The Big Five

The Big Five

This is a bit embarrassing to admit given the number of times I have gone on safari, but I only recently learned why the cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino are called the Big Five. The Big Five is originally a hunting term coined because these five animals were considered by hunters to be the most dangerous to shoot. This explains why the cape buffalo made the cut when perennial favorites like cheetahs, giraffes, and zebras didn’t. The cape buffalo is actually considered to be the most dangerous. If you ask any ranger, they are likely to tell you that this is the animal they really don’t want to encounter on foot because unlike other animals that cue their displeasure or even mock charge, the buffalo just makes a go for you. I, for one, am hoping to never be charged by any of these animals.

More recently the term the Big Five has been appropriated by safari operators because, let’s face it, traveling all the way to Africa to see the Big Five sounds better than listing out a litany of all of the amazing animals visitors will see. But, sometimes the marketing tool works too well. I have been on drives where first time safari goers are more interested in checking animals off of a list rather than taking in the entire experience. I can understand this impulse, especially if short on time, but I suggest that when your ranger asks you what you want to see, you answer “anything.” Bush karma is real.

Cape Buffalo





In the bush being open to whatever comes your way, is going to yield the best results. Don’t be shy about speaking up if there is something that you are dying to see, but being open to anything and everything is going to result in the best experience. The best moments happen when you least expect them.