The Alternate Big Five that you may see on your school expedition to Kenya

Dan Mew

Let’s face it, a safari experience is likely to rank pretty highly on most people’s bucket lists, and it is difficult to fully appreciate the beauty of Africa via your favourite Attenborough documentary from the comfort of your own living room. Witnessing Africa’s magnificent wildlife and spectacular landscapes first-hand is something that we think everyone should experience at least once in their lives.

Africa has so much to offer in addition to the Big Five, with many more animals than lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and cape buffalos calling this magical continent home. From the small to the tall, we take a look through an ‘Alternate Big Five’ that you may see during your school expedition to Kenya. You may encounter some of these magnificent creatures during our famous Rift Valley Adventure Day, or during our Maasai Mara Adventure Weekend, both of which are available to add to your trip package.



These stripy creatures can be found throughout the continent, but that doesn’t make them any less spectacular. Zebras, known as punda milia in Swahili, can often be found in grasslands and savannah, and can live for up to 20 years in the wild. They are native to 15 African countries, but are now sadly extinct in Burundi and Lesotho. They are often targeted by predators such as lions and hyenas, but their ability to run at speeds of up to 40mph means they can make a speedy getaway if needed!

Each year, large numbers of zebras travel up to 1,800 miles north from Tanzania’s Serengeti plains to Kenya, which is one of our host destinations.

Fun Fact: The pattern of a zebra’s stripes is unique to each animal!



A hyrax, also known as a dassie, is a small, furry mammal that is found across the African continent. Their habitat ranges from dry savannahs to dense rainforests and rocky areas, and they can live for up to 12 years. Greyish-brown in colour, the hyrax can best be described as something similar to a large guinea pig, or a rabbit with rounded ears. Rock hyraxes spend most of their time sunbathing on the rocks, due to their poorly developed thermoregulation. Their feet are equipped with tiny sweat glands that help them to grip the rocks, and their claws are mainly used for grooming and scratching.  

These small mammals have a number of predators, including leopards, large birds, and pythons! They are native to 25 African countries, and usually live in colonies of around 50 members.

Fun Fact: The hyrax is said to be the elephant’s closest living relative!


These primates are seen as pests by the locals, but they certainly take a good photo! Baboons are some of the largest monkeys on the planet, and they shouldn’t be underestimated. Powerful jaws and sharp canine teeth make them difficult prey for humans, leopards and cheetahs. There are five different species of baboon; olive, yellow, chacma, guinea, and sacred. They are very adaptable and can be found in various habitats, ranging from savannahs and bushlands, to tropical forests and mountain regions.

They are omnivorous and will just about eat anything, causing problems for restaurants and safari lodges alike! Their diet consists mostly of grass and berries, but they are not impartial to some meat and fish, and, occasionally, even small antelopes.

Baboons, known as nyani in Swahili, can live for between 20-40 years, and weigh up to 31kg. They are very social creatures, usually living in troops of around 50 members. These consist of seven or eight males, and twice as many females and their young.

Fun Fact: Baboons have the same number of teeth and the exact same dental pattern as humans.



Impalas can be found along much of the eastern side of the continent. These deer-like creatures can most often be found in the grasslands, and it is easy to differentiate the males from the females, as the males have horns.

They are very nimble and can often be seen leaping and bounding around. This is an anti-predator technique, as well as a way of keeping the herd together, as they have a unique scent on their hind legs which is released in mid-air when they jump. Impalas have distinct markings, with a reddish-brown coat and tufts of white. A narrow black line runs down their tails from their lower backs, and there are more black markings on the back of each thigh.

Fun Fact: They can jump to a height of around three metres, making it very difficult for predators to catch them.


The world’s largest mammal doesn’t make the traditional Big Five, but it makes our list today. These amazing animals can be found in eastern and southern Africa. Due to their size, giraffes can reach food sources that many other animals cannot, getting most of their nutrients from trees. They eat for 16-20 hours per day, consuming up to 30kg of foliage in that time. However, they don’t need to drink much, allowing them to survive in areas where water is scarce.

The horns on their heads are made of cartilage and can be used to intimidate other male giraffes during confrontations. Adult giraffes are very rarely targeted by predators, as their size and shape make them difficult to catch – a strong kick from a giraffe could be fatal for lions and hyenas.

Fun Fact: A giraffe’s tongue is 50cm long!

There is so much to see and experience when on a trip with us, and we hope that we have given you some more insight into one of the reasons to explore Africa. For more information about our trips, click here.