“The animal instinct in me” – Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries).
Don’t you hate it when some buck eejit decides on a final list and they expect you to adhere to it. They are right. Everybody else is wrong. And they try to destroy everyone who disagrees with it. That is how I feel about the so called stupid “Big Five” list when you backpack Africa. People will ask you “have you seen the big five?” and it gets damn annoying. I have seen the big 5, the 6, the big 17, the big 44 and a half. Who cares about this “Big Five” as determined by some idiot expert wannabe. What even the sexual intercourse is it?
“Elephants go down to the waterhole at dusk. They feel the same as us, about life” – Neil Finn.
The official “Big Five” as decided by some smart arse is actually a boring quintet. It even shocks me – who on earth came up with this list???
Lion. Buffalo. Leopard. Elephant. Rhinocerous.
I fell asleep reading it and used sleeping pills to write it.
How boring, unbig and ridiculous. As in golf, many classic animals appear to have “missed the cut”.
So screw the “Big Five”, here is my own version. Not even FIVE and not even in AFRICA but globally!! Screw the fake big five. ?? This is my top five, best five, big five PLUS twenty bonus ball equally big fives for you!! And they are not even in any order, numbered merely for reference, apart from Rocky Boy. Here is the real top 25 animals to backpack through.
1.Rocky the Dog, Bangor, Northern Ireland
My family dog is always number one and makes the big 5, the top 5, the real 5. Rocky Boy, Rocky Blair, Rocky dog, Rocky.
2.Hyena Feeding at dusk in Harar, ETHIOPIA
This moment of zanity is always right up there when I think of my backpacking days. At sun sink we headed past a crashed aeroplane in the walled city of Harar in Ethiopia. It was here that I fed hyenas mouth to mouth and hand to mouth using a twig from a qwai tree with a spot of raw pork on the end.
3.Kissing Giraffes in Nairobi, KENYA
Malina and I headed out of Kenyan stolica Nairobi into the middle of nowhere to a giraffe zone. Here you can feed and kiss giraffes so we did!
4.Whale Watching in Mirissa, SRI LANKA
With ex girlfriend Panny Yu, I took my Mum and Dad on a 5 a. m. boat off the coast of Mirissa in Sri Lanka. We went whale watching. I have also seen whales on The Drake Passage and off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa.
5.Bird of Paradise, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
While backpacking through the sights of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, we visited the excellent nature park. It was here that we laid eyes on the real bird of paradise.
At the same park, a pretty green eclectus parrot also jumped on my neck.
6.Penguins at Neko Harbour, ANTARCTICA
I am only doing each animal once on this list obviously so destinations have to be chosen and I went for Neko Harbour for penguins. This was a white winter wonderland on mainland Antarctica. I have also seen penguins in South Africa, Uruguay and Australia.
7.Panda in Ocean Park, HONG KONG
Pandas are extremely rare and hard to see in the wild. While you can hold one in Chendu in China, I chose to see the two pandas given by China to Hong Kong as a present. I saw them in Ocean Park in 2011.
8.Cheetah Tour, Duesternbrook, NAMIBIA
Seeing wild cheetahs also proved rare. In 2013,I saw a mere one cheetah in The Serengeti, Tanzania. In 2020, I put that right by watching cheetah feeding at Duesternbrook in Namibia. This was class.
9.Flamingoes, Laguna Verde, BOLIVIA
I actually remember seeing flamingoes at Belfast Zoo when I was a kid. But the real surprise and eyefeast came in 2010 at Laguna Canapa, a pinkish lake in Bolivia.
10.Stroking Crocodiles, Kachikally, THE GAMBIA
Lose your fears and inhibitions by touching an awake crocodile. I did this during my MSM Lost Luggage tour in The Gambia in 2016. It prompted the infamous Olcia Malinowa to confess “I would touch this crocodile”.
11.Camel Riding in Mesr, IRAN
A month in Iran was so wacaday I will probably never cover it all. Though I did find time to write about some of our desert tours to Kaluts, Yazd, Kalate Talk and Mesr. It was in Mesr that we tried camel riding.
