Author: Katie Adams

Nothing lures in animal lovers, tourists, travelers and adventurers to South Africa quite like the "Big 5". The desire to see them can be overwhelming sometimes, especially if you have limited time, with many people feeling as if they haven't seen everything unless they can check off these animals. Yet the bush has so much more to offer, so why not create a new checklist? Have you ever heard of the 'little five', the 'botany five', the 'ugly five' and the 'secretive seven' or the 'big 6 birds'?

The Ugly Five

The Spotted Hyena, Blue Wildebeest, Lappet Faced Vulture, Warthog and Marabou Stork, are otherwise known as the “ugly five”. This title can often demonstrate a misrepresentation of these remarkable animals. There is a majestic beauty to be found in the stance of the territorial male Blue Wildebeest, and observing the saturnine nature of the Marabou Stork appearing to stand vigil at a wake can be mesmerizing. Remember the term ‘ugly’ is subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.

The Little Five

Sometimes small can be mighty! The “little five” share the names of their “big 5” counterparts. The elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, antilion, buffalo weaver bird and the rhino beetle. These creatures may require inquisitive states of mind to see. Yet they are no less fierce or interesting than their bigger equivalents.

Embrace the variety, the ugly five
Embrace the variety, the little five
The Secretive Seven

The “secretive seven” represent what many may consider as the unobtainable or the ‘holy grail’. Yet sometimes patience and a little luck on your side can let you into the worlds of the mostly nocturnal Serval, African Wild Cat, Aardvark, Pangolin, Civet, Porcupine and Large Spotted Genet. Keeping your eyes open for that reflective glare of their eyes in the spotlight at night can show you that secretive is just another word for mysterious; not impossible.

The Botany Five

Whoever said “stop and smell the roses” might have had a point. The “botany five” can sometimes seem like a specialized interest, and just because it’s  not furry doesn’t mean it isn’t important or beautiful. Lion’s eye, leopard orchid, rhino bean, elephant’s ear and buffalo thorn all have one thing in common they are not just plants; they all have fascinating cultural and medicinal value too.

The Big 6 Birds

The Pels Fishing Owl, Kori Bustard, Saddle-Billed Stork, Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture and Ground Hornbill were selected by conservationists for their uniqueness. Each of these birds are large, easy to identify and instantly recognizable. Never considered yourself a twitcher? These six birds may change your mind


Embrace the variety, secretive five
Embrace the change, the bird 6
Embrace the variety, botany five

So are you ready to make that new checklist yet?

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