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The Jackson’s 5

Posted on 2 Feb 2016 | 8 comments

Have you heard of an aardvark? No? An aardwolf then?

Also not? How about a zorilla?

We’re not making shit up, they exist!! And there are many other animals we certainly had never heard off before moving to Kenya!

How about a pangolin, an elephant shrew or gerbils? Have you heard of them? Or maybe you have heard of African kangaroos, bush babies or the ever-elusive bongos?

If all these animals don’t mean anything to you, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. Even lots of Kenyans have never heard of them and you’d be surprised how easy it is to win bets with these names! Especially the zorilla has great potential!

Of course when we went on our first safari we had no idea about all these animals with exotic names. We were excited about our first giraffe and zebras, we were still trying to work out the difference between a Thompson gazelle and a Grant’s gazelle, and we had to get the book out to find names of lots of animals like the waterbuck, the hartebeest or even the dikdiks.

On our first safari we had no idea there are 2 types of zebras (who would have thought?!) or that Kenya is home to 3 different types of giraffes…

the 2 types of zebra - we love the Grévy's zebra

the 2 types of zebra – we love the Grévy’s zebra

A giraffe is a giraffe right? Wrong! There are a whopping 9 different subspecies of giraffes in Africa…

the 3 subspecies of giraffe found in Kenya - masai, rothschild's and reticulated. Which one do you think is the prettiest?

the 3 subspecies of giraffe found in Kenya – masai, rothschild’s and reticulated. Which one do you think is the prettiest?

Everybody wants to see the Big 5 in Africa, and sure, the Big 5 consist of some pretty impressive and amazing animals, but Africa has so much more to offer. There are so many more animals that deserve our attention!

the majestic elephant - one of the big 5

the majestic elephant – one of the big 5

leopard and one of her 2 cubs (approximately 2 months old) - one of the big 5

leopard and one of her 2 cubs (approximately 2 months old) – one of the big 5

buffalo - one of the big 5

buffalo – one of the big 5

lions - one of the big 5

lions – one of the big 5

black rhino and calf - one of the big 5

black rhino and calf – one of the big 5

So, after many times seeing the Big 5 (yes, we are extremely lucky that Jude is an excellent leopard spotter), we have shifted our focus slightly and are very keen to see the more exotic animals, often the nocturnal animals, so now we are not only getting up early to go out animal spotting, we also stay out later for some different animal spotting.

Night game drives are very interesting and very different to daytime game drives. They are definitely more hard work, but can be very rewarding at times (just like a daytime game drive really, but slightly more intense).

We have seen a whole range of rare or hard to spot animals (or both), including some nocturnal ones, and now, after a year and a half living in Kenya, we have a slightly different list of animals we would love to see for the first time. We call it

Our impossible 5

  • Pangolin
  • Porcupine
  • Aardvark
  • Bongo
  • Wild dogs

We would also still like to see a predator hunt successfully, but as you can imagine it is very hard to predict where a hunt will take place. And so, even after a year and a half of regular game drives and spending hours and hours in the national parks, national reserves and private conservancies, this experience remains on our wish list.

We will never tire of watching any animal, but the thrill of seeing an animal for the very first time is a real buzz. It reminds us of the very first elephant or lion we saw, the excitement we felt when we got close to a rhino for the first time, or watched hyenas scurry along the long grass into the distance or disappear into their dens. It is a joy to watch a herd of elephants bumble past, munching continuously as they slowly but surely move through the terrain. Watching any animal in their natural habitat is fascinating and intriguing.

Incredibly we have already been so lucky to see an aardwolf and a zorilla (both in one weekend when Jude’s parents were visiting!). But also the striped hyena, loads of bush babies, a caracal, a (melanistic) serval, common genets (there are another 2 types in Kenya which we haven’t seen yet), elephant shrews, a honey badger, the African wild cat, African kangaroos (the springhare), all 3 types of giraffe living in Kenya, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuks, both rock and tree hyraxes (the closest living relative to the elephant), black mamba (a snake), Colobus monkeys, topi, Bohor reedbucks, 2 different types of oryx, giant forest hogs, bat-eared foxes, different types of mongoose (banded, dwarf, slender and white-tailed), red-tailed monkeys and of course all the ‘usual’ animals.

an aardwolf, despite it's verocious sounding name it is harmless and eats only termites

an aardwolf, despite it’s verocious sounding name it is harmless and eats only termites

zorilla - usually solitary, always nocturnal

zorilla – usually solitary, always nocturnal

common genet

common genet

rock hyrax - the closest living relative to the elephant!

rock hyrax – the closest living relative to the elephant!

black and white Colobus monkey, if you are lucky we can even see them on our weekly run in Karura Forest

black and white Colobus monkey, if we are lucky we even see them on our weekly run in Karura Forest

black mamba

black mamba

honey badger

honey badger

We’re also slowly becoming twitchers (bird watchers), but we’ll leave that for another story…

Here are some other ‘lists’ you can try to tick off next time you are visiting!

The small 5

  • Elephant shrew
  • Rhino beetle – haven’t seen this one yet
  • Leopard tortoise
  • Ant lion
  • Buffalo weaver
leopard tortoise having a good time

leopard tortoise having a good time

The obscure 5

  • Bush baby (both lesser and greater gallago)
  • Elephant shrew
  • African Kangaroo (East African Springhare)
  • Naked mole rat
  • Gerbil – the only one on this list we haven’t seen yet
bush baby, very easy to spot with a good torch, but very hard to properly see them as they are very fast and very agile...

bush baby, very easy to spot with a good torch, but very hard to properly see them as they are very fast and very agile…

an African kangaroo (or Eastern springhare)

an African kangaroo (or East African springhare)

naked mole rat, very social creature who rarely ventures above ground

naked mole rat, very social creature who rarely ventures above ground

The predator 5

  • Wild dog – the only one on this list we haven’t seen yet
  • Striped hyena
  • African wild cat
  • Serval
  • Caracal
a striped hyena, solitary unlike it's cousin the spotted hyena

a striped hyena, solitary unlike it’s cousin the spotted hyena

melanistic serval

melanistic serval

caracal

caracal

The Jackson’s 5

  • Jackson’s hartebeest
  • Jackson’s chameleon
  • Jackson’s widowbird
  • Jackson’s mongoose – the only one on this list we haven’t seen yet
  • Jackson’s francolin
Jackson's hartebeest

Jackson’s hartebeest

Jackson's chameleon

Jackson’s chameleon

male Jackson's widowbird in breeding plumage

male Jackson’s widowbird in breeding plumage

8 Comments

  1. Excellent spotting. I particularly like the Jackson chameleon photo. But all the photos are great. Keep them coming.

    • Thanks Cheryl! Can’t take credit for all the photos on that blog as Jon is now taking more than me on a ‘normal’ safari….! But I can take credit for the chameleon one 🙂 When are you starting your blog again?!

  2. Great photos!!!

    • Thanks Tara! We’re planning to make a photo book with the pictures we have been taking in Kenya… sorting through thousands at the moment! Can’t wait until I can actually start putting them together in a book!

  3. That’s terrific J&J. I’d mentally moved on from Africa but all these obscure animals reignite my interest… again. We were talking with our travel agent about her recent self-drive in Zambia and Malawi…….same problem. Cheryl’s talking about a ‘side trip’ to Madagascar and Kenya on the way (?) to Sth America next year….navigation never her strong point….but all possible. All the best.

    • Thanks Guy, glad it wet your appetite for some Africa time… 🙂 I think East Africa and Madagascar are perfectly en route to South America 🙂 hahahaha We’ll keep tempting you with more stories and photos! Looking forward to the start of your blog again too!

  4. Un-b….-lievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 😀

      You might want to plan a year (or more) in Africa with the truck! 😉

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