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Rural Wild Coast | © Klim Levene / Flickr
Rural Wild Coast | © Klim Levene / Flickr

South Africa's Wild Coast Has Its Own Big Five

Picture of Gill Lange
Updated: 5 March 2018

Don’t hold your breath waiting for stealthy predators to pounce, or for a herd of buffalo to cross your path, as the Wild Coast of South Africa highlights a big five of a different kind. These tamer, and sometimes domesticated, animals are more likely to get in your way than savage prey before your eyes, but they do carry a curious amusement value that makes them worth a mention. Follow us on a journey far, far away from grassy savanna plains as we look at the flip side of wild African life. 

Setting the scene

Much of the beauty of the Wild Coast lies in its rural simplicity, where small farming villages speckle the hills and tiny coastal inlets shelter pristine sparkling bays. Life is casual in this neck of the woods as days trundle on to their own African beat, and the chances of picking up mobile reception are about as good as your odds on a three-legged racehorse. Surrendering yourself to the old adage of  “what may be will be” is the easiest and best way to enjoy this idyllic little piece of the world, as you explore its hidden wonders and delight in the Wild Coast’s own charismatic, and sometime unusual, big five.

What are they?

Although the Wild Coast houses a host of more traditional wildlife, our tongue-in-cheek Wild Coast big five are the goat, pig, cow, donkey, and sheep. These animals by and large belong to the local villagers, many of whom follow a pastoral lifestyle. Children or young men can often be seen herding the animals along with a stick but, due to many of the communities and small holdings being unfenced, these same animals are also common road hogs. While pigs, goats, cows, and sheep are farmed for their milk and meat, donkeys are commonly used as a means of transportation.

Where to find them

Leave the binoculars in the car and rather pay a tour guide to lead you in the direction of a hidden gem that the locals won’t tell you about. There is no need to go in search of the Wild Coast’s big five. They will find you. Part of the beauty (or bother, depending which way you look at it) of the area is its somewhat challenging driving conditions, that feature pot holes, dirt tracks, and free-roaming animals. Goats, pigs, cows, and sheep are all a bit like arrogant motorists who completely disregard roadsigns and take to the fast line at a crawl.

Your chances are therefore very good of spotting some, or all, of these animals alongside the road where they graze on grass, nose through any roadside litter, and enjoy a good old ear scratch on the warm tarmac. While pigs are rather smart and tend to hustle their brood along at a swift pace, goats are less aware of passing traffic, and when one decides to cross the road, the rest of the herd is sure to follow, backing up the traffic in the process.

Roaming cows may can also be found along the side of the road, but generally prefer to head off to the beach for a snooze on the sand, where they offer an opportunity to take some perfect still-life photos.