At The Safari Source we never have a problem with finding a good reason to go on safari! There is nothing more exciting than experiencing the vast and wild nature, observing the animals at the waterhole and finishing off the day with magnificent sunsets only Africa can offer (in our opinion…).

However, the fascinating variety of animals to see always stands in the center of an African safari. While some animals are large and famous, others are smaller and less known! Let us present you with a lineup of the well known “big five”, presenting the less known (but not less interesting) “little five” of Africa!

African Elephant African Elephant, one of the big 5.
Elephant Shrew Elephant shrew, one of the little 5.
Let me introduce you to my much smaller relative; the elephant shrew!

The elephant shrew is a small mammal, which is indeed related to elephants! The different species vary in size from 10 to 30 cm. It has long legs for its size – allowing it to move very fast. The elephant shrew is actually one of the fastest mammals! The long trunk-like nose is used to sniff for insects, spiders and earthworms, which is its favourite food.

The elephant shrew is common across the southern parts of Africa, but because it is so shy and so fast, it is not the easiest one to spot!

Black Rhinoceros Rhino, one of the big 5.
Rhinoceros Beetle Rhino beetle, one of the little 5.
We are busy with dinner and a photo shoot, but in the meantime please meet our horned friend; the rhinoceros beetle!

Rhinoceros beetles are among the largest of beetles with about 150 mm length, and some species have been claimed to be able to lift 850 times their own weight! However, it is the horns on their heads that have given them their name. Only the male beetle has these horns and they are used to fight other males during mating season.

The larva feeds on rotten wood, while the adult beetles feed on nectar and plant sap. If you want to spot one, you need to go out with your guide after dark, as the Rhinoceros beetle is nocturnal.

Cape Buffalo Water buffalo / Cape buffalo, one of the big 5.
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver Red-billed buffalo weaver, one of the little 5.
While I am at the spa, check out my flying friend, the red-billed buffalo weaver!

The buffalo weaver is a 24 cm long, mostly black bird with a red beak, and one of the largest weavers. It feeds on insects, seed and fruit. It can even eat a scorpion or two if it can get to it!

The Buffalo weavers live in colonies, creating large common nests of thorny twigs, grass and leaves, with several egg chambers. It lives mostly on dry savannahs and prefer areas with humans and livestock – which makes it rather an easy little 5 to spot!

African Lion Lion, one of the big 5.
Antlion Antlion larva, one of the little 5.
Let me introduce you to my strange little name brother, the antlion!

The antlions life cycle is an interesting one; it starts of as egg, then larva (as seen in the image), then goes into a cocoon before reaching adult stage. The adult is a type of lacewing – an insect with a long, thin body with two pairs of wings.

However, the antlion most likely got its name from its larva stage: the antlion then hides in cracks, sand pits or under leaves to ambush its prey – which are mostly ants. To see one you will need mostly patience; your best shot is to look for its sand pits and wait…

African Leopard Leopard, one of the big 5.
Leopard Tortoise Leopard tortoise, one of the little 5.
Check out our spots!

The leopard tortoise got its name from the beautiful patterned shell which resembles the colours and spots of the African leopard.

It is found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, and feeds on grass, succulents and thistles. When hot it likes to hide in abandoned fox or jackal holes. Otherwise it is rather slow, and easily spotted!

A young lion and a leopard tortoise.
Once in a while a big five and a little five cross paths. Here a young lion attempting to get to a leopard tortoise. Not such an easy task after all!

If you have been on safari, you know how the hours at the water hole or the viewing deck go by like minutes! Next time you go, make sure to enjoy and observe the smaller animals too!

Image credits: The Safari Source, J.E. Øvergård and H.P. Barlien. Buffalo Weaver (, Antlion ( and Rhino beetle (