Looking Beyond the Ordinary: The Little Five
From the moment you touch down on your African Safari the guides will be out to tick off those few animals that everyone has to see. The Big Five. So called because they’re the five most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa and typically the most spectacular creatures roaming the savanna.
The African Lion (Panthera leo), Leopard (Panthera pardus), African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) make up this exclusive list of animals everyone wants to see in the wild in order for the trip to truly be a success, but what happens in your downtime at camp when you have no list to complete?
Introducing “The Little Five”, Africa’s little creatures that you can spot on your walk to your tent or even as you sip your morning coffee without getting as much of a scare as encountering their bigger counterparts.
The Ant Lion
Many a time these little critters will be right under your nose, living in the shade and buried beneath the sand. The small larvae of Lacewings, a flying insect similar to the mayfly, they dig small pits in the sand and wait for an ant or crawling insect to fall into their pit before pulling them beneath the sand (sounds like something out of a horror movie, I know). If you’re traveling with kids you can entice them to strike with small sticks to see the little guys. A favorite pastime whenever I visited the bush as a child. Check out the video below to see them in action.
In Swahili they tell you to take things “Pole Pole” ,meaning slowly slowly, and this reptile sure abides by that saying. You might be lucky enough to spot one in the savanna, but unfortunately they’re usually found crossing roads and putting themselves in danger. So if you see one on the road do help it get across, just look out for any of the Big 5 whilst ticking this guy off your list.
The Rhino Beetle is one of those hardy creatures which looks like something out of a science fiction film. Find these little creatures all over Africa typically in the thicker bush.
“What are those?” Most people ask upon seeing the massive nests of a buffalo weaver for the first time. Hanging awkwardly off trees almost defying gravity, the buffalo weaver is a true architect of the animal kingdom. Holding dozens of birds, these nests are a sight to behold as they cover trees all across Africa. The small yellow birds are abundant across the Serengeti and you won’t have to look far to tick them off your list.
Definitely the rarest of the Little Five, the Elephant Shrew is a small, nocturnal rodent with an elongated nose (like a tiny trunk, hence its name). You may battle to see one of these but keep that torch on at night and look for eyes, or go on a Night Drive and you may just be able to complete your Little Five checklist.