Revising Africa's Big Five

Here's a post that badly needs a bunch of images, but our limited bandwidth is prohibitive.  Maybe I'll add some later, when I'm somewhere else.

We are looking at traveling to Kenya in a few months, and planning on taking the kids on a safari, which should be great, especially as they will be quite a bit older than last time, and more able to enjoy it.

If you have ever looked into safaris, then you are probably familiar with "The Big Five".  Everyone wants to see "The Big Five".  Tourist trinkets are often emblazoned with "The Big Five".  Different parks are valued on whether or not they can boast all of "The Big Five".

What is the Big Five?  It is lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and cape buffalo.  Why those?  As we understand it, it is a historical list from the days of big game hunters, because these five were the hardest to bring down on a hunt.

And we have adopted this list for game viewing.  The problem is that we are not trying to kill these animals.  We are instead deriving pleasure from watching them, which everyone should agree is quite another thing.  Therefore, we would like to propose a new list.

Elephants, lions, and rhinos are cool.  No doubt.  Even when not killing them.  The leopard however is elusive.  So elusive that we have decided that it is imaginary.  Even if it is not, so much disappointment is born by not seeing a leopard that it seems a bad fit for this list.

So the leopard is out.

Cape buffalos are ugly.  And mean.  And travel in herds.  So you can't get close enough to enjoy their ugliness, but they are easy to find.

So the cape buffalo is out.

Replacements?  We would like to submit the hippo and the giraffe.  Both are incredibly iconic.  Both are items of the earliest childhood imaginations, and seeing them in person does not disappoint.  And they are big.  So our revised list goes like this:

  1. Lion
  2. Elephant
  3. Rhino
  4. Hippo 
  5. Giraffe
You will not be disappointed.  At the same time, we would like to submit a couple other lists, because completing lists adds a certain satisfaction to almost any activity.

The Big Five Birds:  Africa's birds are truly awesome, and though you might not ponder it ahead of time, you should anticipate a good time seeing them.  The list:
  1. Ostrich
  2. Secretary Bird (huge 4 feet tall cockatoo-looking white bird)
  3. Grey-Crowned Crane (stately and 5 feet tall)
  4. Flamingo
  5. Stork (you can choose which one.  The Marabou stork is very iconic and stately, but kind of in an ugly way.  The Yellow-Billed Stork is a favorite of ours.)
And last, The Cute Five:
  1. Dik-Dik: these tiny antelope are about knee-high and always found in pairs
  2. Rock Hyrax: this little gopher-looking guy is the closest relative of the elephant
  3. Bushbaby: nocturnal tiny primate with giant eyes
  4. Meerkat: because of the Lion King, which really is an inescapable allusion for all safaris
  5. Warthog: it's cuteness is controversial (as in, Rachel disagrees), but when you see a little line of them running with their tales straight up, I think you'll agree.  And again, the Lion King.
So, forget the anxiety of leopard hunting and the disappointment of the Cape Buffalo and settle in for a safari list that truly satisfies.