Interestingly tourists coming to South Africa are always keen to see the country's celebrated Big Five (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino) neglecting a wealth of smaller wildlife. Entire vacations are planned for the sole purpose of spotting them. But I would like to introduce you to the lesser known “Small 5”, whose names relate to their bigger counterparts, this is called the Little Five: elephant shrew, ant lion, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver and leopard tortoise.
The Elephant Shrew
Getting its name from the elongated snout that resembles an elephant’s trunk, the elephant shrew (pictured above) is the most adorable of the Small 5. It is also the hardest to spot. Weighing around 28 g, they are active during the day and are said to be highly nervous and intolerant of trespassers. To avoid nasty tempers, they prefer going unnoticed by remaining absolutely still. Their long legs make them proficient at lightning-fast sprints away from danger.
Named for its lion-like method of ambushing prey, the ferocious antlion is an insect with about 2 000 species worldwide. ‘Antlion’ is a term actually reserved for the larval stage of the insect’s life cycle. Adults closely resemble dragonflies. The antlion larva has a masterful art of digging conical pits in dry, soft sand that is easy to shift. It will take some effort to get a glimpse of this Small 5 predator, but you should see its little cone-like sandpits on the ground. If you’re patient, you may be rewarded with a spectacular display of ambush in action. Whether you spot one or not, you can impress friends with this useless fact: An antlion larva never poops. It waits until it is an adult before excreting all the left-overs from its time as an underground predator.
The Buffalo Weaver
Buffalo weavers live in the dry savannah and acacia woodland areas, where they forage omnivorously on the ground, often following the trail of buffalo herds. A beautiful find among bird watchers, these social birds tend to form large, loosely ordered colonies. Weavers build massive communal roosts in tall acacia and baobab trees, which can be easily spotted for their untidy appearance. There are two species of Buffalo Weaver. More common is the noisy Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver and there is the White-Headed Buffalo Weaver.
The Leopard Tortoise
The large leopard tortoise gets its name from its attractive black and yellow speckled shell, clearly resembling a leopard’s spots. The slow-paced tortoises are one of the easiest to spot of the Small 5 (you’ll hardly miss one lumbering across the road). They are typical grazers, found in semi-arid, thorny and grassland habitats throughout sub-Sahara Africa. Many African cultures see the tortoise as a sacred symbol, but they are also widely eaten and considered a delicacy.
The Rhino Beetle
Another Small 5 insect is the rhino beetle, which gets his name from the distinctive horn-like structure on its head. Both sexes have horns, which makes it difficult to distinguish between them. The horn makes an excellent digging and climbing tool, while the males also use them in combat during mating season. Adult rhino beetles are an impressive 2.5 – 5 cm long. Not only are they one of the largest beetle varieties in the world; they are also proportionally the strongest animal in the world, known to lift 850 times their own weight.
Have you spotted any of the Small 5 creatures before? Give it a shot next time you’re on safari in the Kruger National Park!
In Africa, the big five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. The term "big five game" (usually capitalized or quoted as "Big Five") was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Subsequently the term was adopted by safari tour operators for marketing purposes. The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. The big five are among the most dangerous, yet most popular species for big-game hunters to hunt. The 1990 and later releases of South African rand banknotes feature a different big-five animal on each denomination.
Countries where all the members of the big five can be found include Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Malawi.
The African elephant is a very large herbivore having thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and large, fan-shaped ears. The two distinct species of African elephant are: African forest elephant and the African bush elephant. It is said that elephants are difficult to hunt because, despite their large size, they are able to hide in tall grass and are more likely to charge than the other species.
The black rhinoceros is a large herbivore having two upright horns on the nasal bridge. Its thick (1.5–5 cm) protective skin, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure, is very hard to puncture. In the context of big-game hunting in Africa, the term "rhinoceros" may refer to either the black or the white rhinoceros, in South Africa they are called ‘Rhino’. Among big five game hunters, the black rhinoceros is preferred, although it is now critically endangered, and hunting is extremely limited due to this.
The African buffalo or Cape buffalo is a large horned bovid. Buffalo are sometimes reported to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal, and they're the only animals within the Big Five that aren't endangered or threatened. A similar claim is also made of hippos and crocodiles, but these statements include all people and not strictly hunters. The Cape buffalo is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big five, reportedly causing the most hunter deaths, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.
