Tuesday, October 7

Those elusive animals of Kruger National Park

An uncommon sighting, Common Reedbuck in a typical pose

If you want to know what's really hard to find in Kruger National Park you just need to watch out for a guides over-the-top response to an animal (usually of a smaller size) sighting.

It's unusual for any first time visitor to Kruger or the African bush, to know what's common and what's rare. Muddling the issue, animals that are rare in Kruger are not always uncommon in other National Parks in Southern Africa, and animals rarely seen "in the wild" can often be seen scavenging in & around human habitation (too influenced by humans to be truly wild in my opinion).

And then to confuse things further, one can have a month like I did in September where I saw more Serval and Honey Badger over just a few weeks than I have seen in 30 years of visiting the bush and 7 years of working in Kruger.

So going back to my opening paragraph - look out for the guides reaction..........

At the end of August I saw my first Sable Antelope for the year. The view was not even as good as this one (pic taken in 2009) and my clients were quite puzzled by my exclamations over a rather obscure dark blob in the long grass.......

Tsessebe near Phabeni Gate

Tsessebe are rare in Kruger, although on a safari back in 2008, Allison, Simon and Lu didn't believe me at all after seeing these graceful antelope on every game drive we did out from Mopani Rest Camp......

Sharpes Grysbok

The Sharpes Grysbok is only found in the far north of Kruger (although I have seen it near Mopani). But even there, it is hard to find. This was my last sighting - September 2011 (and also the last time I was that far north!).

Common Reedbuck

And back to the not-so Common Reedbuck. Not a particularly dramatic looking antelope so my clients are always a little puzzled as to my excitement! We saw a small family herd a few weeks ago on the burnt veld near Pretoriuskop, but before that I hadn't had a good sighting for several years.

The most exciting action I had in the last two weeks was 4 different sightings of Honey Badger. In Kruger I had only seen these famous, courageous  creatures twice before!

At both Satara and Orpen Rest camps they upset rubbish bins and raid kitchens and can a be a real nuisance - but to see them acting more naturally in-the-wild is most uncommon!

Note the distinct markings on the back of Serval ears

And so to the predators............

Most visitors understandably know about and want to see Africas large cats - lion, leopard and cheetah.....

Most guides and regular visitors to the bush get really excited about Serval, Caracal and African Wild Cat - the "small" cats of Kruger.

I still haven't seen caracal in the wild and have only had a handful of partial sightings of African Wild Cat.

In September we had two great sightings of Serval (4th and 5th lifetime sightings!)

When I spotted my fifth Serval, sitting calmly on the side of road we all almost fell off our seats I braked so hard.

African Wild Cat

The list of Kruger animals that I'm still to find is long - Aardvark, Pangolin, Roan Antelope, Eland (in Kruger), many of the birds, reptiles, snakes.......... but what's life without some challenges?


Naresh said...

Love it!

Anonymous said...

Great post Sue. I have been lucky enough to see a caracal, a pangolin many years ago as well as an Eland in the KNP. Have yet to spot any of the small cats there though. I don't think I have seen the reedbuck either. Maybe I should come on safari :)

Coral Wild said...

Thanks for visiting Naresh!

Jackie, I would love to have you on safari any time but as you know it's impossible to actually go looking for any of those more elusive animals. One just has to be patient and be aware, always, that they could just pop out one day....

PS I've seen Reedbuck around Pretoriuskop, on the road between Letaba and Mopani and just once north of Lower Sabie on the H10!

Gaelyn said...

I get excited about the big and small on safari. Haven't seen a Sable, Sharpes Grysbok, Honey Badger or Serval. Had Wild Cats in camp at Satara and saw Caracal at Mt Zebra. Guess I'll just have to come back.

Coral Wild said...

Gaelyn, there is always a good excuse for coming back.

Interesting that you saw Caracal at Mt Zebra. I saw my one & only Aardvark there, so it's obviously a great place to look for the smaller creatures :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I can't remember where I saw things .. well some yes. Amazing shots you got though .. aren't they lovely ..

Cheers Hilary

Coral Wild said...

Thank you Hilary :)

I've just upgraded my camera and hope to get more opportunities to capture those smaller animals.