The past three days have been amazing. You have been pampered by the staff at Ngala, whose attention to detail is outstanding and the chef has been first-class. Thankfully the weather has been perfect so you have been able to have a swim every day and what a perfect place to relax and watch the various animals coming down to the camp waterhole.
On your game drives you have not only seen the Big Five but you have also had the privilege of seeing the Little Five as well. The term Big Five was used by the big game hunters a few centuries ago and refers to: elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard. These five animals were the hardest animals to hunt and kill, therefore became the most prized by the hunters. The lesser known but equally important is the Little Five: elephant shrew, antlion, buffalo weaver, rhino beetle and leopard tortoise.
While it is wonderful to see the Big Five it is often much harder to spot the smaller creatures of the bush, who are just as fascinating as the larger animals.
The Elephant Shrew is arguably the cutest of the Little Five and gets its name from its elongated nose, thought to resemble an elephant’s trunk. The shrew is a small, insect-eating mammal that can grow up to 30 centimetres and can be found throughout Southern Africa. They are shy creatures and exceptionally quick. Despite their abundance and rarely seen. In recent years it has been discovered that the elephant shrew is not a shrew but is in fact distantly related to its pachyderm namesake.
Antlion so named due to their famously savage temperament during the larvae stage which mirrors that of a lion. They are fearsome looking beasts with hairy obese bodies and sharp sickle shaped jaws. They are capable predators digging tiny crater shaped traps in the sand in which they lie in wait to ambush their prey, usually ants. The antlion is the smallest of the Little Five club and can be found all over the world. When fully grown, antlions are winged insects that resemble dragonflies.
Buffalo Weaver Bird is common throughout many parts of Africa but it is only the red-billed buffalo weaver that can be spotted in South Africa. The white-headed and white-billed buffalo weavers are found only in East Africa. The weaver is very easy to spot, very vocal and lives in noisy colonies, weaving intricate nests from small sticks and dry grass.
Rhino Beetle is a member of the scarab beetle family and these curious looking creatures are named for their body armour and for the hooked horn that graces the head of the male. The beetle grows to around five centimetres and in proportion to their body weight, they are amongst the strongest creatures in the world. They have wings but they are not efficient flyers due to their large size and spotting them is difficult as they are only active at night. The rhino beetle looks ferocious but are completely harmless to humans.
Leopard Tortoise are named for their unique gold and black markings, roughly resembling the rosette spots of a leopard. They are normally solitary and you will often see them on the roads around the game park. The tortoise is exceptionally resilient with an incredibly hard shell. The can climb, swim and often live as long as 100 years.
Ndlopfu – is Shangaan for Elephant