The lion is a large carnivorous feline of Africa and northwest India, having a short, tawny coat, a tufted tail, and in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders. Lions are desirable to hunters because of the very real danger involved. A lion may attack without provocation, and is considered by many to be the best of the big five. Lion hunting is challenging because of the habitat and temperament of the lion. Lions live in the savanna where tall grasses, shrubs, and bushes obscure them and provide cover and camouflage. Lions do not generally avoid confrontation, but will usually face a challenger. They are unpredictable and may charge when sufficiently annoyed or confronted by danger. These factors together make lion hunting a challenge to hunters.
The leopard is a large, carnivorous feline having either tawny fur with dark rosette-like markings or black fur. Of the big five, it is most difficult to acquire hunting licenses for leopards. The leopard is considered the most difficult of the big five to hunt because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. They are wary of humans and will take flight in the face of danger. The leopard is solitary by nature, and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may hunt during the day in some areas. Leopards can be found in the savanna grasslands, brush land and forested areas in Africa. Baiting, hounding, and stalking are the most common methods used to hunt the cat.
Pretoria is a city in the northern part of Gauteng province in South Africa. It straddles the Apies River and has spread eastwards into the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the seat of the administrative branch of government while Cape Town is the legislative capital and Bloemfontein the judicial capital. There have been proposals to change the name of Pretoria itself to Tshwane, and the proposed name change has caused some controversy.
Pretoria is named after the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, and within South Africa is popularly known as the "Jacaranda City" due to the approximately 50 000 Jacarandas that line its streets, parks and gardens. Being an invasive species, jacaranda trees are no longer allowed to be planted in Pretoria. The South Africa’s capital city is situated approximately 55 km (34 mi) north-northeast of Johannesburg in the northeast of South Africa, in a transitional belt between the plateau of the Highveld to the south and the lower-lying Bushveld to the north.
The Jacaranda City as Pretoria is known for all the purple blossom-bedecked trees, which line its thoroughfares, Pretoria is a lovely, quiet city. It has a long, involved and fascinating history. Here you will find significant old buildings and fascinating museums. The Transvaal Museum has natural history displays and is the home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humankind.
Pretoria has been left to shrug off its former association with the apartheid government in a relative state of slumber, lying as it does in a warm, sheltered valley surrounded by the hills of the Magaliesberg range that ensure that temperatures here are invariably a few degrees warmer than the neighbouring Johannesburg. Don’t let the sleepy nature of the pretty city lull you into a false perception. Pretoria has a beauty all of its own, and the slow pace of life is regarded as a bonus by its residents. Many Jo’burgers seek a quieter existence in Pretoria, prepared to commute daily rather live in the comparative rat race. Wall flower the city is not. When in full bloom in October, Pretoria literally comes alive with blossoms and leaves no one in doubt as to the origin of its nickname - Jacaranda city.
Practically mandatory when visiting the city are the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, the Union Buildings and various museums and galleries that include Melrose House, the Pioneer Museum, Sammy Marks museum, and the Voortrekker Monument. Outdoor activities include the Wonderboom and Groenkloof Nature Reserves, the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, and a steam train ride around Pretoria. Also, worth visiting are the Cultural History Museum and Smuts Museum in Irene, outside Pretoria.
Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world's most unique resort, the internationally acclaimed Sun City. The Resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other Resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy and your every desire is met. Sun City Resort in the Pilanesberg in the North West Province is one of the most remarkable destinations in Africa. Sun City Resort is rated among the world's most unusually conceived, and most lavish, inland resorts.
There are four world-class hotels including Cabanas, Cascades Hotel, Sun City Hotel and Casino and the magnificent Palace of the Lost City that glitters like a jewel beneath the African sun, brilliant in its rain forest surroundings and luxurious in its detail and design. Adjoining the Resort, is the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park, which will delight game viewers as it is a malaria free zone and home to the "Big 5" (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino).
The Sun City resort has amazed the international community with its glamorous casinos, gourmet restaurants, extensive sports facilities and star-studded spectaculars. The full variety of entertainment on offer ranges from slots to safaris; the theatre extravaganza to a games arcade for children; horse riding to golf; the Valley of Waves to The Lost City. Whatever it is that you are looking for, you'll find it at Sun City.
