The African Big 5 in Cape Town

Cape Town’s natural landscape is as varied as its cultural and social topography. For many people, and rightly so, Africa = Savanna = Safari.

If you are in Africa, don’t miss the unique Safari!

There are so many excellent ‘Big Five’ game reserves in Cape Town for the wildlife adventurer. Enjoy day trip safaris, horseback safaris, quad bike safaris, day trip combos, walking in the wild tours, a fly in Safari and so much more.

Many of the private game reserves offer a complete typical African experience; luxury wildlife-style accommodation, exquisite restaurants, swimming pools and daily game drives in safari jeep trips. You will definitely enjoy Safari.

Introduction to The African Big 5

They are undoubtedly the most exciting feature of African Safari.

The Big 5 consists of a group of remarkable animals: the lion, the African elephant, the leopard, the Cape buffalo and the rhinoceros.

You might wonder why the hippopotamus, the gorilla or the cheetah is not in the list. This is because the term, coined by big game hunters, actually draws reference to the difficulty in hunting those large, ferocious animals—which exhibit great acts of ferocity when cornered.

The African Big 5:

Lions – the real Kings of the Savanna

Quite interestingly, these carnivorous felines are the largest and most sociable of Africa’s cats. They can weigh up to 225 kg and live over 20 years in captivity. They have a short tawny coat, a tufted tail and you will be able to single out the males from the females due to the former’s heavy mane around the neck and shoulders.

Lions usually live in groups of up to 40 lions. As they are very territorial animals, the females (the lionesses) rarely go out of their home ranges but they do most of the hunting along with the males.

Like all predators, lions admire courage. So if you do encounter one on foot, just don’t run as they will most probably view you as prey! Instead, try to make yourself appear big and slowly back away.

Buffalo – Black Death

Known as ‘Black Death’, the African buffalo is known to be a very dangerous animal, and even more when wounded (so you cannot afford to be careless with them). Not many predators chase them—their self-defense ability is so strong that they sometimes end up killing the lions which chase them.

This animal weighs a little bit less than a ton. Though when solitary the African buffalo’s behavior can be unpredictable, it is usually docile when in a herd. However, don’t turn them to alarm mode; they will stampede en masse and create havoc.

As for the number of buffalos you can expect to see in a group, it will depend by the amount of food and water available. Clearly, these animals are needs-oriented!

Leopard – that expert hunter

These cats are slightly smaller than the lions but they are so self-reliant and expert hunters that they can kill pray up to twice their size.

Leopards are not that rare. They simply prefer to be nocturnal solitary animals and rely on camouflage to hunt. They pride in their independence. You will rarely see them accompanied, except during mating and the females caring for their young cubs. During daytime, they stay up in trees, but it is possible to see them hunt during the day, particularly when the sky is overcast.

As it is difficult to encounter them on a game drive, we recommend you to… take your time searching them, you might be lucky!

Elephant – The giant mammal

The African elephant is, without doubt, the largest land mammal in the world. It can weigh up to 6 tonnes. African elephant males have an average height of 3.6 meters tall at the shoulder while females, 3 meters tall. Naturally, the females weight less than the males.

If you have never seen an elephant before, watch out for the large ears (which serve to cool the body when flapped), the agile trunk and the elongated incisors in the form of tusks. These tusks (which can weigh from 22 to 44kgs and be up to 2.5m long) might look like accessories, but in fact, they have many important functions: dig for roots, strip the bark off trees for food, to fight each other and conquer their females during the mating season, or as a means of self defense.

Elephants are not particularly dangerous (elephant rides are offered in many reserves), but keep your distance from a bull elephant and protective mothers. And if you are in a vehicle, keep in mind that elephants can run faster than a car can reverse. So, drive forward instead. Also, watch out their behavior. If it’s flapping its ears, kicking up dust and/ or trumpeting, you will sense danger.

Rhinoceros – rare but beware

The rhino was once abundant in sub-Saharan Africa. However, now it has been hunted to near extinction, which is why, it is the rarest seen of the big five. Due to the conservation efforts made across the continent, white rhinos have grown in numbers—of all rhino species, it is the most social one. However, the black ones have still remained on the endangered list.

The white rhino is the world’s second largest land mammal, the elephant being the first one. It has a wide mouth used for grazing.

Rhinos beware of humans, and sometimes, they can even attack vehicles that approach them too closely. If you are on foot though, then do not worry much as their bad eyesight will act in your favour. If they do charge you, what most people do is to let them get as close as possible and then step aside at the last second. And apparently, this works!