Friday, December 15

Kruger National Park, Day Three: The Big Five

One mark of success for a safari trip is to complete sightings of the "big five". These are, in order of increasing rarity (of sightings):

  • Elephants (~13,000)
  • Buffalo (~40,000)
  • Rhino (number undisclosed)
  • Lions (~1,600)
  • Leopards (~2,000)
The numbers don't necessarily match the covetousness of the sightings since, for example, it's much more difficult to spot a leopard than a lion. Also interesting is the taboo around talking about rhino sightings and numbers, due to the clues such conversations give to poachers.

To recap, we still needed to see a rhino and something other than a lion's bum to complete our big five. Quite frankly it was a miracle that we even had a leopard down on our list.

Our morning safari was a bit of a bust, although we did get some great views of giraffe. Jummah then killed 3-4 hours safari time, and to be honest by that point we had given up on any let alone one of the remaining sightings we wanted to see.

Based on a tip, we decided to spend another 1.5 hours on returning from Jummah to enter the park via the more southern Malelane gate. The payoff was immediate with rhinos aplenty, with a neat little bonus being a couple of wild hyena. We didn't get to see any cheetah though, despite the sighting having been reported.

This only left the lion. Everyone we asked in passing said that they were also struggling with the big cat, and at some point we got so desperate that we considered counting the ones we saw in Botswana as qualified sightings.

At around 5:40pm (where the camp gate shut at 6:30pm) we took a detour down a gravel path on a wild roll of the dice... and finally found our quarry. Two lions. And a rhino to boot (we even had a herd of elephants, but they had become pretty passe by this point). Three out of the big five right there in our last five minutes of safari.

We were going to go for a 4:40am safari tomorrow (before heading off to Johannesburg for 6am)... but we've all agreed that we've had our fill of driving around looking for animals by then.

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