Be exhilarated, awed and maybe even terrified...Big 5 Safaris

Big Five safaris in South Africa are a must-do for anyone fascinated by wildlife. Big Five refers to buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino and the term comes from the animals considered most dangerous to hunt. Now the thrill comes from photographing them in their natural habitat.

If you’re looking for a Big Five safari experience in South Africa you can go to almost any province in South Africa, but the Kruger National Park in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces remains an iconic tourism drawcard.

The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) abound in the park, and you see them by self-drive, guided drives or guided walks through the bushveld.

But remember, you are not in the middle of a National Geographic documentary. You may well see all Big Five, you may well not, although your chances are high. Drive slowly, stop at waterholes, listen for the warning calls of birds, watch when other vehicles stop, and always keep your eyes open.

Prepare to be awed. To see a leopard dozing in the bough of a tree, spotting a black rhino half-hidden in thick shrubs, finding a pride of lions in the shade after a kill, or watching a large herd of elephants or Cape buffalo move soundlessly across the road – these are all priceless moments.

Always remember that you’re dealing with wild animals, and that you’re in their territory. There are rules of engagement relating to Big Five safaris in South Africa. Read your guidebook carefully and heed the words of your ranger at all times.

Get close to natureBush walkings

Don’t take anyone else’s word for it, get close to the bush and its wildlife with a real-life walking safari or bush walk experience in a game reserve with experienced guides and trackers who will show you the best kept secrets of the wilderness.

If you go on a bush walking or wildlife trail, you’ll get to experience wildlife at first hand. You’ll learn about the ecology, the birds, the game, the plants and insects, and also how to interpret the signs of the wild, including animal spoor. When you come face-to-face with that elephant, or watch that dung beetle labouring with his ball of dung, you’ll realise just how impressive and interconnected African wildlife really is.

A walking safari is your opportunity to experience the wild in a way that most humans have not for hundreds of years. You’ll be accompanied by a personal armed ranger, with a back-up guide or tracker, who’ll make sure that you’re kept safe at all times. These professionals will guide you along trails and tracks to watering holes and rivers, showing you the secrets of the bush up close and personal.

This is your chance to witness the real details of the bush, from the Big Five right down to the insects that are such an important part of the ecosystem. You’ll also get a feel for the plant life and trees of the bush, their uses and natures.

Typically, before you set out, you’ll be briefed on how to behave when encountering animals in the wild. Your guides are trained experts who know how to handle the situation you are in. The best tip is to listen carefully to what they say and to follow their directions quickly, quietly and carefully.

Walking safaris are an ideal way to really experience the African bush.

You get the opportunity to do more than just view animals, you’ll also be part of the environment where you’ll experience every aspect of it, the insects, the plants, the heat and the pure adrenalin rush of being on foot among wild animals in Africa.

Safari Photography Tips for beginners

Unwritten rules of game-drive behaviourBush Etiquette

Bush etiquette is more than considerate behaviour around wildlife. It also helps keep you and the animals safe, and eases possible tensions when there is congestion around say, a lion or elephant sighting. You won’t go wrong if you are respectful, observant and quiet.

That would be the person talking loudly on a cellphone while a lioness is suckling her cubs; the one that shouts at an animal to get it to stop sleeping and ‘pose’; the one hanging out of the vehicle or climbing on the roof to get a better angle.

Then again, even game-viewing veterans can do the wrong thing.

So what is suitable behaviour around wildlife?

If you are a passenger on a game drive at a game reserve, the rules are simple: just obey the field guide (ranger). He or she will typically ask you not to stand up while watching game, especially dangerous or sensitive animals. Wild beasts become used to vehicles, but by standing up you are changing the ‘normal’ profile, which may provoke an unwanted reaction.

If you are game-viewing in your own vehicle, there is more to bear in mind.

Don’t get close to an animal that seems aggressive, or is agitated by your presence.

Always allow animals an escape route.

Approach animals slowly, and make sure you have a means of getting away easily, especially when approaching a herd of elephants. Matriarchs or bulls have very destructive ways of showing they are unhappy about your presence. Treat them with respect.

Never feed wild animals under any circumstances. Be especially cautious around baboons – keep your windows closed and doors locked when viewing them, as they have been known to rush at cars and jump inside. They have large teeth and can be very aggressive.

Don’t hoot, whistle or shout to get animals’ attention.

Enter bird hides quietly to avoid disturbing animals others may be watching. The same applies at waterholes. Keep noise levels down to avoid disturbing animals. They’re usually already nervy because they’re at their most vulnerable while drinking.

Switch off your engine at a game sighting – keeping it running, especially with the air-conditioning, makes too much noise and may disturb animals.

If there are many vehicles at a sighting, be considerate in how you park and how long you occupy a prime position – let others have a look, too.

Treat the environment and wild animals with respect, and you’ll leave with wonderful memories.

Experience of a lifetimeMeet the cheetahs!

Villa Kudu, meet the Cheetahs at Tshukudu

Tshukudu Game Lodge, just next to Villa Kudu, offers a walking safari through the Big 5 reserve with cheetahs on your side! An unforgettable experience, that will give you the opportunity to take fantastic pictures and possibly pet the animals.

Chris and his daughter Jessica, also an experienced ranger, will take you on an early morning bush walk with the orphaned animals or an early morning and late afternoon 4×4 safari game drive providing you with excellent game viewing opportunities of the Big 5 in their natural habitat.

Need help ?

At Villa Kudu, we can organize guided safari tours in the area with a personal ranger.

Ask your concierge to help you with game-drive or bush-walks bookings!