Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Dispelling the Pangolin Myth (and other things)

Rhino calf

Biyamiti is a wonderful camp, far enough away from the others to allow a measure of private game viewing, and close enough to access either side if the park on a drive. The night sounds here are also much better, as one can sit and listen without the disturbances of people chatting, cars driving about and the general noise which comes with a large group of people occupying a relatively small area.

The smallest giraffe I have ever seen!

The first day here, we did a long drive, virtually the full day, in search of some cats to photograph. My dad only had three full days, so we needed to make the most of it! It was also overcast, which made a long drive easily bearable. We did see a couple of sets of lions, but nothing too exciting on that front.

Yesterday it dawned mildly overcast and we had decided to get back to the hyena den, as he is also a great fan of hyenas. At first it was quite quiet, a light drizzle possibly encouraging the occupants to stay hidden and dry. All but one who was very fascinated by a millipede which he followed around, pawing at each time it moved. When the rain had stopped, everything suddenly sprang to life, with around 10 pups pouring out of the earth, being joined slowly by around seven adults. The cubs had a bone to play with, and were happily chasing one another around. When one of the adults arrived back, she began to whoop as she went to each hyena and sniffed, bit or chased them about. I can only presume she is the matriarch and was re-affirming her dominance.

After a couple of hours spent at the den, we popped down to Crocodile Bridge, ordered some coffee and set off up the S28 where we got lucky with 2 cheetah sightings. The one was hunting quite close to the road, his eye on a few very young zebra foals. The whole of the S28 seemed to have turned into the Serengeti overnight, with huge herds of zebra on both sides as we drove. After a delicious chicken burger at Nkhuku, we found a pride of 7 extremely fat lions sleeping off a large meal. They looked extremely uncomfortable, barely able to breathe, let alone move, like fat fish out of water as they lay panting in the heat.

That afternoon was spent watching a herd of elephants munching away on some grasses in a dry riverbed. As there were many Egrets in attendance the young ones had their hands full keeping 'the enemy' at bay.

A large python next to the road

This morning we sat for ages at Biyamiti Weir, one of the most beautiful spots in the park, a couple of fish eagles calling periodically, the Lessor Striped Swallows collecting mud and water, and a pair of Black Crake pecking at the mud. Then it was on to a pride of lions lying under exactly the same tree we had seen them almost a year to the day, followed by a beautiful relaxed leopard. The leopard was lying on a large boulder, watching nonchalantly as the cars drove by and the cameras clicked.

Over heating hornbill

Tonight I will enjoy my last night of company until Christmas, and tomorrow, hopefully a special sighting for my dad, to celebrate his birthday!

Breaking News:

I am adding to this post, as before I had the opportunity to post it, my dad got his special birthday sighting, and I just have to share! We were driving along to the hyena den near Lower Sabie, singing the occasional Happy Birthday song for my dad, when all of a sudden in the road ahead stood a strange object. I said 'Whats that?'- already having formed a certain opinion but being too scared to utter the words. My dad said' I am pretty sure thats a Pangolin'... and there it was, a pangolin, the dream sighting for any real bush enthusiast, the mythical creature we had so long joked about seeing, knowing full well they did not actually exist (for all intents and purposes as far as normal people go).

Pangolins are like dragons or unicorns, which obviously exist, but people have the decency to refer to them as myths. You hear the odd story about the uncle of a friend of a friend who saw one, or the odd picture repeatedly published for lack of a better one. Guide books even include them under mammals, but until you set eyes on them yourself, it is unlikely you will believe they exist. They are like the gold at the end of the rainbow or finding a leprechaun.

 He was relatively relaxed, shy, but not scared, although he only liked to show us the back end, and not his peculiar little face. It was surreal, and I have no idea how long we watched him, as time seemed to speed up into a blur of excitement, gasps and disbelief. A real, live pangolin. A real live wish come true. In retrospect, I wish  I could rewind that moment, jump out of the car and chase after the little guy, or at least just relive the feeling. It left both of us on a complete high, full of disbelief, and even as I write this, I am not sure it has fully sunk in yet. An actual pangolin, the stuff dreams are made of!
Happy Birthday Dad! That's a present you will never forget!

The quality of the pictures above are such that they can be believed to be real, for if I had conjured them up from the realms of photoshop, I can assure you they would have been better! As such, the average photo's I present lend an air of authenticity to my tale. Believe in them, they do exist!!!


  1. wow Laura, fabulous to see one - I have only ever seen one in the Timbavati many years ago. Indiajane (from the Sanparks forum - so enjoying your blog and great photographs)

  2. Well done Laura.

    We remember how that was your dream sighting when we were in Dulini last year. Can imagine how excited you must have been.

    Guess that takes the pressure off Craig and the other rangers now ..Lol

    We will be in Kruger NP for 2 weeks in April staying at 4 camps and hope we are half as lucky as you with our sightings. After that 8 days between Kings Camp Timbavati and Dulini again.

    Can't wait.
    Vicki and Rob from Oz