leopard looking directly at the camera on a sabi sand and table mountain

Safari by numbers: The beginner’s 101 guide Welcome to Safari 101, the beginner’s guide to getting the most out of your luxury safari adventure…
by 24th August 2016

The Big Five? The Super Seven? What’s it all about? Welcome to Safari 101, the beginner’s guide to understanding the local lingo and getting the most out of your luxury safari adventure.

Give me five

Many moons ago, when hunting was once rife in the African bush veld, hunters coined the term “Big Five” to classify the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

Thankfully the hunting heyday is over and nowadays protected conservation areas abound that are thriving with wildlife, just as nature intended. Fear has rightly been replaced with intrigue and the beloved Big Five is now a highly sought-after quintet of magnificent African icons that every wildlife enthusiast hopes to catch a glimpse of while on safari.

Good things come in small packages

The “Little Five” is merely a clever play on words, highlighting five pint-sized critters that bear the same namesakes as their mighty counterparts: the ant lion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver and rhino beetle. This of course adds depth to the overall game drive experience, revealing both the big and small wonders of nature to curious minds.

Beauty is only skin deep

Perhaps a far cry from their majestic counterparts, the unfortunate “Ugly Five” definitely gets a bad rap. We don’t think any animals are ugly; each is loveable in its own way, yet the hyena, vulture, wildebeest, warthog and marabou stork remain the unlucky recipients of this far from endearing moniker.

This less than glamorous gang of underdogs is often depicted negatively in mainstream movies and cartoons, which doesn’t help with their increasing unpopularity. Alas, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no safari would be complete without the Ugly Five. What would the Great Wildebeest Migration be with no wildebeest…?!

Images courtesy of &Beyond guides: Daryl Dell, Steve Walker and Dan Fenton.

7th Heaven

You’ll often hear safari fanatics talking about the “Super Seven”, which is an extension of the Big Five that includes both cheetah and the highly endangered African wild dog. If you manage to see the Super Seven, congratulations, you can consider yourself an accomplished safari expert.

Did you know that India has its own wildlife checklist too? Guests visiting the dense tropical forests and world-famous tiger reserves of India are all on the lookout for the Subcontinent’s “Big Seven”, which includes the tiger, leopard, Asiatic lion, Asian elephant, rhino, water buffalo and gaur. So if you have already witnessed Africa’s Super Seven, then it’s time to explore the magnificent jungles of India on a luxury tiger safari.

The holy grail

To graduate from expert to master, one must witness the near-impossible “Elusive Eleven”, which is no mean feat. Considered the holy grail of the bush, these 11 shy, mysterious and extremely difficult to track animals are on every safari addict’s bucket list: aardvark, aardwolf, African civet, African wild cat, bushpig, caracal, honey badger, pangolin, porcupine, side-striped jackal and serval.

If you have seen the Elusive Eleven in the wild, then you are in a very elite league of extremely fortunate safari goers that have major bragging rights.

Images courtesy of &Beyond Guides: Daryl Dell and Jason Glanville.

Marine safari

Once you have conquered the safari on land, it’s time to test your skills in the underwater world. The unofficial fourth “C” in our company ethos is Care of the Ocean and &Beyond now boasts three luxurious island properties in our portfolio where guests can take to the sea and learn all about its curious and colourful inhabitants.

The “Marine Five” are an eclectic bunch: the mighty whale; the feared shark; the intelligent dolphin; the playful seal; and the comical penguin.

Our Marine Five and Big Five Safari is an 11-day adventure through South Africa’s Big Five reserves and coastal areas. Enjoy exhilarating game drives, whale watching, shark cage diving, nature drives, cave explorations, beach trips, horse riding and wine tasting.

Adding a new 5 to the mix

Excluding Africa’s Super Seven and Elusive Eleven, there are four safari quintets (big, little, ugly and marine), which seems a bit of an oxymoron if you ask me. Surely there should be a fifth element to keep the fives well-rounded…?

Given the whole Khaki Fever phenomenon, I’m thinking there should be a Khaki Five? Or maybe even a Khaki Twelve, which would tie in perfectly with a ranger calendar with the proceeds going to conservation perhaps…? Just putting it out there.

Image courtesy of &Beyond guest: Mikelle Furman.

Safari goals

From the Big Five right down to the Little Five, we consider ourselves fortunate to be in their presence, to watch these animals undisturbed in their natural habitat, hopefully, for generations to come. Of course the safari extends far beyond the wildlife highlighted in this story. There are countless species revered for their elegance, speed, agility and peculiarity, and that’s the beauty of the experience. No two game drives are ever the same and you never know what to expect. Is there anything more beautiful than the graceful giraffe or more striking than the inimitable zebra? Share this on social media and tag us to let us know which animals are on YOUR wildlife bucket list?