Nicole Hankar, an avid traveler who organises last minute luxury safaris spoke with us about wildlife in the Maasai Mara and introduced us to the lesser known “little five”

Nicole Hankar is an avid traveler and the General Manager of last minute: mara, Kenya’s newest booking platform making luxury travel to the Mara more affordable. (courtesy)
  • Almost all wildlife enthusiasts have heard of the ‘big five’ which are hard to miss due to their ‘big size’
  • What many people, however, don’t know is there is also the ‘little five’ which due to their smaller size are a little harder to spot
  • Nicole Hankar, an avid traveler and the General Manager of last minute: mara reveals the names of the five species and where you can spot them.

The big five - Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Buffalo – need little introduction.

Almost all wildlife enthusiasts have heard of them and due to their ‘big size’ they are hard to miss. Corporate companies have further fueled their fame by plastering them on their brands and logos in a bid to ‘rub off’ on some of their fame.

However, due to decades of poaching, their population has fallen considerably and the big five survival, especially the Rhino, is threatened with few remaining in the wild today. For many years, the "Big Five" were at the top of hunters' lists, as they were considered the most difficult of Africa's big game to shoot while on foot.

One place the big five can easily be spotted is within Kenya's most famous reserve, the Masai Mara. In 2018, the Maasai Mara was voted Africa's leading national park at the World Travel Awards.

“Regardless of what time of year you go to the Maasai Mara, you are almost guaranteed to see the big five along with plenty of plains game and other species as the reserve is among the most densely populated wildlife reserves in the world," says Nicole Hankar, an avid traveler and the General Manager of last minute: mara, Kenya’s newest booking platform making luxury travel to the Mara more affordable.

Meet the little five

What many people, however, don’t know is there is also the ‘little five’ but to see them you will need to get out of your safari vehicle and get more up close and personal with nature. The little five are made up of the elephant shrew, buffalo weaver bird, rhinocerous beetle, leopard tortoise and the antlion. 

“In the Maasai Mara we also have the little five but you can’t actually spot these unless you are on foot; walking safaris are a great way to learn about different species that call the Mara their home," Nicole told Business Insider SSA.

Nicole explains how you can spot the little five and tick this off your bucket list.

“The little five are five smaller species that can easily be spotted when on a walking safari. Many people would never think of getting out of their safari vehicles to explore the Maasai Mara on foot as they generally think of the larger species living here and are scared to come face to face with them. There is however something beautiful about being able to walk through the bush in silence as the animals are less scared and you have better chances of spotting big game and smaller species including the little five." the last minute: mara General Manager explains.

What’s more, while you are at it, there is so much more you can do and experience.

“There are different ways you can experience the wildlife, everyone always thinks all there is to do in the Mara is go on game drives but there is so much more you can do,” says Nicole.

Night game drives, cultural visits, walking safaris with the Maasai and, hot air balloon rides are just a few of the fun activities available each giving you a different perspective of the Mara.

How you can see the little five

Last minute: mara enables travellers to seamlessly book all-inclusive package deals to the leading lodges in Kenya’s Maasai Mara at the best-possible value, for travel within 30 days.

The platform aims to ensure steady demand for the Mara’s best lodges year-round, and is aimed at East African residents, or those who are visiting Kenya for business and would like to include some last-minute leisure travel plans.

“Taking a spontaneous break and escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for the vast open plains of the Mara has never been easier or more affordable,” says Nicole.

Considering that here a little information and some fun facts about the famed ‘little five"

Elephant shrew

The elephant shrew is a small, insect-eating mammal that lives in arid lowlands, forests, and savannah grasslands. It is characterized by an elongated snout and a body resembling that of a mouse. Elephant shrews are becoming endemic to the African continent and are seldom seen due to their extremely shy and wary nature.

Buffalo weaverbird

Buffalo weavers are sociable birds which build huge, untidy and seemingly unstructured communal nests from twigs and coarse grasses. These birds tend to live in dry savannahs and sparse woodlands. Their diet consists primarily of insects, seeds, and fruits. You may have a chance to spot them while on a camp bird walk at Basecamp Masai Mara.

Rhinoceroses Beetle

There is little doubt this very large, scary-looking but harmless horned beetle doesn’t look every bit like the fully-grown rhino.

Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known for aggressive behavior, using the horns to fight rivals. Rhinoceros beetles also use their horns to dig, climb, and mate.

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoises derive their name from the distinct spot pattern on their shell that resembles the rosettes of the beautiful leopards. The markings on the shell and skin are unique to every individual.

Just like other tortoise species, the Leopard Tortoise can draw its head, tail, and legs into their shell for protection. 

The Leopard Tortoise can be spotted at Maasai Mara.


While Antlions bear no resemblance to the fearsome cats that prowl the Maasai Mara reserve in prides they share some characteristics especially their fearsome nature. 

Ant Lions are aggressive little insects with an interesting technique of capturing their prey. Ant lions dig small funnel-shaped sand traps about 2 inches deep in dry, sunny spots waiting for their prey especially the ants. Once they fall in they can’t climb out and just like that end up being their meal.


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