What snobs we have become, turning our sunburned noses away from the king of the jungle, head member of the big five. Only that we've seen "the big five" so many times already, they impress us less and less. The phrase "big five" is said to have been coined by hunters and then carried on by game drive guides to describe five of the most dangerous and difficult to kill animals of Africa: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. But anybody who has had a chance to step beyond the gates of their lodge knows that the phrase is entirely made up to hype up big and not-so-rare animals to uh and ah over them when you do see them. In truth, only leopard is a bit harder to spot in the African bush. The rest will be seen if you go to the right parks, and most of them will not eat you unless you try to eat them. Not to mention that the number one most dangerous animal, the hippo, which claims a few thousand lives per year in Africa, is not even included in "the big five".
The park is overflowing with amazing, interesting animals that, unlike the lion, actually walk around during the day and not just lay flat panting in the shade of trees and bushes. Them I photograph, enjoying the absence of a whole parking lot of cars to chase me away before I get my perfect shot.
Nevertheless, lions are to be respected and feared. Kruger is famous for idiot tourists who come out of their cars to get a better look at a pride and make the front page as very colorful photos, shot by traumatized-for-life onlookers. I thought stories about people being mauled by lions are mostly to scare visitors straight, but my next interview proved different. I met up with one of KNP's media coordinators to discuss our visit, but soon realized his mind was somewhere else. When I asked what was wrong, he replied that earlier that day a friend of his, a ranger, had been taking tourists out on a "walking safari" when they encountered a lioness with cubs. The ranger tried to walk around her, but the lioness charged anyway. He fired two warning shots, after which she attacked him before he had a chance to make another shot. As we spoke, the ranger was in surgery.
Kruger NP Gallery