Playing the Big Five Game in Zambia

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If you’ve ever been on an African safari, you’ve probably heard of the “Big Five” game animals. Although I had heard of the term, I didn’t know that it was originally coined to refer to the most dangerous African game animals to hunt on foot. During my safari in Zambia I was happy to shoot these animals, but only with my 300mm lens!

I was able to check off Cape Buffalo (above), lion, leopard, and elephant within 24 hours of arriving in South Luangwa National Park. And by the time I visited Lower Zambezi National Park, I had multiple sitings of those animals, including my close encounter with two lazy male lions.  At Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park near Victoria Falls I checked off the last animal from my Big Five list, the rhinoceros.  So thank you, Zambia, for spoiling me rotten and making me think that seeing the Big Five is a piece of cake!

This elephant was heading straight for our safari truck in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.  He came so close to us that a moment after I took this image my telephoto lens would no longer focus. I put down the camera, let my adrenaline rush, and enjoyed the thrill of a gigantic creature walking within about ten feet of me!

See the rest of the Big Five photos after the jump.

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During an evening game drive in South Luangwa National Park, we were lucky enough to find this leopard, who put up with a spotlight in its face for a few minutes before slinking away into the night.

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On the drive from the landing strip in Jeti to our camp in Lower Zambezi National Park, our guide Elijah mentioned he might be able to find some lion that he had seen earlier. Elijah zigged and zagged through a forest of winter thorn trees, a type of acacia, towards a watering hole covered in water lilies. We were about to turn around when he spotted what I would have mistaken for a pile of dirt from that distance. We drove closer to see two male lions panting in the shade of a tree on that hot October day. After that, we joked with Elijah that he must have had the lion’s cell phone number!

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These white rhinoceros, found in or near the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, are the only rhinos in Zambia. They are protected 24 hours a day by armed guards (you can see part of the structure of a look-out tower in the background). The rhino in the foreground has a stubby horn, which the armed guard told me would re-grown like a fingernail, but was done to deter poachers from killing these endangered creatures for their horns.

Photos by Krista Rossow.