Our Botswana expert Anton had a unique experience up close and personal with elephants in the Okavango Delta, here he shares his tale of ‘Living with Elephants’.
The Big Five
Fabled for being the five most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt, the Big Five are now the most sought-after animals to capture on a point-and-shoot. Whilst sitting firmly at the top of every safari checklist, nature’s most magnificent animals are as elusive as ever before, making tracking them an exhilarating and unforgettable adventure. Home to all five showstoppers, the national parks of South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Botswana, are excellent destinations for a chance to see them all. On foot, by horseback or in the comfort of a 4x4, traversing the plains of sub Saharan Africa in search of these celebrated animals is the undisputed original safari experience.
The proclaimed King of the Jungle, the African Lion, is more majestic in the flesh than your imagination dare conjure up. The soul-stirring spectacle of a lioness lolloping in the heat of the midday sun, snoozing under an acacia tree or observing her cubs frolic on the plains is bound to take your breath away. Whilst they tend to hunt at night, opportune sightings of lions stalking their prey during the day are real heart-in-mouth moments on a Big Five safari.
The African elephant is the largest land animal in the world, and one of the most adaptable of the Big Five, surviving in a range of habitats from lush wetlands to arid deserts. With enormous ears serving to disperse the relentless heat and inch-thick skin protecting them from thorny bushland, they are well adapted to the contrasting conditions of the continent. These matriarch led groups are paradoxically hard to spot, often camouflaged in the undergrowth, yet seeing a herd is at once a humbling and awe-inspiring wildlife encounter.
Tracking one of the most endangered animals on the planet, the rhinoceros, is an extraordinary Big Five safari experience. Conservationists are working tirelessly to guarantee the survival of the species and the opportunity to learn about the work underway is both inspiring and educational. Spotting both white and black rhino is a true spectacle for even a safari veteran, and a day tracking these prehistoric beasts won’t disappoint.
Perhaps the most elusive animal to stalk Africa’s plains is the majestic leopard, found sleeping in branches by day and hunting by night. Their rosette markings further hide them from the lens of an ogling safari goer and the cover of darkness provides the perfect camouflage for these stealthy hunters. Catching a glimpse of this graceful cat ambushing prey from the vantage point of a tree canopy is a thrill that will leave you reeling.
Often overshadowed by the hunters of the savannah, the Cape buffalo is perhaps the most dangerous of all of the Big Five game animals. With a thick skull, curved horns and an almost impenetrable bone shield, it is well protected from attack and even lions refrain from ambushing buffalo alone. They are usually found in water rich game reserves, so you can observe them by watering holes, rivers and lakes.
Whilst spotting one or all of the Big Five in the wild is an obvious bucket list experience, the rest of Africa’s extraordinary array of flora and fauna shouldn’t be overlooked. The Big Five is perhaps only the beginning.