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The Big Five: Africa Part 2 October 27, 2012

The Big Five–the holy grail of safari!  Historically, this referred to the most difficult animals to hunt on foot, as well as the danger factor, rather than size.  Today, it’s a check list for many tourists that want to see the “stars of the safari”.  During our 5-day sojourn at Idube, Barb and I saw “The Big Five” and more!  Rob the Ranger and Ronald the Tracker, provided ample opportunities to observe these magnificent animals up close, in their natural setting and completely safe for human and beast alike.

So…here’s Number One!

We saw many elephants around the Sabi Sand region.  Surprisingly, they walk  very quietly.  Despite their massive size, they can disappear into a thicket in a heartbeat, or conversely, reveal themselves seemingly out of thin air!  We observed a lovely herd on our first drive, in the pouring rain.  This group included a baby–Rob estimated that she was around 6 weeks old.  If you look closely, you can see that her feet are still pink!  Adorable!

We also came across a posse of 4 adolescent males playing in the dam near Idube.  They goofed around for 2 hours+!  It was interesting to observe their interactions and to hear their trumpets (it’s loud!).  (Video of this is being prepped as we speak and I’ll share it in a future post.)  At one point, a 5th male sidled up to join in the fun, but the original four shunned him.  Poor guy, tried hard to fit in, but ended up sulking away.

Since we had the luxury of 5 days, we never felt rushed during any of our animal “interactions”.  Rob seems to have a knack of knowing just how long to linger at a site–allowing guests to watch, photograph, or just be zen with the surroundings.  If you can swing it, I definitely recommend a 4-5 day safari if at all possible.

Number Two

Leopards!  These are my favorites of the Big Five.  Their eyes are a spectacular greenish color–and so very intense!  This picture (left)  was taken on day 2 of our safari.  The leopard nonchalantly strolled by our jeep.  I could have reached out and petted her tail as she passed by–but Rob made it very clear early on:  NO LIMBS OUTSIDE THE VEHICLE.

We also had several opportunities to see leopards at night.  One was venturing into a rival’s territory.  He walked the perimeter, marking and growling to announce his presence.  Another evening, we saw a baby leopard in a tree, waiting for his mom to return.  And our last morning drive, we came across this beauty (right), seeming to pose for us!  Breathtaking!

Already on my list for the next safari:  See a leopard haul its kill into a tree.  Since lions and hyenas aren’t successful tree climbers, leopards are known to drag their meal into a tree for safe keeping.

Number Three:  Rino’z!


Unfortunately, there are too many idiots out there who think that poaching these magnificent animals is a good idea.  So, I have intentionally misspelled the word so as to prevent said idiots from searching on the internet to locate these creatures.  We were lucky enough to see rinoz several times on our trip.  On a particularly memorable encounter, a male was checking out a female.  I guess he felt we were threatening his chances with her and so decided to intimidate us!  Rob predicted this behavior and  as the male was taking a run at us(!), Rob (the Rockstar Ranger) calmly stood up and in his best “dad voice” said “Don’t Charge!”…thankfully the charge halted and Mr. Rinoe made a sharp right turn before reaching our jeep!  Thrilling!!  I asked Rob later if he had a Plan B (just in case the male hadn’t followed instructions)…Rob said, “Reverse…FAST!”

Number Four:  Lion!  

Our fearless leaders–Rob and Ronald were marvelous trackers.  Check them out in action, inspecting a trail for signs of recent animal activity.  Success!  A lion foot print!

We were treated to several amazing lion/lioness experiences.  We observed a pride of lionesses stalking an impala on our first drive.  They worked as a team and it was truly incredible to watch them in action.  As it turns out, the impala got lucky that day, but it was impressive nonetheless.  Evidently lions don’t need to eat that frequently.  A solid meal will do them for at least a week.  As a result, we didn’t see male lions doing anything but sleeping and digesting!  If you’re interested in seeing real life lion v. buffalo  click here to see a video captured by Ronald (FYI, it’s a little gory).

As you can see, life in the bush can be violent.

Here you can see evidence of a recent tussle.

Rob explained that this lion and his brother had a shake down recently.  While they both survived, this guy is sporting a nice scratch.

Number Five:

Buffalo!

I’m certain there are those that really find buffalos enchanting…I am not one of those.  So, while it was really interesting to see them and to “complete the list”, I didn’t really resonate with them.  That being said, there can be no denying that those horns are impressive!  And I wouldn’t want to make them angry–a herd of worked up buffalo would be frightening!

Check out the beautiful yellow-billed oxpeckers, enjoying some tasty bugs on the baby buffalo’s back!

So that’s a wrap of the Big Five.  Which one did you like best?

Next up:  more beautiful animals that didn’t make the top 5 cut!

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