Monday, June 3, 2013

Spotting the Big 5

It has taken a while to pull this blog together as i had to upload all 900 of my safari photos first which took a few days as internet is slow and not readily available here.

First thing you learn in Africa - a safari is not quite complete without spotting all of the Big 5:

Elephant, lion, leopard, water buffalo and rhino are the big 5 because these animals were the most dangerous to hunt (during hunting days). Today one of the biggest problems in the park is rhino poaching for their horns. The Asians pay significant $ in local terms for the rhino horn. Park security and the SA army are constantly monitoring the park for poachers, if caught they can receive a 25 year prison term. During our visit a ranger was shot in the stomach by a poacher! The illegal sale of wildlife is a billion a year operation and on par with drug and arms trafficking.

Elephants (one of the big five) crossing the road, in herds, eating, watering and walking their babies we had a great view of the elephant world. There are 12,000 elephants in Kruger National Park. At puberty males leave the herd to form small bachelor groups. Elephants spend their day eating and drinking to maintain their daily intake of as much as 200 litres of water and 250kg of grass. A couple of times an elephant would want to cross the street and our vehicle would be in the way - the elephant would flap his enormous ears and make a sound - you move the vehicle - quickly - Elephants frequently mock charge vehicles but they can be dangerous so one must keep their distance. Elephants grow 8 sets of teeth and wear them down over time through eating rough vegetation (branches, bark, small trees). Elephants usually die of starvation as they have a poor digestive system. You can tell how old an elephant is by his pooh - in younger elephants the vegetation is all chewed but as they get older they cannot digest the vegetation and there can be undigestested branches in their pooh.

Momma and baby

When driving through the park you are not allowed to get out or hang out of your vehicle. The surroundings seem so calm and quiet you must keep reminding yourself this is the wild and there really are dangerous animals everywhere.

One morning we stopped for coffee at one of the camps and an elephant got into the area and was feeding right beside the washrooms. What a thrill but a little scary taking photographs.

Mag and I

Giraffes - OMG these animals are even more beautiful and elegant in the wild. We saw them running and i have some great videos but with this internet there is no way i can upload to my blog. They seem to love being photographed, wonderful models posing individually and in groups - a very curious animal. Watching them teach their babies to cross the street - they are very protective of their young. I would have loved to fit one of the babies in my suitcase and take it home to Hannah - she would be very popular with a baby giraffe in her back yard but I might be so popular with Sean and Michelle!

A few facts about giraffes - they cannot walk backwards, when they walk they move both their right feet then both their left feet. They feed off trees that have sweet needles but when they have eaten a certain amount of that trees needles the needles turn sour and the giraffe moves on to the next tree.

The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant. Its species name refers to its camel-like appearance and the patches of color on its fur. Its chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like ossicones and its distinctive coat patterns. It stands 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall and has an average weight of 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) for males and 830 kg (1,800 lb) for females. It is classified under the family Giraffidae, along with its closest extant relative, the okapi. The nine subspecies are distinguished by their coat patterns.

This could be a photo for a car commercial
Have you ever seen anything so sweet!
Buffalo (one of the big 5) - these large and powerful creatures are extremely dangerous when threatened. They reach 1.4m in height and can weigh up to 800kg. They are social and form herds, sometimes comprising several hundred buffalo, although older bulls are often seen alone or in small groups. They tend to live near water in grassy areas although they are found in many other types of vegetation. I love their head dress!

Zebras are several species of African equids (horse family) united by their distinctive black and white stripes. Their stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. They are generally social animals that live in small harems to large herds. Unlike their closest relatives, horses and asses, zebras have never been truly domesticated. We saw numerous herds of zebras with their young - another animal for Hannah's back yard!


We came across a hyena on the side of the road and after watching her for a while her babies appeared from the den. You never know what you are going to encounter on a safari. Hyenas have the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom, they are scavengers but are very smart hunters. When they come upon a kill they will eat everything and regurgitate what they cannot digest - their pooh is white.


Baby is on her back

We were able to photograph numerous beautiful birds in the wild.

Pied Kingfisher

Glossy blue starling

We saw the vultures diving and this means there is a kill nearby. We came upon the remains of a giraffe - vultures and jackals cleaning up the remains of the kill after lions, hyenas and other animals have had their feed - nothing goes to waste in the wild.

Animal kill - remains of a giraffe


There are about 200,000 impala in the park - these are a deer like animal with horns. Then there are the Kudu (4,000 in park) these are larger deer like creatures with the most magnificent set of horns. One night we had some kudu cooked on the BBQ - delicious!


Impala (these look similar to the ones in my garden)

More Birds

Most nights we barbecued but one night we went to one of the restaurants in the camp. The restaurant setting was an old railway platform including steam engine and rail cars.





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