12.Rhino Walking Safari at Mosi Oa Tunya, ZAMBIA
While the rhino completed my excremental Guru God listed “big five”, it was just a lifelong dream to see rhinos graze in the wild. I had failed so many times. Until 2020 that is, when we headed from the Fawlty Towers hostel in Livingstone to Mosi Oa Tunya Game Park in Zambia. Here we got to walk with and encounter SEVEN rhinos in the wild. My Dad later told me I had seen rhinos before, in a zoo, Whipsnade Zoo in England back in 1992. It was a memory that had passed me by.
13.Lazy Leopards in The Serengeti, TANZANIA
Leopards are lazy and they usually tree it. I saw a bunch of lazy ones in The Serengeti and Tarangire National Park. I’m not a big fan of the leopard – I go cheetah and hyena loyal when it comes to that colour of beast!
14.Probiscus Monkeys in BORNEO
These odd looking animals have a hanging big nose. We did a boat cruise to see these proboscis monkeys in tropical Borneo. His nose looks like a silly willy.
15.Elephant Town of Pinnawala, SRI LANKA
I believe elephants are the world’s largest mammals so I had to stick at least one elephant adventure on the list. Pinnawala in Sri Lanka hosts an annual elephant festival and we were able to ride, bathe, clean and feed the elephants here.
16.Seals at Whalers Bay, ANTARCTICA
Seals are also lazy but pretty interesting to watch how they live. One minute wateric they suddenly lie on a rocky beach. We saw a lot of them in Antarctica.
17.Monkey World, Dorset, ENGLAND
While I am not a fan of monkeys, Dorset in England has a surprisingly excellent “Monkey World”. I actually headed here in 2008 while living in nearby Bournemouth. I was here with my family and we celebrated my graduation at the same time.
18.Sleeping in the home of the duck billed platypus, Latrobe, AUSTRALIA
The duck billed platypus is probably the weirdest looking creature on here. I spent a night sleeping in my car in Latrobe by a lake just to try and spot one. And I did. Latrobe is the world capital of the duck billed platypus.
19.Feeding kangaroos, AUSTRALIA
Australia usually features high on any world animal tour list. The fact is that it has so many native animals, unseen outside of Australia. I fed them in Tasmania, saw them all over the place and also ate them in Parramatta many times. The famous Millwall Neil even joined me for a spot of kangarooney feeding!
20.Holding a koala, AUSTRALIA
As my friend Russell, from Australia always reminds me “Koalas are NOT bears”, it was the Americans that called them “bears” by mistake. However, I did hold a cute koala in Brisbane’s Lone Pine once and I have seen them in the wild at Kennet River in Victoria Province. Meet Koala Blair!
21.Viewing the rare Kiwi Bird, NEW ZEALAND
The kiwi is a rare bird and I saw two of them but photos were not allowed back then at the Kiwi Centre in Rotorua. A photo from the outside will have to do.
22.Watching Tasmanian Devis crush a bone, AUSTRALIA
With Daniel, Neil and Paul my English backpacking buddies we wanted to visit the important Tasmanian Devil Centre where you can watch preserved Tassie Devils fight and play. They have a jaw almost as strong as that of a shark, crocodile or hyena.
23.Swimming With Sharks in Caye Caulker, BELIZE
In Belize, we did a boat cruise in the Caribbean from our base at Ambergris Caye to Caye Caulker. We jumped into the fresh waters and swam with baby sharks whose jaws are not yet big enough to bite ye!
24.The Gazing Alpaca in Grodig, AUSTRIA
When Lock in Lee Adams and I embarked on a bet inspired adventure to watch SV Grodig in Austria, on route we toured Anis Zoo. Here a crazy alpaca just kept gazing at us. It was pure hilarity.
25.The zebra stare, EVERYWHERE
What I love about zebras is not the colour but their mannerisms. Especially comedic is how they dander away from humans in a group before stopping, turning, staring straight at you and they do it in unison. Pure laughter value. Zebra mating is also fun to watch.
Glaring omissions include tigers, polar bears, panthers and pumas. None of which I have seen outside a zoo. But I have seen a Jaguar, Peacock and many other animals, but this could only be a TOP TWENTY FIVE so they “missed the cut”.
Here are some videos from my time backpacking animals: