The sup­port­ing cast

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

OU al­ready know about Africa’s big five – the lion, leop­ard, ele­phant, wa­ter buf­falo and rhino. They’re the he­roes of sa­fari, cel­e­brated for decades by gun-tot­ing game hun­ters look­ing for the wor­thi­est of foes.

I’ve been for­tu­nate to visit many game parks and have du­ti­fully done the five.

But there are five African an­i­mals that give me just as great a thrill on sa­fari. They’re the an­i­mals with bad man­ners and poor per­sonal hy­giene, the crit­ters that are less than lovely on the eye, dis­play un­palat­able be­hav­iour and are, in some cases, loathed.

Ladies and gen­tle­men, I give you my Bestial Five. Warthogs are rare in the an­i­mal world in that even their ba­bies are ugly. Sure, they’re funny, with their lit­tle sticky-up tails and com­i­cal trot. But pretty? No. The fa­cial end of the warthog looks like it’s made with a bunch of stuff that no other an­i­mal wanted: two sets of tusks, tiny eyes, stiff whiskers and “warts”, the fatty pro­tu­ber­ances that poke from ei­ther side of a ridicu­lously long face. But warthogs are good value pre­cisely be­cause they look so alien. They’re the gate­keep­ers of your African sa­fari, telling you that you’ve ar­rived in the Dark Con­ti­nent to en­counter an­i­mal species you’ve only ever dreamt about. Chances are you’ll see the “pig of the plains” early in your trip, since they’re wel­come guests in sa­fari lodges. Warthog groundskeep­ers can be seen on the job 24/7, shuf­fling around on their front wrists (their front feet are tucked away, a sight in it­self ) to keep the lawns look­ing lovely. De­spite those tusks and a quite evil-look­ing ra­zor­back mane, they mud­dle along OK with hu­man be­ings and will let you get close enough for truly bril­liant pho­tos. Don’t push your luck, though, in mat­ing sea­son, or when sows have piglets.

Last year, on a trip to Botswana, I dis­cov­ered an­other rea­son to re­vere warthogs: they are ab­so­lutely de­li­cious. Their meat is vel­vety smooth and baby-pink, a su­per-sweet pork that melts in your mouth.

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