In South Africa, we have so much to offer. With ample wildlife, exquisite birds and natural endowments by the hundreds, it’s no wonder why we’re considered one of the best countries to visit.

While on safari, many tourists pursue what is known as the Big Five, which is a collection of large animals. They include the elephant, rhinoceros, lion, Cape buffalo, and leopard. Have a look at our Youtube video below as our Head Ranger tracks a pride of lions:

But, at Shamwari Game Reserve, we like to make a big fuss about all of our animals, which is why we ensure to tell each of our guests to be on the lookout for the Smaller Five. This group of fauna includes the elephant shrew, ant lion, buffalo weaver, rhinoceros beetle, and leopard tortoise.

The perfect experience that will assist you in spotting these special animals up close, is the Shamwari Bush Walk. Our experienced guides are well equipped to point out various animals, and could well assist you in finding the minute five.

The Elephant Shrew

Also referred to as Elephantulus myurus. This tiny and adorable mammal gets its name from its extended snout. They live in dry plains, rocky ridges and savannah grasslands and only grow to a length of 25cm, with an average weight of 60g. They feed on insects, fruit, seeds and nuts, and are, in turn, food for snakes and raptors, making them tremendously timid and wary.

View of the elephant shrew

Wonderful Shot Of The Timid Elephant Shrew

They live in monogamous pairs for life but are not at all sociable. This means, the chances of spotting them are slim, so if you manage to see an elephant shrew before you catch a glimpse of an actual elephant, you can consider your safari a real success.

The Ant Lion

View of the Ant Lion

Close-up view of the Ant Lion

This insect is scientifically known as Myrmeleontidae or doodlebug, which is the larval form of the lacewing fly and is an odd creature of the bush. When hunting, it burrows in dry, soft sand with which to trap its prey and as ants and other insects scurry by the pit, they tumble in, sliding down the steep walls, making it difficult for them to get out. The waiting ant lion sometimes speeds up the prey’s demise by tossing sand at it, causing a little landslide.

When this species becomes an adult Their bodies are bulbous and hairy, and their flat heads sit on elongated necks and feature a pair of sickle-shaped mandibles. Some of them eat pollen and nectar, while others are predators of small arthropods such as ants. This interesting insect resembles a dragonfly, although it’s not well-adapted for flight.

The Buffalo Weaver

Buffalo weavers are also known as Bubarlornis niger and are noisy, social birds that build their nests in open colonies in the split branches of tall trees. These weavers’ nests can be recognised by their rather bedraggled state, made from coarse grasses with untidy twig structures. This member of the Little Five has a height of 23cm and weighs around 80g.

The buffalo weaver is black with either a red or white bill (the white-headed variety is found in other parts of Africa). This bird forages for food on the ground and eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts, and ants.

The Rhinoceros Beetle

View of The Rhinoceros Beetle

The Rhinoceros Beetle captured on a branch

Also known as the Scarabaeidae dynastinae, the Rhinoceros Beetle is one of the largest beetles in South Africa and is identified by the impressive horn on its head. Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known for antagonistic behaviour and are much more aggressive than mammal rhinos as they use their horns to fight opponents but also to dig, climb and mate. All rhinoceros beetles are herbivorous as the adults feed on fruit, nectar, and sap, while the larvae eat decaying plant matter.

Prone to weight lifting to 850 times their body weight, they are harmless to humans as they can neither sting nor bite. They’re also nocturnal, avoiding their predators during the day, hiding under logs or in amongst vegetation; when confronted they hiss and squeak by rubbing their abdomens against their wing covers.

The Leopard Tortoise

This creature’s scientific name is Geochelone pardalis, but the leopard tortoise gets its name from its black and yellow spotted shell and has a life expectancy of 80 to 100 years. This animal is one of the largest breeds of tortoise in this part of the world as a mature leopard tortoise can weigh over 23kg, with a shell circumference of up to 1m.

The males are larger than the females and when fighting for supremacy, the males turn one another over.

View of the Leopard Tortoise

A close-up view of the Leopard Tortoise in motion

Younger tortoises have dark brown patterns, while adult shells take on shades of yellow with slightly smaller spots. Despite having shells on their backs, when it rains they’ll stay in abandoned fox, jackal or anteater burrows, otherwise they can be found in the savannah grasslands.

Have a look here if you would like to obtain additional information on South Africa’s Smaller Five!

Make sure to look out for these fascinating creatures while on your next safari at Shamwari Game Reserve!