04 March 2011

The Little Five

When talking about African safaris, you can't swing a cat without hitting a reference to The Big Five.  Lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and cape buffalo; they are the superstars of game driving.  Originally dubbed The Big Five by game hunters, these days they are the first boxes most safari viewers want to tic, the main photos they want to click.  We saw them all, several times, and they were glorious.  But I'd like to take a moment here to talk about what my fellow travelers and I dubbed The Little Five.

Mongooses (Mongeese?)

Somewhat more common, though no less exotic.


Perhaps not glorious, but certainly entertaining.


Seeing them more frequently gave us a chance to get bored with them, observe and learn more about their behaviors and then fall back in love with them all over again.  For instance did you know that warthogs are so silly and unfocused that when frightened and running for their lives, they'll tear ass for a minute or two, forget what they are running from, stop abruptly, not look back to see if the forgotten danger still exists, and just start eating.  What a collection of loveable galoots.  Plus they have awesome mullets (you should click on above photo to appreciate the full hair-band glory.)


We made some other Five lists.  The Sexy Five, The Tasty Five and The Deadly Five to name a few.  The dik-dik made an appearance on The Tasty Five as well as The Little Five.  They are so teeny tiny they must be tender and tasty too.

Guinea Fowl

But it was the guinea fowl that really captured my imagination. They are comical. Ridiculous even. Not particularly smart, nor very good looking, they are found in almost every country I visited, running around squawking. When you are driving through a game park and a flock of them are in your truck's way, they bellyache and jump and generally act like Chicken Little when the sky is falling.  Yet in all their panic they don't get very far. They are terrible at running away. In fact, they are even worse than the warthog.  The whole group will move on a few yards only to squawk and panic again when they, to their surprise, find the truck right behind them once more.

So their silliness is what first got me but it was the stylized versions of the guinea fowl that you see in every craft market in Africa that really gave them a special little corner of my heart.

Here's a metal sculpture found at one of my favorite campsites.

And a delightful little hen carved in wood that I brought home with me from Africa to remind me that it's not always the superstars that hold the most entertainment, sometimes it's The Little Things.



Alli Arnold said...

Did you bring Dad a Guinea Fowl? I think I spotted one on his TV! This was a most charming most, from a most charming Shirl.

-Hardened NYC Shirl

Anonymous said...


- not a shirl

Anonymous said...

The last guinea fowl had me thinkin' he was a whale for a sec! But I do love him! eileen