For many people, the idea of taking an “African Safari” is an (African) elephant sized bucket-list item. Often, it’s one so big it might seem out of reach for many folks.
Having been on several guided safaris myself, I can attest that it’s absolutely not. In fact, while travelling South Africa, Namibia and Botswana during 2017 & 2019, in total I went on seven safaris, and saw more awe-inspiring sights that I ever imagined possible.
Of all my experiences and adventures, none has been more life-changing as being on the safaris which allowed me to capture up close and personal photos of Africa’s wildlife, including the famed “Big Five”. The big five are the five species that Africa’s colonial era’s big game hunters considered the most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot. More on them in a minute.
Besides the big five, I’ve been able to see and photograph giraffes, zebras, monkeys, vultures, alligators, wildebeests, oryxes, warthogs, oxen, and even the elusive cheetah, all relatively up close and in their natural habitats. Speaking of that cheetah, here he (she?) is. Either way, can you imagine being this close to her? It was breathtaking!
While all the animals we saw weren’t this close, most were close enough to get a great shot without a telephoto lens. For example, while sitting in our vehicle we gazed upon these giraffes standing just twenty metres away. Like most animals encountered on safaris, they briefly acknowledged us with a lazy look, then went about their business.
For me, the key to a successful safari is to have a professional driver/guide to ensure your safety at all times. Even when the massive rhino below (one of the big five) followed slowly our Jeep by a few feet, I felt safe.
Good guides also possess the very important time-to-get-the-hell-outta-here radar. If things ever get a bit dodgy, they’ll move you out of danger quickly and safely. I know this from the time a guide helped us avoid colliding with a very pissed off elephant who was heading directly towards us with a quickening pace.
The big five collectively contains the African Elephant, the Cape Buffalo, the Leopard, the Lion and the Rhinoceros. And while there are many other species of animals, birds and reptiles to observe in Africa as well, seeing each the big five is a sought out badge of honour every safari-goer wants to have to pin to their pith helmet. It’s also one that may take several days/safaris to complete.
The following photos are of the rest of the big five, taken on different safaris in three countries.
JAGUAR: (Namibia) The Jaguar was the holdout for me, the last one for me to capture. I finally saw one on my fourth safari, and he was absolutely beautiful.
ELEPHANTS: (Okavango Delta, Botswana) This is a remarkable spot where many species wander through grassy waters. We saw them whilst hiking through the Delta on foot.
CAPE BUFFALO: (Kruger National Park, South Africa) In Africa, the circle of life is not just a Disney song; it’s a real thing. When we found this old guy sitting by the side of the road, our guide explained he’d likely be killed for food and by days end, and that is how Africa works. Having been there, it makes sense to me.
LION: (Kruger National Park, South Africa) Like the water buffalo, we found this lion just sitting at the side of the road next to our vehicle. He didn’t seem very interested as he lay about the same way most domestic cats do. While he relaxed, we took his photo from just a few feet away. It was a remarkable moment.
LIONESS: (Namibia) We saw several lionesses in Namibia, and this shot was one taken in “rapid-fire” succession capturing her jaw fully open. She’s actually yawning, not snarling; but regardless, her razor sharp teeth are on display for all to see.
For my final photograph, here are elephants at a watering hole in Kruger National Park, in South Africa. Watching (safely from our vehicle) this scene unfold over an hour is one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had… Why not make it one of yours as well?
If you are interested in learning more about African safaris, you’ll find links below for three companies that organize and host them. I’ve travelled with all three and reviewed each one for you. All have Covid protocols, travel dates, prices etc. listed on their websites.
Either way, I truly hope you’ve enjoyed our mini safari together; I know that I’ve truly enjoyed reliving each of these experiences all over again myself, and I can’t wait to return.
THE EXPEDITION PROJECT: A small company that offers guided and self-guided tours. Every stop has an ethical, educational and philanthropic bend to it. The owner, Roger, is a top notch guide and human being who loves his country (South Africa) very much. Highly recommend.
INTREPID TRAVEL: I’ve travelled several time with Intrepid, and find them very good value. Their itineraries are terrific. have many options, and their guides are friendly and helpful.
G-ADVENTURES: I’ve not travelled to Africa with G, but have been to many other destinations with them. While they are very similar to Intrepid, their trips often cost less, however I’ve found some guides to be less than professional, and not very attentive at times. A good company, but from my experience, can be a crapshoot at times.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 100,000 times, and his first book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. where he spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia, or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.
*all photos taken by David Knapp-Fisher