The Big Five in Africa

If you travel to Tanzania and go on a safari in the Serengeti, you will likely hear a lot about the Big Five in Africa.  The Big Five originated from hunters, and it refers to the top five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. The Big Five include the African elephant, black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, lion and leopard.  Today, tourists from around the world travel to Africa for a chance to see the Big Five in thier natural habitat. The first leg of my trip to Tanzania was spent in the Serengeti, looking for the Big Five.

African Elephant

The African elephant was the first Big Five animal I spotted on my safari. Our tour group actually came across a huge herd of elephants (including a few newborn elephants) just a few minutes after we entered the Serengeti. Even though elephants are such large animals, they are still very graceful. Elephants were all over the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, so we ended up seeing them all over the place.

Cape Buffalo

The Cape buffalo was the next Big Five animal we saw. In fact, we saw hundreds of cape buffalo and they were all running! Our tour guide explained they were migrating. It was incredible to see these guys moving so fast. Later, we saw a group of Cape buffaloes grazing in the grass. We sat for quiet awhile just watching these animals. They reminded me of cows.

Leopard

Next, we spotted the leopard. Actually, our tour guide saw the leopard and pointed him out to us. There is no way I would have noticed the leopard if the tour guide wasn’t there. The leopard was sitting in a tree, more than a football stadium length away. You can barely see him in the picture above. He is sitting on a branch on the right side of the tree. If you look closely, you can see his tail hanging off the branch. Our tour guide said leopards are the hardest of the Big Five animals to find in Africa, and often people don’t end up seeing all five because of the leopard is so elusive.

Lion

Then we found the lions. The picture above is actually of a pregnant female lion. Our tour guide said she was probably only a few days away from giving birth. The day after I took this picture, we spotted a male lion lounging with a few female lions. We watched them for at least an hour or two. The male lion slept for most of the time, while the females were up and about, walking all over the place. Eventually, the male lion got up and had sex with one of the female lions (it lasted a total of 9 seconds) and then went back to sleep.  It was something I will never forget.

Black Rhinoceros

The final Big Five animal we came across in Africa was the black rhinoceros which we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater. The rhino is not as large as the elephant or hippo (which we also saw earlier that day), but our tour guide said they are just as dangerous. He told us if the rhino wanted to, he could easily tear our car in half. There were a few times I didn’t think we’d see all Big Five animals, especially on the morning before we spotted the rhinos. It was the final day of our safari and we were headed into the Ngorongoro Crater. Our tour guide said our chances of seeing the rhino was good, but nothing is for sure.

This picture was taken right after we saw the fifth and final Big Five animal with my friends (L to R), Joslin, Michelle, Me, Jenn and Tawny.

It is important to note that a safari through the Serengeti isn’t all about the Big Five in Africa. We saw loads of animals! Including giraffes, gazelle, zebra, monkeys, cheetahs, wildebeest, hyenas, ostriches and more. Though I had seen many of these animals at the zoo, seeing them in their natural environment was something else. When I mentioned this to my tour guide, and told him he is so lucky to live so close to these animals, he laugh and said, “Yes, but I have never seen a deer and I bet you have seen many coming from Seattle.” He was right. I should be thankful to live in a place surrounded by deer, whales, bald eagles and more. I guess it is all about perspective.

Have you ever seen the Big Five in Africa? What is your favorite animal? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below, or connect with us on TwitterFacebookGoogle+Pinterest, and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out http://catchthewinds.com for more travel adventures!


Kilimanjaro Porters Sing The Kilimanjaro Song

I spent seven days hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro when I traveled across Tanzania. I summited on the sixth day, and made it all the way to the bottom of the mountain on the seventh day. Getting to the end of the trail head was an adrenalin rush and there was so much to celebrate. Luckily, the group I climbed with had our porters to help us celebrate.

Mt.Kilimanjaro Porters

My tent-mate Michelle and I with our porters.

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of (about) 20 people, which means we had (about) 20 porters who carried our bags up the mountain (it is law to hire porters when you hike Mt. Kilimanjaro), plus a few other guides who led our daily hikes. There is no way I  would have made it made it to the top of the mountain without those porters or guides. For one, the porters carried my bag (which included all my clothes, a sleeping bag and pad, lots and lots of extra socks and whole bunch of other gear) so I all I had to worry about carrying was a small day pack that weighed less than 10 pounds. The porters also pitched our tents everyday, so all I had to worry about was resting for the next day’s hike by the time we made it to camp. Oh, and did I mention they also cooked all of our (delicious) meals the entire trip? These guys were incredible  The guides were also my biggest cheerleader. They paced me to ensure I would make it to the top. They helped me kick altitude sickness in the butt. They told me I could do it when I doubted myself, carried extra water to make sure I stayed hydrated, and kept me laughing the entire hike. They got me to the top of that mountain.

The Kilimanjaro Song | Signing Our NamesThe first thing we did when we arrived to the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro was sign our name in a book to “document” our summit hike. Who knows how official that really was? Then, we all bought Coca-Colas to cheers.  Then it was time to say our million thank yous to the porters and guides. We couldn’t say it enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As we exchanged hugs and our appreciation, the porters lined up and gave us their own thank you back by singing a song they called “The Kilimanjaro Song.” It was a really special moment for everyone involved. I am so thankful I had my video camera handy so I can still remember it clearly today.

Mt. Kilimanjaro Guide

My friends Tawny, Michelle, Jenn and I with our hiking guide Simba.

I felt so many things when they were singing “The Kilimanjaro Song”. For one, my knees were killing me. The hike down Mt. Kilimanjaro was definitely hard on them. I was so relieved to have the opportunity to rest. I was mentally and physically exhausted. As I’ve written before, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro was the toughest mental and physical thing I’ve ever accomplished.  I was also a little disappointed the experience had come to an end. I prepared for the trip for nearly a year. I counted down the days, planned and trained for months. But I was also so thankful for the experience. It exceeded every expectation I had, and much of that had to do with the kindness and thoughtful guidance from the men who showed us the way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am especially thankful for my hiking guide, Simba (that is not his real name but rather our nickname for him which means “lion” in Swahili). He told me at the beginning of the hike that there was no way I would make it to the top if I didn’t find something to laugh about every day while on the mountain. He said the happier and more positive you are, the more likely you will be to make it to the top. I’m sure there is no science behind this thought, but it definitely kept me putting one foot in front of the other and for that I will always be grateful. //TT