Going on safari is one of the best things you will ever do in your lifetime. Being out in the wild amongst wild animals is a really humbling experience that you simply cannot get from seeing these animals behind bars in a zoo.
Safari can mean different things for different people, but today, I’m going to talk about safari in Africa to see the Big Five in action. The Big Five are categorised as the five most dangerous animals on the continent and some of them may surprise you! The big five are: lions, rhinos, buffalo, elephants and leopards. All five of these can be found across the continent, but not in certain countries. Many are contained within incomprehensibly large reserves and national parks, designed to keep them safe from hunters that see big five hunting as a sport.
When I went on safari, I went with a gap year company and I was lucky enough to stay on a small, private reserve just outside of Kruger. We stayed literally in the reserve, with wild animals roaming around our cabins every day. At first, it was scary knowing that the two resident lions could crop up at any moment but it soon became clear that they wanted to stay away from the bright lights and the noises.
Being on a private reserve and being taken care of by the reserve owner, Mike, we got to experience a lot of things that wouldn’t be readily available if you were to just go on a driving safari day by day. We go to go on night drives, set ‘traps’ to lure leopards into view and ride horseback freely through the reserve. All of this while having somewhere there all the time to take care of us, make sure we were safe and ensure we were seeing all we could.
In South Africa, and many other of the places where you can see wild African animals, there are national parks in place to preserve the beauty of the country and to protect the animals that call it home.
While there are places to stay in these national parks, the prices are often much higher than anywhere else due to their location and nefarious people are much more likely to take advantage of tourists staying in national parks.
So, if you’re going to a big park, it’s a much better idea to stay outside of the boundaries and take day trips, or overnight camping trips, to get the best benefit of visiting the parks. Most of the safaris you take in the parks will be driving safaris, as these are the safest ones to take in an area with such a high concentration of dangerous animals.
As I discussed earlier, the big five are the most dangerous animals on the continent and they are classified as that for good reason. If you’re not ranger-trained, it’s never a good idea to attempt a safari on your own or without being properly trained with a rifle.
The main animal that people seem to underestimate is elephants. They have a reputation for being these cute, gentle giants, but in reality, the stampede, they crush and they attack. Don’t presume that just because you saw on playing football or painting once in a documentary that wild elephants are going to be just as placid and friendly.