Posts Tagged ‘Africa’s big five’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 20!

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

20. See Africa’s ‘Big Five’

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to.” - Rich Mullins

So much has already been said of the powerful effect Africa has on a traveller’s psyche that it’s difficult to write anything without repeating the same clichés. Perhaps it’s the thought that the entire human race can trace their origins to this continent, or the vastness of the landscape which puts the significance (or more to the point, insignificance) of yourself into perspective. Whatever the reason, for almost everybody, a trip to Africa is an introspective and life-changing experience.

I come from Scotland where, if we had a ‘big five’, it would probably be squirrels, deer, badgers, otters, and voles. Sorry guys – you’re all lovely but you wouldn’t last long in Africa! The wildlife in Africa has evolved over millions of years to reflect the challenges of life in a continent with intense heat, a lack of water and vegetation, and most crucially - other extremely dangerous animals to protect themselves from. This has created, over millions of years, the most amazing animals on earth.

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the astoundingly diverse wildlife of this continent than taking a safari through its national parks. Safari comes from the Swahili word for ‘journey’, and will take you deep into the natural habitat of the ‘big five’. This refers to the rhino, elephant, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo. The phrase was originally coined by big game hunters decades ago to refer to the difficulty in hunting these massive creatures on foot, but now, with huge efforts to conserve and protect these animals, it is more commonly used by safari tour operators to refer to five of the most incredible animals to spot in the wild. Africa overflows with a diversity of life and many other animals, such as the baboon, cheetah or giraffe, could easily be named on your own ‘big five’ list.

Some amazing facts about the ‘big five’ –


  • A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.
  • The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasselled tail, which is often used to signal to other members of the pride. Messages range from directional “this way” commands to flirtatious “come hither” invitations!
  • A lion’s claws are not only very sharp, but also retractable, which helps maintain the big cat’s slice-and-dice capabilities by preventing injury during play.


  • Leopards can drag prey weighing up to three times their own body weight up into trees over 20 feet (6 metres) tall!
  • They have amazing hearing. Leopards can pick up five times more sounds than humans can.
  • Leopards don’t need to drink much water - they can live off the moisture in their prey.


  • Baby elephants are born blind and some individuals suck their trunks for comfort, similar to the way young humans suck their thumbs.
  • African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet, and the females of this species undergo the longest pregnancy - 22 months.


  • Black rhinos can pick up small objects and even open gates and vehicle doors with their upper lips.
  • The rhino’s horn is made of keratin - like human fingernails and hair.
  • The world’s rhino population has decreased 90% since 1970 due to hunting.

Buffalos -

  • Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal.
  • Buffalos have fantastic memories and are known to ambush hunters that have harmed them in the past.
  • Cape buffalo are known to kill lions, and can seek out and kill lion cubs as preventative punishment.

Check this out - quite simply one of the most amazing videos of all time! This shows an epic battle between cape buffalos, lions, and crocodiles at Kruger National Park in South Africa:

To visit Kruger and other incredible African national parks with Topdeck, check out our superb range of African safari trips -

South Africa: Getting Wild in Kruger National Park

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Topdeck’s business development manager Kate shares some memorable animal encounters at Kruger National Park, South Africa

The first time you see a giraffe roaming the African plane is an unforgettable experience.  As you drive through the bush the challenge to spot wildlife before anyone else is exciting and tense.

Growing up in South Africa I have been lucky enough to visit the Kruger National Park many times, each being just as spectacular as the last.

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. To put these numbers into perspective, it is a similar size to Wales or Israel.

The park is home to Africa’s ‘Big 5′ - elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and buffalo. It also has over 500 species of birds, 150 species of mammals (including some 12,000 elephants), 100 reptiles, 23,000 plant species and a variety of amphibians.

In short, it’s a truly amazing place that has Africa stamped all over it!

Being in the Kruger isn’t like being in a zoo by any means. As you drive along the tracks each turn takes you to a different experience.  Binoculars are a MUST and will make anyone who has forgotten theirs green with envy.

Because the animals are wild and free every time you go out on a drive you will see something new and just as awesome.

Those lucky enough to see a kill (as heartless as it may sound) really do experience the true awe of nature as it is meant to be. These animals are free to roam; they find their own food and are wild things.

One of my favourite memories from the Park is seeing two lionesses cross the track ahead of us and then proceed to walk by either side of our vehicle. With your heart racing it’s hard to believe that you have just been within a few metres of one of the most amazing animals and in the wild!

Another was seeing a herd of elephants crossing the road between our vehicle and another right through the gap.

This herd was a whole range of ages including little calves.  Seeing them link tails with trunks and cross the path was incredible and brought a whole new meaning to zebra crossing!

Kruger Park is a year round destination with each season bringing its own highlights so whatever time you decide to safari in the Kruger National Park you will not be disappointed!

The Park has a hot, sub-tropical climate and for most of the year it is hot during the day (above 25°C).

Game viewing can be at its best during the dry winter months (June- September), however the wet summer season brings full waterholes, lush bushveld, many new born wildlife and the summer migrant birds arrive.

We went out for morning and evening drives as these are the best times to spot the animals. There is nothing quite like an evening drive and spending time at a water hole watching the sun set and the animals drink the water.

No matter when you go and what you see, the Kruger National Park will be one of the best travel experiences you will ever have.

Africa is truly a magical destination so what are you waiting for?

Top Tips:

  • Take binoculars
  • Invest in a decent camera
  • Hats are essential for sun protection in those pop up safari vehicles
  • Bring layers for the morning drives as it can be chilly
  • Remember the animals are wild and you are in their environment

Visit Kruger National Park with Topdeck on one of these African Safaris: 31 Day South East Adventure, 25 Day Desert Tracker, 7 Day African Insight Northbound, 7 Day African Insight Southbound, 22 Day Zanzibar, Victoria Falls & Kruger, 25 Day South West Safari, 29 Day East African Explorer, and the 46 Day Ultimate African Adventure!