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#KrugerNationalPark Sightings: Big Five and Small Five

Updated on June 30, 2016
esja profile image

Esmé has visited the Kruger National Park many, many times. It is one of the loves of my life. On my way to go again!!

Lioness and tiny cub

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Out of Africa - the magic of the #KrugerNationalPark

Not often seen footage of a fight between a crocodile and lions

1. Why Kruger

  • The Kruger National Park in South Africa is an awesome place to be. This is nature at its very best; wide open spaces, sunshine, mosquitoes - what more can any traveler to Africa want.
  • I love nature and travelling and in particular visits to the game parks of South Africa. Every years sees me going to at least one if not two of the National Parks.
  • The winter months of June/July is the best time to visit the Park, mainly because vegetation is thinner and it is easier to spot the animals in the bush. The rainy season is during the summer months of December/January and it gets hot and humid; the bush is green and lush and the landscape pleasing to the eye. Regardless of the time of year or the season, Kruger remains popular and is often fully booked. Plan and book a trip in advance!
  • Mosquitoes are active during the summer months and it is wise to get a prescription for prophylaxis. Wear light colored clothing as they are attracted to darker colors. Also cover up with long sleeve shirts and pants at dusk and dawn when they are most active. In addition, repellent sprays and lotions can give you peace of mind. A local remedy is gin and tonic (in moderation, though) as the tonic contains quinine which is believed to give protection against malaria.

There is nothing a buffalo enjoys more than a mud bath on a hot day

2. Accommodation for couples

  • The Kruger Park has a number of camps stretching from the south of the Park to the far North. Skukuza is the main camp and has the best facilities - shops, restaurant, bird-hide and chalets and a caravan park. Choose between camp sites, safari tents or bungalows, family and guest cottages and guest houses
  • Many of the smaller camps offer tenting sites only whereas the bush camps do not even have a shop - you will have to bring all your food along. The Bateleur Bushveld Camp is such a camp.
  • On the outside of Kruger, there are 3, 4 and 5 star hotels and lodges for guests who want to live the good life. Daily games drives are undertaken into the park and so you will miss none of the action that the animal kingdom get up to.

Rhino sighting on the Biyamiti Loop

We had this incredible close-up sighting of a female rhino and her calf when our vehicle broke down in the Biyamiti loop last year.
We had this incredible close-up sighting of a female rhino and her calf when our vehicle broke down in the Biyamiti loop last year.

Endangered Rhino

The white rhino busy grazing. The white rhino has a square lip and the leaf eating black rhino a longer lip.
The white rhino busy grazing. The white rhino has a square lip and the leaf eating black rhino a longer lip.

Leopard

A leopard in his favourite place - on a branch high up in a tree
A leopard in his favourite place - on a branch high up in a tree

3. The Big 5: elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion.

The highlight of a trip to Kruger must be a daily sighting of The Big Five, if not, one should see each one at least once during the course of a tour. Experienced tour guides know where to look for the game; they have keen eyesight and will spot animals in the bush that visitors will not.

  • During September 2014, my most recent trip into the Park, many elephant herds were seen with barely born babies hugging their mother's hind legs. These really tiny calves were still trying to find their feet and a use for their trunks. Seeing a baby elephant continually tripping over its trunk is quite hilarious. Visit a waterhole in the morning or late afternoon when the herds of elephant come down to drink.
  • Buffalo herds can be seen at waterholes or rivers as they come down to quench their thirst, alternatively find them in a mud pool as they take turns to roll around in the dark sticky water. Herds can be quite large and if you happen to be on a road when a herd is crossing, then the best course of action is to switch off your vehicle and wait until they are done. And they are not always in a hurry either.
  • Rhinos were often seen in twos, threes and even a foursome; and that was a great sight given the fact that their numbers are diminishing because of poaching. The Kruger National Park is in the process to move the rhinos to other locations in an effort to protect the species. Already more than 400 have been killed this year.
  • Sightings of the various cat species, are always highlights. We saw leopard on two occasions during the week-long visit. Once a mother and her offspring could be seen as they walked along in a ditch not far from the road. We followed them for a while and then turned away.
  • The last of the big 5 is the lion, the mighty predator, an absolute must on a visit to Kruger. One of the most beautiful experiences during this visit, was the night we heard the lions roar - nothing spells bush as that deep throaty roar does.

Scenery in Kruger

Rare white lion cub sighting

Source

Leopard Tortoise

The leopard tortoise with his leopard spots.
The leopard tortoise with his leopard spots. | Source

Antlion

The antlion. This is the antlion in its weird-looking larva stage.
The antlion. This is the antlion in its weird-looking larva stage.

Elephant Shrew

The vivious and hyper active elephant shrew
The vivious and hyper active elephant shrew

4. The Small 5: The Elephant Shrew, The Ant Lion, The Red Billed Buffalo Weaver, The Leopard Tortoise and The Rhino Beetle

Kruger has the small and big 5 animals. The big 5 is well known but the small 5 not so much. Here they are:

  • Firstly there is the leopard tortoise, so called because its shell pattern resembles the skin of the leopard.
  • Then there is the ant lion or doodle bug, the insect in its predatory larval stage, a stage which can last up to three years. As the names suggests, its prey is predominantly ants although other insects are also eaten. As a true predator it is easy to see why it shares a name with the king of the jungle.
  • The rhino beetle has a rhino-like horn on its snout, hence the naming after the rhino. The males use the horn during mating battles.
  • The red billed buffalo weavers have black feathers and red bills and forage on the ground, this is often in the vicinity of buffalo herds.
  • The evil-tempered elephant shrew is the last of the small 5. They have long trunk-like noses like the big 5 animal where they get their name from. These ferocious animals will easily tackle bigger prey.

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Lone Hyena on the Road

Hyenas are known to patrol the fences of the various camps of Kruger. Unfortunately, visitors to the Park think that reason enough to feed them by throwing bits and pieces of food and meat over the fence. Please don't.
Hyenas are known to patrol the fences of the various camps of Kruger. Unfortunately, visitors to the Park think that reason enough to feed them by throwing bits and pieces of food and meat over the fence. Please don't.

Kruger National Park sighting

The Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, South Africa, home to the Small and Big 5

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Kruger National Park, Kruger National Park, South Africa
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Which one of the Big 5 is your favourite?

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    • The Old Guard profile image

      John Wilson 23 months ago from U.S.A.

      Good stuff.

      Seems like an amazing park.

      You're lucky to have visited.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Cheers

    • esja profile image
      Author

      Esmé 23 months ago from South Africa

      Hi there. It is great stuff, want to go again!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 22 months ago from Chicago

      I love animals and nature too. Wish the park wasn't so far away or I'd visit. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the piece.

    • esja profile image
      Author

      Esmé 22 months ago from South Africa

      Hi Chantelle,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes there are so many other parks in other countries that I would also like to visit. One day!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 22 months ago from Chicago

      Honestly, I will probably never get to Africa. Too expensive. (Sigh) But at least I can live vicariously through others!

    • esja profile image
      Author

      Esmé 22 months ago from South Africa

      I cannot agree more. The travels one can do from an armchair...

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