Big-game hunters once trekked to Africa on safari in pursuit of dangerous, hard-to-hunt game animals that became known as The Big Five: lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinoceroses, and leopards. These five animals were grouped together because they were among the most difficult animals to hunt on foot.
However, with increasing emphasis on conservation, tourists (like us) are now fortunate to “capture them” by shooting The Big Five on photo safaris. During our recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania with Micato Safaris, we were able to see The Big Five up close.
It is estimated that some 250 to 300 lions live in the Masai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya, one of the highest densities of the species found anywhere in Africa. Lions feed on zebra, buffalo and antelope and spend up to 20 hours a day at rest. While they are well camouflaged in the tall grasses, we saw more than one pride with their cubs.
African Bush Elephants
The elephant is my favorite of The Big Five. Because my vision isn’t the greatest, they are the easiest to spot since some of them tower more than 10 feet tall with ample girth as well. You know they have been around when you see lopped off trees they’ve uprooted. This baby was part of a herd we spotted. His ears are flapped open to cool him. Sadly, park rangers need to be vigilant to spot poachers who kill them for their valuable tusks, which can fetch great sums on the open market.
African Cape Buffalos
Because of their size and strength, the great white hunters considered the buffalo their most dangerous and formidable foe. It was common to spot them in large herds. They are vegetarians who graze for their food but are known to kill humans when they feel threatened. We spotted this one with the cutest little hitchhiker on his back.
Because they are nearly extinct (considered critically endangered), we were only able to spot a group of rhinoceroses in a small plane. Fortunately, our Micato guide took us to an animal orphanage where we could see this one up close. Because of its size, it has no natural predators but it is often chased away by elephants. They are also vegetarians.
Leopards like this one often spend their days resting in a treetop. We didn’t wait long enough, but they are said to suddenly pounce on their prey, which can include baboons as well as birds and insects. Leopards are most active at night. Like domestic cats, they are excellent groomers, keeping themselves immaculately clean.
N.B. Our trained Micato guides were wonderful in providing information about the Big Five and patiently helping us spot them. After we returned home, the just published DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Kenya was an excellent resource to learn additional information about these animals, their breeding, and habitats.
IF YOU GO
*This post is part of a blog hop sponsored by Liz at Travel Writer Rants and Raves.