The first known use of the word independence was in 1640, some 136 years before the Continental Congress declared the 13 American colonies to be a new nation, and no longer part of the British Empire. The United States of America traditionally celebrates that day on July 4th.

But we were far from the first nation to declare ourselves free and independent. In 1291, Switzerland joined an alliance against the Holy Roman Empire, which had ruled Switzerland since the 1st Century BCE. Sweden marks 1523 as its year of independence when the election of King Gustav Vasa became the de facto end of the Kalmar Union.

Most countries celebrate an independence or national day with annual festivities commemorating the anniversary of a nation’s declaration of independent statehood, usually after ceasing to be a colony or part of another state. Interestingly, Canada, which observes Canada Day July 1st, was the first country created by legislation. It united three separate colonies into a single dominion through the British North America Act (Constitution Act) of 1867.

Customs usually include the expected parades, fireworks and parties. In India, it also includes kite flying. Freedom is symbolized by flying kites so on their independence day, August 15th, thousands upon thousands of kites of all shapes and sizes soar above rooftops throughout the country. In Indonesia, they celebrate independence on August 17th with the panjat pinang, a challenge to climb a slippery oiled pole to try to grab one of the prizes that are waiting on the top. In Kenya, Jamhuri Day, December 12th, marks the creation of the republic, and Kenyans across the country with celebrate with the day with traditional foods, songs and dances and customary dress such as Kikoys, vibrantly colored, hand-woven cloth wrapped around the waist or the neck, and Kitenges, East African fabrics women wear as beautiful dresses or elaborate headscarves.

However, we choose to celebrate our nationhood, with kites or fireworks, may we do so with respect and in peace.




The force of a crocodile’s bite is more powerful than that of a Rottweiler and even a great white shark.

In fact, the immense force of a croc’s bite is the strongest bite of any animal on earth. A 5.5 meter/18 foot Nile crocodile’s bit was measured at more than 5,000 lbf (pounds of force), which compares to just 335 lbf for a Rottweiler, 670 lbf for a great white shark.

The reptile’s upper and lower jaws are the same width, and the teeth in the lower jaw fall along the outside of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed, making all teeth visible. Crocodiles are polyphyodonts, which means that they can replace each of the 80 teeth up to 50 times in their 35 to 75-year lifespan. Next to each mature tooth is a small replacement tooth and an odontogenic stem cell in the tissues that is activated when necessary.

The extraordinary bite of crocodilians is a result of anatomy. The space for the jaw muscle in the skull is very large and easily seen from the outside as a bulge on each side. The muscle is almost as hard as bone as if it were a continuation of the skull; and the jaw is designed to clamp down like a vise. These ambush predators feed by grabbing their prey with those powerful muscles, closing the jaws and holding them shut. Yet, in spite of their powerful bite, crocodiles have extremely small and weak muscles to open the jaw. Remember that if you ever encounter one.

Crocodiles are found throughout the tropics of the world. Ancestors include the three-foot long Xilousuchus, dating back to 250,000,000 BCE, and the 35-foot long Stomatosuchus, from about 100,000,000 BCE.

Explore the world of Africa’s modern crocodiles as well as other incredible and unique wildlife and the landscapes they inhabit in one of our luxury safari adventures such as our President’s Pick College Edition: Southern Africa: Teeth of the Crocodile.



Ah, the open road… Just you and that endless path inviting you to explore the world – unlimited, unrestricted, free. Each traveler has his or her own definition around the idea of exploring the world, self-contained and unfettered.

Wally Byam was clearly the free spirit of his own time. In 1929, he built the world’s first travel trailer… an Airstream. It started out as a sort of tent that he added to the top of a Model T chassis! It was evidently far from rainproof so he tried again; this time replacing the tent with a teardrop-shaped, permanent shelter. He also added a stove and ice chest.

It was easy to tow and captured a lot of attention on the road. In fact, he received enough attention to decide to make this a business. In 1931, Airstream was founded to build a travel trailer that would “move like a stream of air, be light enough to be towed by a car, and create first-class accommodations anywhere.”

This purely American creation has endured and flourished. Remarkably, Airstreams of the 1930s can still be seen on the road today! And they have spread across the globe.

You can enjoy your own luxury Airstream stay – complete with air conditioning, bathroom with hot water, cable TV, terrace, dining room and outdoor Jacuzzi – in remote Guatemala on our newest President’s Pick: Adventure Guatemala & Panama journey. This extraordinary adventure also includes a luxury tented camp stay, stunning hiking opportunities, white water rafting and so much more.

When you combine curate, defined as the selection, organization, and presentation of information, using professional or expert knowledge, with create, which means to produce through imaginative skill, you have a powerful tool.

These assets are sought-after traits in all fields of endeavor from the arts to science to business. That is especially true in the field of travel. Planning a journey with skill, knowledge and imagination helps transform what might have been an ordinary vacation into an once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Since 1973, Big Five has sought to bring to life some of the most amazing places and unique travel experiences, first in Africa, then in Latin America, Asia and the South Pacific.  Each journey is crafted to the interests of our guests – whether that extends to Rio’s art scene, a treehouse stay in Kenya, or a bicycle ride through Sri Lanka.

We are pleased and honored to announce that the advisors of Virtuoso have nominated Big Five for the 2017 Virtuoso Peer-to-Peer Award: Best Curated Travel Partner. This award speaks to the creativity of the entire team.

Basically, we know our sh%&.., er… I mean, stuff.  Begin by discovering Big Five’s President’s Picks collection.

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Most of us have probably tried to throw a boomerang at one time or another – and more than likely we did a pretty poor job of it.

Boomerangs are a standard tool of the indigenous people of Australia. Indeed, depictions of boomerangs being thrown at animals such as kangaroos appear in some of the oldest rock art in the world found in the northwestern Kimberly region, and are possibly some 50,000 years old. The oldest surviving wooden boomerang came from the Wyrie Swamp of South Australia and is 9,000 to 10,000 years old.

Images of boomerangs also appear in the rock art of West Papua, which reach back to the Last Glacial Maximum when lower sea levels allowed contact between Papua and Arnhem Land in Northern Australia.

Surprisingly, boomerangs have been found in ancient Europe, Egypt and even North America. Also known as hunting sticks, they were used in Europe as weapons as far back as the Stone Age. A boomerang discovered in the Carpathian Mountains of Poland was made of a mammoth’s tusk and is believed, based on AMS dating of objects found with it, to be about 30,000 years old.

In the Netherlands, boomerangs have been found in Vlaardingen and Velsen from the first century BCE. The famed Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamen owned a collection of boomerangs more than 3,300 years ago. Native Americans of California and Arizona, and inhabitants of southern India used boomerangs to kill birds and small mammals such as rabbits.

Boomerangs can be used as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, in hand-to-hand combat as battle clubs, fire-starters, decoys for hunting waterfowl and as recreational toys. The hunting boomerang is delicately balanced and harder to create than the returning type. The returning boomerang may have evolved as a result of early hunters working to make the throwing sticks fly straight.

You can learn about the traditional life of one of Australia’s traditional indigenous communities at Cooya Beach (Kuku Kuku), the traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji people. This unique area encompasses three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangroves and coastal reef. It is home to the Kubirri Warra brothers, who will teach you the right way to throw a boomerang and a spear and about other hunting techniques. Walk with the brothers on their traditional land as you learn how to track and hunt for fish, mud crabs and mussels through the mangroves.

Discover this and so much more on our President’s Pick: Australia Unbound.

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