The term ‘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. Perhaps the most persistent is the buffalo, which will ceaselessly pursue his aggressor, making hunting a life-or-death experience for the hunted and the hunter!
All of these mammals are to be found in South Africa, making this country one of the most popular locations for safari style holidays.
Indeed, South Africa has embraced this rich wildlife heritage and welcomes visitors from all around the world who come to experience close encounters with the magnificent beasts. Many of our 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 arguably the most exclusive game reserve in the country. With no fences existing between the Kruger 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 one can view the Big Five in South Africa include the world-renowned Kruger Park in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces, the Pilansberg Game Reserve in the North Western Province, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape and the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Visitors who are confined to the Cape Town area are often under the impression that they will be unable to view the Big Five. However there is a reserve only 90 minutes from the centre of Cape Town, Aquila, where one can view four of the Big Five. 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 4500 hectares of pristine Karoo landscape. The terrain is varied – from mountains and valleys to wetlands – ideal for game viewing be it in a 4×4 safari vehicle, on horseback or even by quad-bike. Aquila is home to four of the Big Five animals: lion, buffalo, rhino and the rare Mountain Leopard. You may also spot and giraffe and hippo, not to mention herds of wildebeest, zebra, springbok and other bucks, plus baboon, jackal and the bat-eared fox.
What with the wetlands, you can expect a wealth of bird-life viewing to complete your safari experience – all so close to Cape Town!
Those who can travel as far as the Eastern Cape – a pleasant day’s drive along the beautiful Garden Route – can also view the Big Five and other species of game at the excellent Addo Elephant Park and Shamwari Game Reserve – both 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. However there are legal hunting reserves for those who feel the need.