A Travellerspoint blog

The Big Ugly Five

Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa

View Around the World! - Part 3 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Today's drive was about another fascinating group of animals known as the "Big Ugly Five." We've been fortunate to have already seen the famous Big Five - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant. Well, the Big Ugly Five are sort of the opposite - they may not win any beauty contests, but they are equally intriguing creatures that play important roles in the African ecosystem.

First up, we have the Marabou Stork. The name Marabou Stork means ‘Ugly Old Man’. It’s a very common bird in the area, and is also one of the biggest flying birds. It weighs about 9,5 kg and its wingspan is about 2.9 metres. The Marabou Stork is a familiar scavenger at a kill. Their bills are not adapted to eat meat, so they shadow the vultures and steal pieces of meat that the vultures have torn off. They are known to wash off their meat before they swallow it. These birds are gregarious and commonly roost in trees at night. Marabou Storks will eat just about any kind of animal, dead or alive.


Next is the Warthog - you might recognize these fellas as Pumbaa from the Lion King! With their large, flat heads, protruding facial warts, and tusks jutting out from their snouts, warthogs have a face only a mother could love. But they are tough, resilient animals well adapted to the savanna.


Third, there's the Vulture. With their featherless heads and necks, vultures certainly look rather displeasing, especially when neck-deep scavenging a carcass as we saw today after the lions had taken their share of the fallen giraffe. But these magnificent birds are perfectly adapted to their role, with their bald heads helping keep them clean. It seemed as though every tree in the vacinity of the dead carcuss had a vulure on each branch. Truly ugly, yet vultures are essential for rapidly disposing of rotting remains and recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem.


Fourth, we have the Hyena. With their hunched posture, mangy fur and unsettling laughs, hyenas often get an ugly, sinister reputation. As a fellow safari goer mentioned, they look like they've been put together with spare parts! But these intelligent predators and scavengers play an important role in cleaning up carcasses and keeping populations in check. They patiently waited along the road while the vulture took what they could of the giraffe remains.


Finally, is the Wildebeest, also known as a Gnu. These antelope have long, skinny legs, straggly beards, and sloping backs that make them look rather silly and disproportionate. But don't let their comical appearance fool you - wildebeest migrate in massive herds and their numbers form a key part of the food chain. Unfortunately, it is one of the few critters we didn't see during the African Safari.

So there you have it - the Big Ugly Five! They may be funny looking, but these creatures are all integral, fascinating parts of the rich collection of African wildlife. Never judge an animal by its looks alone!

Before our morning Bush coffee break we did see a few "Repeat customers" - no matter how often we see these incredible animals out in the wild it never ceases to amaze!


These purple-crested Turaco birds were a common sight during our journey. Their feathers, primarily green, would shimmer with an iridescent blue or purple hue when the sunlight hit them at just the right angle, creating a mesmerizing color-changing effect. The bird's most remarkable feature was its piercing bright red eyes, which provided a stunning contrast against its vibrant plumage.


During our safari drive, we shared many moments of laughter and joy. Our knowledgeable guide had a fantastic sense of humor and regaled us with an amusing tale. He pointed out a hippo emerging from the water's surface, its mouth wide open as it let out a thunderous, resounding guffaw.


The guide joked, "You see, when a hippo comes up like that and lets out such a hearty laugh, it's because a clever cod fish just shared a hilarious joke with it while they were both submerged beneath the water's surface. The hippo simply had to come up for air to express its amusement properly!"
Our guide's jokes and stories kept us entertained, but the hippo didn't have the last laugh. The guide introduced us to a game reminiscent of watermelon seed spitting, but with a twist – instead of seeds, they used antelope droppings! Apparently, these droppings are safe to put into your mouth, as they are simply "processed grasses." A few courageous individuals participated in the contest, perhaps emboldened by the Amarula liqueur in their morning coffee. We, however, opted to sit this one out!



Posted by Where2FromHere 11:35 Archived in South Africa

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