We departed Southern Camp on a beautiful afternoon around 4h30 for our Safari Game drive to find all the amazing things that nature has to offer. Within the first 30 minutes, we spotted a breeding herd of Impala, five male giraffes, spread out feeding on the trees in the area and a leopard tortoise, which makes up of the small five, crossing the road.
As we continued down one of the reserve roads, we came across an open clearing. To our right was a couple of scrubs beside tall grass and to our left was a water puddle, with loads of activity buzzing around it. Birds were drinking and singing and others taking a bath. As we reached the end of the open clearing, my assistant guide Joseph, raised his hand, leaping forward with excitement, pointing, and struggling to find his words. Finally, he said, “Caracal!”.
I almost lost my mind when I saw the Caracal lying, with his head held down, his black-tipped ears sticking out and patches of his back exposed through the grass. By this time, my guests began asking questions, and I was trying to regain my composure to guide them through this experience. They asked, “What is that?” “Is that a lion?” “Is it a lion cub?”
I told them that it was a Caracal and that they are a rare sight, and that this is the first one that I have seen in the wild. Did you know:
- It gets his name from the Turkish word ‘garah gulak’ which means ‘black ear’
- A Caracal is the largest of the smaller cats
- It is tawny to rust-brown, with a white chest and underside
- It is powerfully built, has large paws and quite a short tail
- The ears are pointed and tipped with tufts of black hair
- It has prominent black and white marks on the face
- Caracals are Carnivores, which means they eat meat
- They mainly feed on small animals – rodents, birds, mongoose, and in some cases baby impala
- It has long back legs which allow it to leap (up to 4 m) into the air to catch birds in flight
We waited for a couple more minute, watching the Caracal as it was looking around. As I turned to my guests, they were all smiling and appeared extremely happy, taking photos of this remarkable animal. Suddenly it got up and moved further into the thickets allowing guests to see it in its full glory.
This was an extra-ordinary sighting! It most definitely made my afternoon safari so much more exciting and the guests were pleased to have shared this magnificent moment with Joseph and me.
Story by: Southern Camp Ranger Titus Ndlovu