The term The Big Five originated among the hunters of a bygone era to describe not the largest of the animals that they hunted, but the most dangerous.
These are lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros. Every one of these animals has a reputation for pursuing its attacker with intent to kill. The Leopard is particulaly cunning when it is wounded, doubling back on the tracking hunter, to attack unexpectedly from the rear!
There is none as persistent as a wounded buffalo, which will ceaselessly pursue its aggressor, making hunting a life-or-death experience for the hunted and the hunter! A hunter only has one shot at a Buffalo and it needs to be accurate and deadly, or the consequences will be fatal.
My father was a boy in the early 1900's at a time when there was still plenty of game for hunting.
He would tell me much about nature and wild life and stories about the characters and experiences of life out in the open veld. He also made a point of telling me that his biggest regret was taking a rifle rather than a camera to the field.
I came to know him as a great conservationist who taught me to appreciate the wild life as I grew up.
The Big 5 Safari in South Africa.
In the present century there is so much appreciation for the beauty of nature and interest in conservation and restoration of species in to their natural habitats. The term Big 5 has now been attributed to the ultimate Safari experience. There is a sense of achievement if you manage to spot them.
All of these mammals making the Big 5 are to be found in South Africa, making this country one of the most popular locations for safari style holidays.. and so people still seek ot the Big 5, for admiration and photographic reasons. My own father was a young boye at the end of an era when there was still plenty of Game to hunt. He alway regretted not having taken up photography rather than the rifle.
Indeed, South Africa has embraced this rich wildlife heritage to admire and enjoy rather tan hunt for over a century and welcomes visitors from all around the world who come to experience close encounters with the magnificent beasts. Many of the game lodges offer the most luxurious accommodation and facilities available for bush holidays in the world.
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve in the Mpumalanga Province, for example, is argueably the most exclusive game reserve in the country.
With no fences existing between the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands, the wildlife roams free between the two reserves. Leopards are the main attraction here, and these awesome creatures are so accustomed to humans that you can even follow them while hunting, in an off-road vehicle. All of the Big Five can be viewed at Sabi Sands.
Other well-known and excellent reserves around the country where the Big Five can be viewed in South Africa include the world-renowned Kruger Park in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the North West Province, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape and the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
A Cape Town Big 5 Safari?
Visitors who are confined to the Cape Town area are often under the impression that they will be unable to experience a Big Five Safari. However there is a reserve I highly recommend only two and a half hours drive from the centre of Cape Town, Inverdoorn, where you can view the Big Five on game drives lead by knowlegeable professional guise and rangers.
Self-drive or guided drive tours are available from Cape Town, even one day tours are possible, although you may well wish to stay overnight in the appealing accommodation set in 10000 hectares of scenic landscape.
Inverdoorn Game Reserve is in a malaria-free region and home to the Big Five animals: lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. You will enjoy numerous antelope species, plus a range of some 1200 wildlife that roam this reserve freely, including zebras and giraffe.
There are numerous bird species, including flamingo for twitchers to enjoy. There is the opportunity participate in cheetah educationals as part of the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation Scheme.
This trip can be done directly from Cape Town, or done as an extension to your tour of the Winelands. By following Route 62, an altenate drive to the Garden Route, you will be delighted by more vineyards, spectacular winding mountain passes through the Ceres valley.
What with the winelands, scenic valleys and mountain passes with breath-taking scenery, you can expect a wealth of bird-life viewing to complete your safari experience all so close to Cape Town!
If you haven't rented a car from Cape Town, tranfers to the Inverdoorn Game Reserve are available by prior arrangement with the lodge.
Those who can travel as far as the Eastern Cape a pleasant days drive along the beautiful Garden Route can also view the Big Five and other species of game at the excellent Addo Elephant National Park which boasts the Big 7, to include whales and great white sharks. A visit to Shamwari Game Reserve is also well-worth the visit for game lovers.
A safari holiday to South Africa is often considered incomplete without sightings of the Big Five. These days most people are content to take home photographs of the living animals rather than skins and hunting trophies. And so, my father's big regret has become a wish fulfilled.