What is the one thing most visitors to our country want to see in terms of their wildlife experience? You probably guessed it, the Big Five. But what are the Big Five? Is it really that important, and how did this all originate, you are probably asking yourself? Well, its origins stem way back to the days of hunting. They were seen to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot specifically due to the nature of the beast as opposed to the actual physical size of the animal. But in my opinion there is actually so much more to the bush and the safari experience and I often find the smaller creatures much more interesting and thus I wanted to introduce you to the Little Five. “What?”, you may be asking yourself. Yes, the Little Five are unofficially named as such and have no relevance to hunting or danger but rather just a play on words.
1. Red-billed buffalo weaver – A black bird with a red bill and white wing fleck who often builds its nest on the north western side of the tree to benefit from the late afternoon sun, keeping the nest warm.
2. Rhinoceros beetle - A remarkable beetle, similar to the famous dung beetle in basic appearance, however, it has a very distinctive horn on its head. I wonder if this horn is as sought after as a real rhinoceros horn?
3. Ant lion – Also part of the insect world and a far cry from the king of beasts, but this small creature constructs a “v-shaped” trap to catch its prey, probably with better success than its lazy feline counterpart.
4. Leopard tortoise – Nothing quite compares to the real thing in this department. Stealth is a word associated with the spotted cat and somehow doesn’t go for a tortoise. It does however have a blotchy carapace but that’s where the comparison ends.
5. Elephant shrew – This is the one of the Little Five which would probably scare most people more than the original pachyderm itself. It slightly resembles a mouse in appearance. There is nothing more delightful to see in the bush than shrews participating in what is termed “caravanning” where they link head to tail holding on with their long “trunk-like” snout in perfect single file, scurrying through the vegetation.
So next time you are on safari, try and see if you can spot the Little Five. Just keep an eye out to ensure you don’t stumble onto one of the Big Five in the process.
Article written by Mark Broodryk, Singita Guide, Sabi Sand Reserve.
In the June edition of the guides’ diary, we announced our exciting discovery of a wild dog den site on our property in the Sabi Sand. Since then, we have been following the progress of the pack very closely and during August we noticed that the various den sites have been abandoned and the pups are now running with the pack. Although this means that we may not have the regular sightings we had when they were at the den site, it is exciting news as it means that the pups are more able to defend themselves and are becoming less vulnerable to predators. In other words their chances of survival have increased greatly, which is fantastic news for the wild dog population.
There are four surviving pups, with three having fallen victim to lions, which increases the pack size to ten. The pups are providing fantastic sightings as they spend a great deal of time playing with one another, which is usual among the young of predators. Also this practice of play aids in their development of coordination and muscle mass, which becomes vital as they start to join in on the hunting activities of the pack. On the day we followed the pups with the pack, they were located close to the lodges on the Sand river. From there, they were followed as they ran all the way to the southern sections of the Singita property, a distance of about 10 kilometres. Although the pups were noticeably tired towards the end of this mission and spent the majority of their time trying to keep up with the pack, this is an important step in their development and it won’t be long before they cover even greater distances as part of their daily existence.
To read more, visit our August Guides’ Diary, Singita Sabi Sand
Article contribution by Singita Guide, James Crookes
Looking for a different safari experience? If the idea of cantering across the plains of the Serengeti alongside herds of game, appeals to you then a Singita Grumeti Reserves riding safari is definitely just right for you. Enjoy the thrill and adventure of a three day riding safari, led by experienced guides, operating between the grand Singita Sasakwa Lodge and breathtaking Singita Faru Faru Lodge.
Choose from an exceptional herd of 18 well-schooled horses – consisting of South African Boerperds, Thoroughbreds and a variety of cross- breeds – ranging from 15hh to 17hh.
Tack made from top quality leather is included and English, Western or South African trail saddles are available. Riding equipment including breeches, Jodhpur boots, gloves, full and half-length chaps, riding hats and back supports are available for use.
The Singita Equestrian Centre offers a bush adventure with a difference and we’ve even designed this experience to ensure that non-riding partners can join in the adventure. Your partner may not ride but they can still experience the magic of the Serengeti through game drives and exceptional lodge facilities while you’re out on horseback.
The Xirombe Pride males were in top form today. Glass and I tracked them down with guests this morning and when we spotted three males from a distance nothing could have prepared us for what we’d discover when we arrived in the Land Rover.
All five pride males, as well as two females and their two cubs, were present. One of the lionesses was on heat and it appeared to be driving the male lions crazy. The dominant male, who we recognised due to the scar on his left eye, had spent the last five days in the company of the two females and he had no intention of sharing his family with his brothers. He very clearly made his voice heard and the fight that ensued was a once in a lifetime experience.
Images and words courtesy of Singita Lebombo guide, Marlon du Toit.
A wonderful initiative was taken today when our kitchen discovered that we had a young food enthusiast at Singita Lebombo Lodge. Clara, an 11 year old from Texas, was invited into the kitchen to make pizzas and other pastries with Ishal our current pastry chef. From the moment we invited Clara to join the kitchen team she has not stopped smiling.
In the kitchen Ishal taught Clara how to use the various knives, how to make pizza base dough and she chose all of her favourite toppings. Clara also helped prepare lunch for the rest of her family and we hope they enjoyed her fantastic dishes!
Thanks to everyone in the kitchen for making Clara’s day.
At Singita we occasionally have a break between tracking predators, and other wildlife, and pampering our guests. During these pauses in the daily hustle and bustle, members of the Singita team like to do something that adds value to their surrounding communities.
Recently this took the form of a crèche painting initiative in the Welverdiend area.
Spearheaded by Verrity, including a selection of people from the Singita Kruger National Park Community Development team and residents of Welverdiend, this initiative was a huge success.
Through their team effort the crèche was completely transformed in just one day.
The last week at Singita Kruger National Park has been nothing short of sensational! Not only were we introduced to two leopard cubs – the first in the concession in over two years – but this Saturday we met the latest additions to the Singita family, two beautiful lion cubs.
These are the first of the new lion generation, in Singita Kruger National Park, and over the next few weeks and months we can look forward to being introduced to the remaining cubs.