We spend most of our time indoors, working in office environments and only seeing the reality of nature on a TV screen. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that; we all have lives, and humanity has moved on from true side-by-side nature living.
Nevertheless, for most of us there is still a longing to take a walk on the wild side. It’s why safaris remain a highlight for many people, a holiday of a lifetime that gives the back-to-nature feel if only for a short while. Safaris can range from the wilderness camping style to full-blown luxury – it all depends on your preference as a traveler. For the latter, operators such as Thanda Safari or similar will be a good port of call. You can even take combined safari and golf trips.
So with the idea in mind, soon you’ll begin to think about the animals you want to see. Thanks to movies like Madagascar and The Lion King, we all have a general idea of the majestic creatures we want to see in the wild. But is it really feasible?
To begin with, let’s examine the five “big game” animals. While these animals were originally grouped for hunters, it is now more commonly used to refer to the big five tourist attractions. With the general furore over the killing of Cecil the Lion, it’s worth keeping these five as a look-but-don’t-touch reserve.
As the name suggests, the African lion is best found in Africa. If you want to make sure the real-life equivalent of Simba is on your safari, then you’re generally looking at sub-Saharan Africa. They are also – somewhat confusingly – found in India, though this is not as well served by tour operators.
Tanzania is the best country for lion-spotting, as it boasts the biggest wild population of all of the African countries. Look out for any mention of the Serengeti, the most well-known national park in Tanzania.
Distinguishable from its Indian cousin thanks to its larger body mass and bigger ears, the African elephant is a safari staple.
Western Africa is the best bet for elephant spotting. You may have heard of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where it is noted the elephant population appears to be increasing. Tanzania and South Africa also have huge populations in various reserves.
Perhaps the least glamorous of the big five, the African buffalo is nevertheless an important part of any safari. Uganda is the primary destination with the Kidepo Valley National Park having the most abundant herds.
This stunning big cat is notoriously camera-shy, so if you’re determined to spot one, you need to focus in your search areas. The Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa offers your best chances, though Botswana and Kenya both have options.
The impact that poaching has had on the rhinoceros population is difficult to gauge, but it is thought to have been catastrophic. Taking a trip to see these distinctive creatures is recommended for those who wish to marvel at their beauty. It is the most endangered of the big five.
There are around 30 rhinoceros living on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, which offers the best wild spotting. Tanzania also has a few reserves, though with smaller herds.