The vegetation in African parks varies from acacias on the slopes of Ngorongoro highlands to thorny shrubs in the plains of Serengeti. See the flora map of Tanzania.
Credit for background information on each of the Big Five animals described below goes to Wikipedia.
We saw herds and herds of African elephants in every national park which we visited. Here are a few pictures clearly showing their fan shaped ears and their care for the babies.
A family of elephants grazing near our vehicle with open canopy. You get as close as this!
Another male elephant walking along with us!
This family decided to cross the track. Of course we gave way to the elephants. They have the right of way!
Even the baby elephant's ears have the fan shape!
We saw from close quarters many herds of Cape Buffaloes. They tended to size us up, our vehicle as well as our posture. Only when the lead male buffalo gave ‘all clear’ to fellow buffaloes, they shifted their ‘numbing stare’ elsewhere. You can get a feel through the pictures below.
Here is the first sighting on a tree some half a km away! Can you spot the leopard on the tree?
Here is an enlarged view. The leopard had carried its kill- Grant's Gazelle, an antelope-- up the tree. You can see both the leopard and the kill in the picture below.
Notice the different shade of its fur in the belly and rest of the body? That is the characteristic of African leopard.
It was a female leopard. How do we know? Because it had carried its cub and safely perched it atop another tree close by. See the hanging legs of the cub in the centre of the picture below.
It is a challenge taking pictures in such poor lighting. However, we got luckier with another sighting when the sun came out just in time. See the picture when the leopard-- once again on the tree beautifully camouflaged-- posed for us by turning its head!
Here are the pictures of our sighting almost a kilometer away!
An enlarged view showing the two horns-- unlike single horned rhinos of Kaziranga, India.
Even at that distance, it did not like to be disturbed. See the expression and the charge!
And don’t miss the number of safari vehicles which converged within 15 minutes from across the 400 square mile Ngorongoro crater. Rhino sighting is not easy.
Lions are easier to sight! Read on.
Lions live in the savanna where tall grasses, shrubs, and bushes obscure them and provide cover and camouflage. This thick undergrowth is commonly referred to as jess. As lions are ambush hunters, they use this natural cover when stalking to creep as close as possible before making a final charge to catch their prey. Lions do not generally avoid confrontation, but will usually face a challenger. Lions are unpredictable and may charge when sufficiently annoyed or confronted by danger.
Mothers will be mothers. A lioness licks her cub.
Before we end this story, the Big Five have company-- the "Little Five"-- Elephant Shrews, Ant Lions, Leopard Tortoises, Buffalo Weavers and Rhino Beetles. Credit for this revealing information goes to Lonely Planet and their excellent book on Tanzania. Though we sighted only the buffalo weaver, readers of this blog may share their sightings of the other Little Five!
Hope you enjoyed the “Big Five Live”. Every evening after the wildlife safari, when we returned to the safari camp/lodge, it was an additional treasure trove of memories.
The Sun never seemed to set in Africa.