The big five is a term coined by hunters because the African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard and Lion were the most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.
After spending a fantastic evening at Singita Lebombo it was time to head out on 6 a.m. game drive. The early call time is due to the temperature. The animals are up early while the temperature is cool, around midday they go in heading to cool off from the blazing sun and appear later in the afternoon towards sundown as temperatures cool off. When you go on a game drive a ranger and tracker guide you.
Luckily we were assigned with the best duo, Brian and Exon. The two were actually on their second run together 10 years later. Exon sits on the front hood spotting various animals and Brian drives the range rover explaining all aspects of the bush.
The thrill driving out to experience your personal national geographic encounter is overwhelming. You have a childhood relapse wishing you don’t wake up to find out this is really a dream. The relapse would persist for the entire drive while continuously asking Brian questions about everything in sight.
Brian is a humorous down to earth guy who made every moment of our journey memorable. It is astonishing to listen to him speak about every facet of the bush in great detail. Exon is a quiet spoke fellow with phenomenal vision spotting every animal seamlessly. His eyes are trained so well from years of growing up in his village tending to his family’s livestock.
Our first sighting of the big five is a group of African Elephants. We pulled over and took in the moment watching them eating and fanning their ears to cool themselves. Brian explains elephants sleeps only two hours per day and send the rest of the time eating. A few babies accompanied the group and I learned when they give birth the baby comes out standing up.
In the same area we did a 180-degree turn and saw rhinos eating as well. The rhinos have a dramatic presence with their large low to the ground body and huge horn. The sad thing is poaches are threatening the rhino population. In Thailand there is a black market demand for their horns. Poaches kill rhinos just for their horn to see them to the Thai who believe its an aphrodisiac. They will shave the horn down and drink it. Poaches get paid $65,000 per 2.2 lbs. The average weight is around 7 lbs so were talking about $200,000 per horn.
The Cape Buffalo was our third friend who was out playing with a gang of his friends. They were wadding in a marsh eating, seems like that is the main activity in the bush. The Cape Buffalo has a high rate tuberculosis is more likely to die from TB then predators. The look of the buffalo is interesting, reminds me of the British parliaments wigs when I look at the top of their head.
Mangela was a regular during my visit. The day prior I was able to enjoy him eat a waterbuck for dinner.
This time we saw him scale the side of a mountain wall. I marveled at his agility as he maneuvered his way across the wall.
Last and certainly not least we saw a pride of lions. The male lions were away searching new territory but seeing a lion period is an amazing site to see. A male lion without his main was amongst the group. I would learn that lions are pretty lazy cats. They sleep around 14 hours each day, wake up and go hunt for food. When we approached them they were lying around yawning and not concerned with our presence. They also have dirty skin and are prone to carry tuberculosis too. Up close and personal with the king of the jungle although there isn’t a jungle in South Africa.
Spotting the big five in one day and knowing how difficult it is to see them made the day more special. The entire time I was in awe of the raw energy being in the wild. No cages or gates, just you, the animals, a tracker and ranger with a shotgun. These animals have been roaming the earth for thousands of years and I felt privileged to enter their domain and see them in their natural habitat.
Photo credit: Darodi