a massive body, large head, short neck and broad chest. The word “white” is said to be a misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word “wyd” meaning “wide” which refers to its wide square upper lip that helps with grazing as they are grazers and not browsers. They are the larger of the 2 species. Both species are classified as critically endangered due to high levels of poaching.
The Cape Buffalo Is among the most dangerous animals in Africa and the most dangerous of the Big 5, this is why they were part of the big five in hunting terms. The males are 650 to 800 kilograms “of bad attitude” and female smaller at 500 to 700 kilograms. Mating takes place mainly during late summer and usually single calves are born 11 months later from early to mid- summer to coincide with the rainy season. Cows normally give birth every two years. They do not have very good eyesight but their hearing and smell is exceptional. Lions are often found following large or smaller herds of buffalo, while waiting for a chance to catch and kill one. However buffaloes are not that easy to catch, due to the fact that they will not always run away, but will group together (often forming a circle around the young) and try to stand their ground in an effort to defend their young and each other. Lions are also often injured or killed by buffaloes, especially by the bulls which can cause a lot of damage with their horns as well as by stomping on the lions with their hard hooves.
Lion African lions are the largest of the African cats (second largest in the family Felidae, with the tiger being the largest). Males can reach a shoulder height of around 1.2 metres and weigh around 150 – 225 kg (av. 189kg). Females are around 1 metre in shoulder height, and weigh between 110-152kg (av. 126kg). Lions are the most sociable member of the cat family and can be found living in prides of up to 25 individuals. The size of the pride depends on the area and prey availability. A pride will usually consist of 1-4 adult males, several adult females (one dominant), and a number of sub-adults and cubs. All pride’s lionesses are related. Female lions typically stay in the pride as they grow up whereas young males eventually leave the pride and attempt to establish their own prides. Young male lions ousted from prides often wander large distances in search of other ousted males, to form coalitions and attempt to take over a group headed by another male(s). New pride males will often kill the cubs in the pride and then mate with the females, to ensure that their genes prevail in the pride.
Leopard And last but not least the leopard is the most beautiful and the most difficult of the Big 5 to see on a safari because of its elusive, nocturnal and secretive nature. Leopards are spectacular hunters! Not only are they quite fast and can run up to 58km/h, but are also famous for their incredible agility and strength to climb trees while dragging a kill that is sometimes heavier than their own body weight. Even though most photographs show leopards in trees, research reveals that they spend most of their time on the ground. Leopards use trees as the perfect escape point from predators; to keep their kills out of the reach of scavengers; and to get the best vantage point. Leopards mate throughout the year, but a higher sexual activity is recorded during the wet season. Female leopards protect their young cubs by hiding them in lairs. Lairs can be found in a variety of places, including outcrops of granite boulders; old aardvark holes made in the side of termite mounds; or in dense thickets at the bottom of deep galleys. These hiding places serve as a refuge for when the mother is away, as lions and hyenas pose a great threat to the cubs. The mother changes the lair every few days to eliminate the chances of discovery by other predators
Please contact us and we will arrange a dream safari for you to experience the Big Five - An Experience is Priceless