Being outside in beautiful natural surroundings is a great privilege and it is no wonder that so many South Africans love it. But there are ways of getting an even richer and more meaningful experience out of it. In fact there are a handful of tips from seasoned travellers that can make a huge difference to the enjoyment.
When travelling in Africa, do some research to find out about climate, what clothes you are likely to need for the time of year and the best type of footwear. Will you need hiking boots or will a pair of sport shoes suffice? We went to Kenya and only checked an atlas (those were the days before the Internet!) where we saw we were close to the equator and so didn’t take anything warm. It was a shock to discover we were at high altitudes at the Mara and needed to sleep with blankets and hot water bottles!
When going into the bush, take binoculars, sun hats, sun screen and sun glasses, appropriate clothing and most importantly, the attitude that you will enjoy everything.
Take the time to look at the scenery, the hardy African trees and shrubs that survive drought, flood and fire, the magnificent trees that grow on the banks of the (very often) dry riverbeds and the vast vistas and sky-scapes. Drink it all in and especially enjoy having sundowners and relaxing at the end of a day as you watch the sun setting. There’s nothing quite like an African sunset.
Although it is always a thrill to see any of Africa’s Big 5 (Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Leopard and Buffalo), there are other “biggies” as well – Hippos (very dangerous and territorial), the tall and fascinating Giraffe, Kudu with their twisted horns, Nyala, Waterbuck, the rare and endangered Wild Dogs and the sleek and elegant Cheetah. Add a myriad of smaller buck, jackals, warthogs, hyena, baboons and monkeys, as well as hundreds of bird species and you can make a visit to any wilderness and game reserve area an enriching and interesting experience.
To really enjoy your entire African bush experience, watch for and enjoy the smaller creatures as well, from frogs and insects, butterflies and moths to the little mammals and the wonderful array of birds. Have you heard of the “Little Five”? The list of small mammals and birds, insects and frogs could be extended to 50,005 or more but here is the official list of the Little Five:-
Elephant shrews are small to medium sized insect eating mammals that are classified in a new group of mammals called Afrotheres and are actually considered to be not too distant relatives of their giant namesake, the Elephant! The Afrotheres consist of several groups of mammals that evolved in Africa and include elephants, hyraxes, elephant shrews, aardvark, pangolin and golden moles. Elephant shrews are broken into two groups, the smaller sengis that occur mostly in rocky savannahs and drier areas, and the rainforest dwelling giant elephant shrews.
There are two species of black Buffalo Weavers. They are large, noisy birds of drier areas of East and southern Africa. Red-billed is the most widespread, occurring in both regions, whereas White-billed are only found in East Africa. These two species are quite similar, with black bodies, pale wing panels, and vary only in their bill colour. These weavers build massive, shaggy communal nests as high as possible in savannah trees, and even in power pylons when available. (A third species of buffalo weaver exists, the White-headed, similar to the previous two in structure but rather unique in coloration.)
Rhinoceros Beetle males can grow up to 6 inches long and sport a massive horn similar to its namesake mammal. They are part of the scarab beetle complex and over 300 species have been described, occurring not only in Africa but also Europe, Asia and the Americas. They are harmless to humans and their horns are used for wrestling other males for mating rights. Rhinoceros Beetles are nocturnal and most often found at night when they are attracted to bright lights. In Asia they are even commonly kept as pets!
In no way physically resembling the mighty and handsome Lion, the Antlion is the larval form of a flying insect known as a lacewing. Over 2,000 species have been described worldwide. They are most easily noticed from their sandpit traps, conical excavations that the larvae construct in loose sand in order to trap ants and other insects that slide to the bottom of the pit, and are then grasped by the fearsome pincers of the antlion whilst their bodies are sucked dry. They are called Antlions due to ants being one of their main prey items and “lion” referring to hunter or destroyer.
The Leopard Tortoise, so named for its attractive yellow and black blotched shell that resembles the patterns of a Leopard’s pelt, is the 4th largest species of tortoise. It munches grass and other vegetation throughout the savannah and grassland zones of Southern and Eastern Africa, and can grow up to 45 inches in length and weigh over 120lbs, but 18 inches is a more typical size. The Leopard Tortoise is quite frequently spotted in the famous game reserves of Africa, especially Kruger, Etosha, Serengeti and Samburu reserves and is frequently seen at Royal Jozini Big 6. They live for up to 100 years.
Acknowledgements on the Little Five: Adam Riley and South African Tourism
If you are wondering what number 6 is in “Royal Jozini Big 6” – this is the mighty Tiger Fish that lives in Lake Jozini and sport fishermen and women crave the excitement of catching one of these fighting fish (Royal Jozini owners and guests practice catch and release).
Are you ready to take that trip into the bush to experience the wonder of the African wilderness? Then contact Lynda at Royal Jozini Big 6 Private Reserve in Swaziland to enjoy great accommodation (self catering, a bush camp or catered) the majestic Lebombo Mountains, pristine bushveld, the flora, fauna and fishing!