When on a safari, there are the notorious “Big Five” you hope to see: leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Why only five? These animals got their high rankings from being the most difficult to hunt on foot (back when that was legal). Unfortunately the rhinos succeeded in staying camouflaged in the brush so we were unable to spot any, but the amounts of all the other amazing animals we saw definitely made up for it.
The leopard– seeing her was a rare and extremely lucky experience. Leopards are rarely seen and are the most elusive of the Big Five, considering they are nocturnal, make their homes in the tree tops and live in solidarity unless with a cub. Somehow a safari driver near us managed to spot her in the tall grass while she was sneaking up on a pack of topi nearby and we were able to get a look. Although these creatures are nocturnal they will still hunt in the daylight if their night was unsuccessful and need to eat.
The lion– we spotted this King of the Jungle with a lioness and older cub on our first game drive as dusk was approaching and they moved out of the brush to sun themselves. During the “off season”, or the time before the wildebeest migration starts in July, lions spend about 20 hours of their day napping to make up for the lack of food and protein from their favorite Savannah meal. The lion is able to take down other animals for a snack during this off season, but with little nourishment comes little strength and it will take the whole pack.
The buffalo– According to our driver, Apollo, the buffalo is the most dangerous animal in the Savannah, with nastily sharp horns that can easily rip flesh, despite being a herbivore. They use these horns to charge and ward off any predators preying on their herd. These African buffalo are not to be confused with the Asian water buffalo, which are similar in appearance but can be domesticated.
The elephant– The amount of these gentle giants we saw was amazing. Herds of mothers with their calves and lone bulls were not lacking and spotted on all four of our game drives. After visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and seeing how many calves have lost their mothers to poaching, it was comforting to see so many elephants roaming wild and unharmed in the Mara. Although they appear slow and easygoing as you watch them from a safe distance, they are still known to charge or play soccer with a safari van occasionally. They are wild animals, after all.
These big four of five were just a few of the animals we saw in their habitats, and will be further elaborated on in future posts, so stick around for more!