More to Africa than the ‘Big 5’

Travel Bulletin - - ISUES & TRENDS -

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”.

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