More to Africa than the ‘Big 5’
Africa. The word alone immediately conjures up in the mind a dynamic variety of wildlife roaming the plains and bush of Southern and East Africa. The ‘Big 5’ – elephants, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros – often crop up first. But the ‘Big 5’ is a phrase exhaustively used, says the marketing manager of South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Jacques Smit. Initially coined by big-game hunters as the five most difficult beasts to track down on foot, the ‘Big 5’ moniker has “nothing to do with how rare they are in sighting. It’s an overly marketed phrase”, Smit said. “There’s so much more to Africa than just five animals”. Speaking with travelbulletin in Sydney recently, Smit said he wasn’t “anti” the term, but was keen to shift perception that the Big 5 was the be-all-and-end-all for tourists. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve (which borders on the world famous Kruger National Park) is part of a boundary-less 5.5 million hectare conservation area encompassing Kruger, Limpopo National Park, Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. The wide open spaces means wildlife can come and go from one park to another, unrestricted. “Our focus is to offer a complete holistic safari experience. Touch on the Big 5, see to that need people want, but expose endangered species such as wild dog and cheetah, stop in the middle of a herd of 500 wildebeest, explain to guests what they are doing. “In Sabi Sabi, we’ll often spot hippo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, water buck, kudo, impala. If you are lucky, pangolin, aardvark, honey badgers and more. “And the big thing, that is very underestimated, is birding. There’s birds everywhere and they change throughout the season. On the first day of a guest’s visit, I ask what they want to see and it’s always the big stuff. Never birds. By day two, it’s birds that are of interest,” Smit quipped. “Even right down to the small detail, a good guide can bring the bush to life. That is what we want. People to leave Sabi Sabi having learnt a bit about the bush but also having understood what they’ve just witnessed and been part of”. Smit said advantages of being a private reserve is Sabi Sabi can take guests out at night, “opening up a whole nocturnal safari”, whereas public parks are required to have guests back in camp by sunset. On safari, Sabi Sabi also ensures guests never see another vehicle in a wildlife sighting by controlling traffic. “Part of our vehicle etiquette when it comes to conservation is how we treat animals and wildlife, and how they react to our presence. “The moment they start associating our presence with stress, we’ve crossed the line and we’ve done something very, very wrong. Keeping their behaviour is our priority and making sure we are operating a pristine wilderness environment for them to thrive in”.