An Unexpected Visitor

Stopping for an African safari sundowner drink in the middle of the bush can lead to unexpected visitors coming to join you. This is exactly what happened to me and a couple of guests not too long ago. We were in for the surprise of a lifetime.

We left Buffalo Camp in the afternoon to see what else we could find while out on safari on Kapama Private Game Reserve. The past few game drives we were fortunate enough to see most of the animals that Kapama has to offer, including the Big Five. With this drive being particularly quiet and only the sights and sounds of an array of colorful birds, we decided to go for a sundowner stop where we could enjoy a refreshing drink and a few delicious some snacks.

As we set up the drinks stop and viewed a beautiful sunset, we talked about the earlier morning sightings and what they still wanted to see while staying at Kapama. Just before we started to pack up my tracker – Vusi heard something. I passed him the light and he went off to investigate further as to what might have made the noticeable noise. With the biggest smile, I had ever seen on Vusi’s face, excitement bouncing off him, Vusi motioned for me to come over to where he had just been, and to bring our guests. It seemed we were in for a surprise that I never would have expected.

There it was between the grass, as relaxed as one can be, the most trafficked animal in Africa and a very rare animal to see in nature, the Pangolin.

Currently, It is so endangered that it is under the protection of international law.


Seeing this animal was one of the best moments in my life as we know how rare it is to spot such an endangered animal out in the wild. I explained to my guest just what a privilege it was to have spotted one. I ran back to the vehicle, grabbed my camera and took a few pictures to document the incredible experience. Vusi and I spent time with the guests and this most amazing animal.

The main reason why it is the most trafficked animal is that it is believed that parts of a Pangolins body possess spiritual and curative powers. The Pangolin is often used for traditional medicine and spiritual purposes as well as hunted and trafficked for their meat.

Pangolins are truly unique animals and anyone that is lucky enough to observe them in their natural environment will come to see that there are no other species quite like them in the animal kingdom.


Besides their uniqueness, they are characteristically shy, solitary and primarily nocturnal.

A few other interesting facts about pangolins are:

1.)    Pangolins roll up into an endearing, impregnable ball when threatened, protecting its feet, soft belly and interesting face. They also protect their young by curling up around them.

2.)    They are the world’s only truly scaly mammals. Covered in hundreds of individual scales comprised of keratin – similar to our hair or fingernails which continues to grow throughout their lives.

3.)    The pangolin has a strong and sticky tongue in place of teeth. It uses this tough to catch its food which is longer than its head and body when extended.

4.)    Pangolins are capable swimmers. Some pangolin species like the African ground pangolin are completely terrestrial, while others like the African tree pangolin are very good climbers, and use their claws  and tail to get the bark to get up trees

5.)    Mother pangolins keep their young down in burrows. They only start to be mobile when they old   enough to ride on their mom tails.

6.)    Their diets consist mainly of insects like ants and termites.

7.)    Adult pangolins are very solitary animals, almost like hermits. They prefer living a solitary life rather than in pairsor families.

What an amazing find and what a privilege to share such a great animal with guests while out on safari in the South African bush!

Story and photos by Buffalo Camp Ranger Hancho Olivier

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