The Big Five
Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard and Cape Buffalo
These are the largest and most distinctive African animals and are the ones that most Savannah Safari guests want to see first and foremost. The good news is that you stand the very best chance of experiencing all five – Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard and Cape Buffalo. Not forgetting Hippo, Crocodile, Giraffe, Zebra and Antelope.
Savannah Lodge stands within the private Black Rhino private reserve, separate from more public, busier areas. More importantly the reserve is composed of mixed scrub, sweet veld and tamboti tree woodland that is a perfect habitat for Black and White Rhino, Elephant, Lion and Buffalo.
Of course Savannah Lodge also has complete access to the whole of Pilanesberg; there is no boundary so far as animals are concerned. Pilanesberg, as a wider area, is relatively small (compared to Kruger for example) and animal numbers, of all species including the Big 5 are extremely healthy. This significantly increases one’s chances of some great sightings. The park also actively protects against poaching, of both Elephant and Rhino. Hunting (other than with a telephoto lens) is not permitted.
We also believe that Savannah’s ranger-guides are the best; the most skilled, knowledgeable, professional – and friendly.
Black and White Rhinoceros
Pilanesberg has established itself as a stronghold for both types of rhino. At first sight the appearance of the two species is similar, but they are quite easily distinguished. The white rhinoceros is the larger species and is a grazer. The flat lip and a mostly low-hanging head aid this feeding habit. The black rhino is a browser, which means that it feeds on shrubs and fruit above the ground. The pointed lip helps the animal grab food with its mouth.
The shape of the white rhinoceros’ lips was describes as “wijd” by the first Dutch settlers, meaning wide but a mistranslation into English gave the name “white rhinoceros” to the square-lipped rhino and consequently and also incorrectly, the hook-lipped rhino was named “black rhinoceros”. So white rhinos are not white and black rhinos are not black.
Leopards are the most reclusive of the big cats. They are opportunistic hunters and will prey upon smaller mammals and rodents when other food sources are unavailable. The diet of leopards consists primarily of smaller antelope. Leopards have a relatively small physical build in comparison to lions, and tend to favour more closed habitats such as forests and mountains, both habitats that lions rarely inhabit.
Lions are the tallest (in shoulder height) of all felines. They rest for 20 hours of the day, and hunting usually occurs at dawn. 2 hours of the day are spent walking, while 50 minutes are spent eating. Lionesses do most of the hunting, but if a male is nearby he will dominate the kill. Prey consists of wildebeest, zebras, impalas, buffalo and warthogs.
A pride consist of five or six related females, their cubs and one male. Male cubs leave the pride at 2-3 years of age and ‘nomad’ males range widely and sporadically, either alone or in pairs.
African Bush Elephant
The largest land mammal is also one of the most intelligent. Their size and grace never fail to impress and watching the social interaction of a herd at a waterhole is fascinating. Once endangered by ivory poaching elephant numbers in Africa have recovered and they are a common sight in Pilanesberg.
Groups are organized around the matriarch, an old female in the group. The matriarch leads a group of females and juveniles, which are all closely related to her. Male elephants leave the group after puberty and live alone or form smaller groups with other males.
The Cape buffalo, also known as the African buffalo, is a powerful animal and one of Africa’s most successful grazers, eating tall and coarse grasses thereby preparing the plains for more selective grazers. Buffalo have few natural enemies; their power and size means that they are very much able to defend themselves. They have been known to kill lions, hyena, humans, and other wild predators. The herds vary in size but are found close to permanent water sources and they like to drink in the early morning and late afternoon.