Big 5 or Bust?
Something that always amazes me is the modern day traveller’s overwhelming desire to spot the Big 5. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate such a sighting and relish every moment watching Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo and (for me, the as yet unseen) Leopard in the wild, but when lucky enough to spend some time in South African Game Reserves, any sighting fills me with joy …
On a game drive in a private Big 5 reserve recently, I was disappointed to find that our game ranger was giving preference to these species, to the near exclusion, or rather, dismissal of other game species. There were 3 couples in the vehicle, one of which were first-time visitors from the USA. Speeding past numerous species of Antelope, Warthog and countless birds, we tracked lion (though it felt more like chased) for more than half of the game drive. Sadly, it seems as though our modern approach to life is rubbing off on our wildest and most preserved areas. Get in, get out – tick off as many species as possible in as short a time as possible.
Can’t speak for everyone, but as a visitor this is not my intention. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about being on a game drive, is the sense of time coming to a complete stop. Looking out at an untouched landscape, taking the time to watch a bird soar through the sky, appreciate a magnificent sunset and marvel at the number of stars in the night sky – these are things, I regret to say, I find little time for in the city, but which leave me with a sense of well-being long after I’ve left.
I later saw check-in forms that had been completed by guests visiting the game lodge, and under “What do you hope to see during your stay”, I was saddened to note “Big 5” scrawled on almost all of them. I can understand this desire, as finding the elusive Leopard has been added to my bucket list, but I feel these desires are starting to change the way game drives are handled by game rangers. Foreigners visiting our country have more than likely never seen the “less in demand” species (except perhaps in a zoo) and I’d like us all to spend more time appreciating any species we’re lucky enough to come across.
To put my mind to rest that I’m not the only traveler who appreciates any sighting in a game reserve, I’m launching another photographers’ competition. Submit your photographs of any mammals, birdlife, reptiles or insects or any sunsets, landscapes, trees or even rocks that took your fancy, whilst visiting a game or nature reserve in South Africa. Find out more about the competition at Photographers Competition November 2009.
Photographs: Not the Big 5 …