the big 5 controversy

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

From 2014 to 2018, just over 77 million tourists have visited South Africa. The vast majority will be sure to include a game lodge in their itinerary - no doubt in search of the Big 5.

Wildlife tourism is possibly the largest income generator in South African tourism and for good reason. Our National Parks and game lodges offer tourists an experience unlike anything they could enjoy in their home countries and sightings to write home about! The focus on seeing the Big 5 is abundantly clear, but what about the other 294 mammal species, 850 bird species and some 100 000 insects that call this corner of Africa home?

Lichstein's Hartebeest - possibly one of the rarest antelopes in Southern Africa

If you had read our previous blog, you would have seen some of the incredible sightings that we were fortunate to experience during a recent trip to the Kruger National Park. During our 4 days in the park we not only saw the big 5 but a myriad of other rare and beautiful species which were on our bucket list. Rather than queuing for hours to see lions in a river bed half a kilometer away, we chose to go on search for more elusive animals that don't draw the crowds. And it paid off.

Every visit to a national park offers new opportunities and possibilities to spot some of the most amazing animals on the planet. You can never predict what's going to happen but one thing remains the same - guided game drives rushing through the park, in search of Africa's Big 5 so that their guests can feel that they've had a great experience in the bush. I often wonder how many other sightings they have missed, perhaps even the aforementioned Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, while zooming from lion sighting to leopard sighting.

The Saddle-Billed Stork is one of South Africa's rarest birds and really photogenic to boot!

it's for the birds

Having been on a few of these vehicles ourselves over the years, we always turn to each other and comment on how lucky we are to be in our own vehicle and in control of our own time. This allows us to spend as much time as we'd like viewing whatever we like, rather than feeling rushed and under pressure to find those lions. It's when we're on our own that we have the best sightings and photographs.

here kitty, kitty

While the appeal of the Big 5 and large cats like lions and leopards is understandable, always remember the other creatures that inhabit these areas which are just as interesting to observe and fun to take pictures of. If you focus on only the Big 5, your game viewing experience is going to be disappointing - there are never guarantees that you're going to see anything specific when driving through the national parks. (Impalas being the clear exception to that rule!) It's better to just enjoy everything you see and appreciate each creature for its own unique contribution towards the greater ecology.

Chantelle loves the bush and everything it has to offer, (in case you haven't noticed), and hopes that one day there will be not only interest in the Big 5 but also the other fascinating creatures that live in our wonderful wilderness.

What are your favourite animals to view in the wild and have you ever seen anything unusual that you'd like to share with us in the comments section?

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