By Anwynn Louw – Online Marketing Assistant
Have you ever wondered how the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, and buffalo – came to be called the “Big 5”? It is an old hunter’s term for the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot, but the term soon caught the interest of many travelers and wildlife enthusiasts and these days The Big Five is a must-see for many who travel to Africa! The term ‘Big 5’ has become a definitive marker of the caliber of wild areas. Only a large expanse with a healthy ecosystem can sustain a healthy population of game such as elephant, buffalo, and lion.
After the Big 5 became popular, an offshoot emerged: the “Big 8”. This added three other epic mammals to the list of sightings. If you would like to see all eight, check out our list of the best Asilia camps where you can spot them.
Africa is home to two species of rhino, the black rhino, and the white rhino. These animals are known for their giant horns that grow from their snouts. They are named “rhinoceros”, which means “nose horn”. Rhinos are some of the biggest animals in the world of which the white rhino is the biggest of the five species in the world. The white rhino can grow up to 1.8 m and weigh a whopping 2500 kg! Rhinos are herbivores and they like to munch at night, dawn and dusk.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp in Kenya is the only place on earth where you are still able to see a northern white rhino. Due to poaching, only two live today, and they are all in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. They are given sanctuary in a 700-acre enclosure protected by 24-hour armed security – a sad necessity in today’s harsh world. And if you hope to catch a glimpse of a rhino in the wild, Ol Pejeta is the place to go. It has over 100 critically endangered black rhino and 20 southern white rhino.
If you are visiting Tanzania, the pristine Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the jewel in Tanzania’s crown for good reason: the greater NCA area contains over 25 000 large animals, including the Black rhino, and a wide range of bird species. You can stay with us at The Highlands and experience the Ngorongoro area with us.
Elephants are the world biggest animals. There are three species of elephant in the world. Africa is home to two, namely the African Savannah elephant and the African Forest elephant. Male African elephants can reach up to 3m tall and weigh between 4,000 -7,500kg.
Tarangire National Park is perfect for those who want to step that much further off the beaten track and experience a truly wild area. Famous for its vast herds of elephants and forests of enigmatic giant baobab trees, the rugged landscape is incredibly diverse and stands out from any other on the traditional northern safari circuit. We have two camps in the Tarangire National Park, Oliver’s Camp & Little Oliver’s which both have plenty of ellies that visit the camp every day!
The average life span of a lion in the wild is 12 to 16 years. Lions are carnivores and while female lions only need 5kgs of meat a day, male lions need 7kgs or more. Lions go on the hunt for food mostly from dusk till dawn. Female lions generally do the hunting, whilst the male lions patrol the territory and protect the pride.
The Maasai Mara contains the highest density of lion in Kenya. A stay at Rekero Camp will offer you the opportunity to get close to these animals. 10% of the world’s lion population can be found in Ruaha National Park, the density of lions in the park is not only extremely high but prides are unusually large – it is not uncommon to see numbers of 20 or more. In Ruaha, we have three camps – Kwihala Camp as well as Jabali Ridge and the exclusive Jabali Private House, check them out if you’re keen on a visit to Ruaha.
Leopards hunt at night. They have a large number of light-sensitive cells in their eyes that detect less colour, but allow the leopard to detect movement and shape easily in the dark. Leopards are also the smallest of the cats. They may be stronger and bulkier than the cheetah, but the cheetah is much lighter and taller.
The Masai Mara hosts high concentrations of big cats. This makes for spectacular predator/prey interactions: witnessing this heart-stopping wildlife action first-hand is visceral. Be sure to book a stay at Rekero Camp, Kenya. Kwihala Camp, Jabali Ridge, Jabali Private House, and Oliver’s Camp and Little Oliver’s are great options if you are interested in spotting leopards.
Wild Dogs are known to live in packs of 10 – 40 individuals, having one monogamous alpha pair who lead the pack. Due to increasing pressures these canines face, such as habitat loss and poaching, the chance of survival for pups is greatly increased when two doting parents are involved in raising a litter. African wild dogs used to be found across the whole continent but are now limited to countries in the south and east of Africa, the main strongholds being in the Okavango Delta and the Selous Game Reserve.
African wild dogs used to be found across the whole continent but are now limited to countries in the south and east of Africa, the main strongholds being in the Okavango Delta and the Selous Game Reserve. We have one property in The Selous, Roho ya Selous.
The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in swamps and floodplains, as well as mopane grasslands and forests of the major mountains of Africa. The adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature. The horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield. The average lifespan for a buffalo in the wild is approximately 20 years.
As you relax in camp or on your private veranda at Dunia Camp, look out for the buffalo and other large and small creatures that could be spotted strolling past.
For a complete Big 8 experience, we recommend a visit to South Africa. Southern Right whales and Great White sharks are a definite must see!
Southern Right Whales
During June and December Southern Right whales make their way to the South African coast to mate and calf. These gentle giants are easily identifiable by the white patches on their heads, known as callosities. Coastal towns, such as Hermanus and Gansbaai offers excellent land- and boat-based whale watching opportunities. Gansbaai is also home to the Marine Big 5!
Great White Sharks
Gansbaai is known as the Great White shark capital of the world, due to its high concentration of Great White sharks. White sharks can be seen in Gansbaai all year round. These sharks give birth to live young (not eggs), and they give birth to 6-8 pups at one time. Pups are usually between 1.0-1.5m in length and are born with teeth.
Of course, all Asilia’s camps are strategically situated in remote and pristine locations along the migration route and are hot spots for world-class wildlife viewing but if you have a special area of interest you may want to include one of our specific camps here.