Notable facilities at Sun City:
- The Valley Of Waves
- The Gary Player Country Club
- Zip 2000
- Sun Central
- The Maze Of The Lost City
- Sun City Casino
- South African Hall Of Fame
- Motseng Cultural Village
- Mankwe Gametrackers & Pilanesberg Game Reserve
- Kwena Gardens
The Palace of the Lost City is a fantasy world of Africa 's jungles, cliff-tumbling gardens, streams, waterfalls, swimming pools, and al fresco entertainment areas. Legend tells us that the Palace of the Lost City was built as the royal residence of an ancient civilization of South Africa, but was destroyed by an earthquake. It has now been restored to its former glory and offers splendid accommodation in the most sumptuous surroundings in South Africa.
Overnight visitors to any of the hotels at the Sun City Resort have free access to the Valley of the Waves. This is the most advanced water park in South Africa. A large lagoon dominates the scene with a wave machine capable of generating 1.8 metre waves every 90 seconds. This water park has five exhilarating flume rides. From the aptly names Temple of Courage swimmers drop a heart stopping 17 metres down a chute and under a bridge before splashing into a small pool at the foot of the slide. For the less adventurous visitor to the Sun City Resort why not take a ride on the 'Lazy River'.
A variety of sports activities may be enjoyed at Sun City. Year-round good weather in this part of South Africa, ensures that Tennis, squash, swimming, golf, mountain biking, horse riding, and parasailing are all on offer throughout the year. Sun City has laid out spectacular jogging trails. Sun City's Gym and Health spa keep you perfectly toned, and a beauty treatment is the perfect way to wind down after a workout. A wide range of water sports including Water-skiing, Parasailing and Sunset Cruises can be enjoyed at the Resort's Waterworld.
The Super Bowl is Africa's finest venue for concerts. Stars such as Queen, Bryan Adams, Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart have performed at this 6,000-seat arena. This arena is also one of South Africa 's favourite venues for beauty pageants and sporting The Sun City Resort spectacular is famed throughout South Africa as a glamorous & sophisticated theatre production. This stage revue pulsates with energy and is well known for spectacular sets, trapeze acts and glorious costumes.
The Drakensberg includes the highest mountains in Southern Africa. The name means Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans and is called uKhahlamba in Zulu which means "barrier of spears". Large parts of the Drakensberg were declared a world heritage site in 2000 due to its ecological and cultural diversity. The range stretches over 300km (186 miles) along the edge of KwaZulu-Natal and completely encompasses The Kingdom of Lesotho.
The Drakensberg can be divided up into three main sections - the Northern Drakensberg, Central Drakensberg and Southern Drakensberg. These regions also include different parks and reserves as well as towns such as Ladysmith and Ixopo. The mountains draw both local and international tourists, who come to see the regions scenic beauty, beautiful flora, cultural history and the areas many hiking trails.
Within the Drakensberg of KwaZulu-Natal lies the 243 000-hectare mountain region that is also a world heritage site, known as Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Not only does it boast some of the most incredible scenic beauty, but it also has over 600 examples of San rock paintings in caves around the park.
The Drakensberg is not only about its famous mountain peaks - Giants Castle, Cathedral Peak, Mont-Aux-Sources - it is also graced with a number of lower peaks known as the foothills of the Drakensberg. The entire Drakensberg is riddled with incredible waterfalls, rock pools, mountain streams, caves, crisp mountain air, and special spaces that draw both visitors to South Africa and locals alike.
What makes it so popular, besides its sheer majesty, is its accessible plateau and the numerous passes and slopes that make for some of the best and most strenuous hiking in the province; possibly South Africa.
The Drakensberg was featured in the 2009 American science fiction film 2012. It was mentioned in the last scene of the movie, where after twenty-seven days of a great flood which people tried to survive by building arks, the waters began receding. The arks approach the Cape of Good Hope, where the Drakensberg (now the tallest mountain range on Earth) emerges.
The Drakensberg area is "home to 299 recorded bird species"' making up "37% of all non-marine avian species in southern Africa.” There are 24 species of snakes in the Drakensberg, two of which are highly venomous. The mountains are rich in plant life, including a large number of species listed in the Red Data Book of threatened plants, with 119 species listed as globally endangered and "of the 2153 plant species in the park, a remarkable 98 are endemic or near-endemic”
You can visit and explore the Drakensberg as a day visitor but to fully appreciate all that the region has to offer, we recommend a stay of a few nights. The Drakensberg accommodation options include hotels, self-catering, Bed & Breakfast and fully catered, luxury lodges.