Safari & Wildlife

Safari Park Animals: Does Size Matter?

Safari Park Animals: Does Size Matter?

Thinking of booking your second safari but wondering how to ensure it's a different experience from the first?

Client and guest blogger Ian Scott-Gall has been on many safaris, and recently travelled with Original Travel to Botswana. He maintains that by being selective in what one looks out for, both experienced safari hands and first timers can enjoy the same safari, with different animal sightings every time...

Large is best - at first

When you go on your first safari, everything is exciting and new. There's a huge amount to look at - and that can be quite daunting. My advice is concentrate on the big stuff. Go for the easy to spot and recognisable animals such as lion, giraffe, and elephant.

However, don't expect to necessarily spot all big five on your first trip - most people only get to see leopard on their third trip. They are beautiful but very stealthy cats and don't want to be seen either by you or their prey. Try to learn to recognise the different antelopes and plains game that you will see in abundance. Keep a diary and, after your first day, try writing down a list of what you saw. As for the multitude of different birds? Again, go for the big ones such as eagles, storks, herons and vultures. Pick a couple out and look for those each time. One such bird is the batteleur eagle. It is named after a french high-wire walker, as they fly with a juggling or balancing movement. On our first trip, we had to ask our guide to stop trying to show us tiny birds on a branch inside a bush as we just couldn't see them. Just call them all LBJ's (little brown jobs) and everyone will think you are the expert. He then agreed to just show us the bigger birds.

Another tip: whilst you are being driven around in the vehicle, listen out for when your guide uses the radio, as he will be using the local names for lion, cheetah, leopard and so on, to see if anyone else has had a good sighting. When you hear a name you think you recognise and he starts to drive off in a confident manner, start to look out for the animal - you might even see it first.


Small is beautiful

For an experienced safari traveller, I advise aiming to spot the smaller creatures, such as the little five. They are the buffalo weaver, ant lion, rhino beetle, leopard tortoise and the elephant shrew. However, be careful what you wish for, as our guide once took us to tortoises in a swamp and we got stuck for three hours! We had to collect rocks and stones to build up the ground under the high lift jack, under each wheel in turn, to lift the vehicle up to the same height as the track from which the land rover had fallen off. Once you have mastered sighting the larger birds, focus on the smaller, more colourful birds. They are a constant challenge to remember, but are very rewarding to spot and hear calling.


First impressions

When you are met off the plane at the lodge's airstrip, the guides always ask what you want to see. Think of something challenging. My favourite is to ask to see an aardvark. They are rare nocturnal ant eaters, and your guide may not have seen one for several months. If he is not impressed by that, then go for the honey badger - another rare but fierce, small mammal.

My conclusion? Small is beautiful for the experienced traveller. The key thing is to have fun and enjoy your safari. It is meant to be a holiday, and a unique holiday at that - not a route march.

For more information on unique safari holidays, contact Original Travel.