Top 5 Big Five

Nearly two years ago we were introduced to the “Big Five.”  We knew Africa was the continent of big animals, and we were naively confident that we’d simply see it all.  My first game drive – as they’re called here – was behind the wheel of my own car.  I was certain I’d see everything I needed, so that I could hang up this nonsense of the “Big Five” and move along tasting pinotage and finding interesting coastal landscapes.

Instead I saw ostrich.  Like two of them.  Total.

I was confused and honestly a little bored.  Then Marie came to visit.  In one poorly planned afternoon we saw a baby rhino running in front of her mother, we saw springbok, kudu, and wildebeest grazing.  We were intrigued, but still daunted by the idea, because now it seemed like a challenge instead of a postcard.

Then came Chobe.

You’ve imagined open-top Land Rovers and khaki-clad guides, but you’re not prepared.  Accompanying my parents on their 50th anniversary world tour, the four of us set off to see the elephants graze the riverbeds.  We were hooked.  Our guide spent years preparing to help guests encounter the bosveld, the national park was among the best conservation areas in the world, and our hosts – families of elephants, cape buffalo, and antelope – were beyond words.  I mean that.  How do you describe watching the sun set behind a family of elephants grazing lush river grass as a pair of male giraffes lope by in the background.  We were so close.  We were among them.

We were setting off on a much longer expedition than we’d planned.  And it’s not as easy as one might imagine.

Pilanesburg, Rietvlei, Chobe, Kruger.  We hit them all, cameras in-hand and expectant.  We got to three: elephants, rhino, and cape buffalo, and we left Kruger a little disappointed and unsure we would ever see Africa’s iconic cats.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to travel to a conservation area with some close friends.  We were ready, with rented lenses and hopeful, but skeptical eyes.  We’d been on this ride so many times before.  But our guide was resolute.  He wanted to hit the trails before anyone else and wasn’t satisfied until we saw cats.  Up close.  Close enough to make you a little nervous.  Soon enough we were spitting distance from a pair of lions and then screaming down a bumpy road to find leopard cubs before they vanished into the night.  All the while snapping pictures and whispering to each other incredulously that this was really happening.

Below is the best of what we captured.  A year and a half of effort.  Drives, cameras, cold, and sun.  We’re grateful for the opportunities, and thankful for the many hands that helped us to capture these moments.  -B (& m)


White Rhino | Bill | Madikwe Game Reserve
Black Rhino | Marie | Madikwe Game Reserve
Cape Buffalo | Marie | Kruger National Park
Cape Buffalo | Bill | Kruger National Park
Elephant | Marie | Chobe National Park, Botswana
Elephant | Bill | Chobe National Park, Botswana
Leopard | Marie | Madikwe Game Reserve
Leopard | Bill | Madikwe Game Reserve
Lion | Marie | Madikwe Game Reserve
Lion | Bill | Madikwe Game Reserve

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so.  Genesis 1:30


  1. What a pleasure meeting you guys, and sharing this experience with you! You capture the “struggle” so well…”because now it seemed like a challenge instead of a postcard”…after 34 years of living in this beautiful country, we still embrace the challenge, and savor that sweet moment when God allows us a sneak peak into these magnificent animals’ lives.


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