In Africa, you often hear of what is referred to as The Big Five. Including the African lion, the Big Five are what every safari tourist hopes to see before they have to head home. They are the large game animals that hunters have gone after on foot, considered some of the most difficult animals to hunt. On a typical safari trip to Africa, tourists get to see most if not all of the Big Five game.
The Big Five are comprised of the cape buffalo, the African elephant, the African leopard, the African lion, and the rhinoceros. Of these five, we saw four, but only three in the wild, and the lions we saw were mostly white lions, except for one brown female lion, but all of the lions we saw were in a reserve — none in the wild.
We never did see the African leopard — in the wild or in a game reserve.
We did, however, see white lions (male and female, photo at right) in a game reserve, and one brown lion (female, below). An African lion in the wild is the one thing you really hope to see in the wild, but it is no less awe inspiring to see in a reserve. Here I have included a shot of each type. When we saw the white or albino lions, they were mostly sleeping — something lions do the vast majority of the time, we learned, on average 20 hours a day.
The Cape Buffalo is the hefty horned animal with a broad flat snout that always looks like its hair is parted down the center. Seemingly sweet (but apparently not, according to the Wikipedia entry that points out that they gore about 200 people annually!), it was possible to view them without risking them charging, thus allowing for a few photo ops.
The rhinoceros is somewhat the opposite in that sense: It has quite a formidable appearance, largely due to its threatening and dangerous looking center horn (a double horn, among the African species), in fact rhinos are vegetarians. Rather than being a threat to humans, it is the reverse; unfortunately, humans are threatening the rhino population — to the point where certain species of rhino are on endangered lists.
We observed a mini-drama among a group of grazing rhinos one afternoon. A large bull attempted to horn in on the pasture of a mama and her baby, at which point the baby — feeling emboldened by the knowledge that the bull wouldn’t try to mess with Mama Rhino — successfully chased him off.
Coming face to face with an African elephant is a magnificent experience. Seeing these awesome and fascinating animals up close is like looking our humanity in the eye — much like seeing one of the Great Apes face to face (something that I hope to find out for myself first hand).
These family oriented, brainy, complex mammals have so much heart, yet they, too, continue to be at risk from human predatory practices that continue to this day.
And below, just for fun, are a few extra pictures thrown in: One is of a couple of playful hippos, one is of a small band of slightly hidden wild dogs, and one is of a wart hog, described by many a tour guide as “not winning any beauty contests.“