Tag Archives: Guide

Pangolin – the Holy Grail

November 16, 2010 - Safari,Wildlife

Last night’s rare pangolin sighting at Singita Sabi Sand – the encounter described by James Crookes, Singita Guide

If you ask any guide what sighting would signify the pinnacle of their career, I have a strong suspicion that the response would be almost unanimous. One would probably expect an array of answers including mating leopards, lions taking down a buffalo, discovering leopard cubs at a den site and the list goes on. Whilst all these provide amazing experiences and would definitely be highly sought after by any guide, I know that perched safely at the top of my list was always a quest to find a pangolin (Manis temmincki).  To most people who have any affiliation with the African bush, the elusive pangolin, or scaly ant eater, has become the holy grail of the savannah.

A testament to the secretive lifestyle that this animal leads is the fact that even the most comprehensive of mammal behaviour literature provides very little insight into the daily life of the pangolin. Ecologist Jonathan Swart studied pangolins for both a masters degree and a doctorate. His field work was carried out in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and in the course of a year, he located and studied 18 of these animals in the 65,000 hectare reserve. It took him no less than four and a half months to locate his first research subject.

On this particular afternoon, hampered by drizzle and generally overcast conditions, I took a few of the staff out on a game drive, to enable them to experience and appreciate the environment in which they work.  As we rounded a bend, I noticed a creature crossing the road. It seemed to take a while for me to process the scene before me, but after a brief pause, there was almost a uniform announcement of “PANGOLIN!”  The vehicle came to an abrupt halt and was evacuated in seconds, everyone clambering to have a closer look and dispel the sense of disbelief that gripped us all.

Once I had digested the scene, gathered my thoughts and allowed my heart rate time to slow down, I embarked on what many guides can only dream of.  I picked up the radio, keyed the microphone and, in the calmest voice I could muster, announced: “located a single pangolin, stationary on Kiaat road, west of north south firebreak”, as if this was an everyday occurrence.  I could just picture the reactions on the other vehicles as the message was transmitted!  I waited to be asked to confirm the species, but unfortunately I didn’t get another opportunity to gloat.  With the animal appearing to be relaxed and no immediate danger of it disappearing into the night, others slowly made their way to the position.

It was a privilege to be able to spend almost two hours with this rare and special creature.  It was a completely surreal and moving experience, something I had always hoped for, but never really thought of as a realistic opportunity.  To be able to touch the scales and feel how surprisingly soft they actually are, being of a similar texture and slightly softer than one’s finger nails.  Watching how sensitive the pangolin is to touch and how it retracts slightly each time you stroke one of its scales. Intermittently, it would expose its head as it investigated the scene before it.  Once, it even rolled into a partial ball, possibly feeling slightly threatened by the unusual amount of attention it was receiving.  All of this provided a recipe for an amazing experience, one that I’ll treasure forever.

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Scouting for Art

October 18, 2010 - Environment,Events

Recently on a scouting trip around Nduna searching for lions for our guest, as we headed off road something caught my eye on one of the rock faces.  I decided to go and investigate and found a small rock painting. Due to time restraints I was not able to scout the area for more paintings, nevertheless, I had a quick look around and found a second site about 300 metres from the initial site.  In order to ascertain if these were unique sites I made certain to GPS both of them, made a recording and checked the data.  They were not recorded in our data so I contacted Ben Smith at University of Witwatersrand and they did not have them recorded either.

This was amazing news meaning that we have increased the database of rock paintings now to 80 sites.   These figures refer to painting sites only.  So from the beginning of last year we had a record 56 rock painting sites; the guiding department has increased this record to date to 78 and now these 2 new ones total the sites to 80.  There is no doubt that we will keep adding to this number – we’ll keep you updated.

Singita Guide – Brad Fouche, Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

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All Creatures Great and Small

September 30, 2010 - Wildlife

What is the one thing most visitors to our country want to see in terms of their wildlife experience? You probably guessed it, the Big Five. But what are the Big Five?   Is it really that important, and how did this all originate, you are probably asking yourself?  Well, its origins stem way back to the days of hunting.  They were seen to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot specifically due to the nature of the beast as opposed to the actual physical size of the animal.  But in my opinion there is actually so much more to the bush and the safari experience and I often find the smaller creatures much more interesting and thus I wanted to introduce you to the Little Five. “What?”, you may be asking yourself.  Yes, the Little Five are unofficially named as such and have no relevance to hunting or danger but rather just a play on words.

These include:

1.   Red-billed buffalo weaver – A black bird with a red bill and white wing fleck who often builds its nest on the north western side of the tree to benefit from the late afternoon sun, keeping the nest warm.

2.   Rhinoceros beetle  - A remarkable beetle, similar to the famous dung beetle in basic appearance, however, it has a very distinctive horn on its head. I wonder if this horn is as sought after as a real rhinoceros horn?

3.   Ant lion – Also part of the insect world and a far cry from the king of beasts, but this small creature constructs a “v-shaped” trap to catch its prey, probably with better success than its lazy feline counterpart.

4.   Leopard tortoise – Nothing quite compares to the real thing in this department.  Stealth is a word associated with the spotted cat and somehow doesn’t go for a tortoise. It does however have a blotchy carapace but that’s where the comparison ends.

5.   Elephant shrew – This is the one of the Little Five which would probably scare most people more than the original pachyderm itself. It slightly resembles a mouse in appearance. There is nothing more delightful to see in the bush than shrews participating in what is termed “caravanning” where they link head to tail holding on with their long “trunk-like” snout in perfect single file, scurrying through the vegetation.

So next time you are on safari, try and see if you can spot the Little Five. Just keep an eye out to ensure you don’t stumble onto one of the Big Five in the process.

Article written by Mark Broodryk, Singita Guide, Sabi Sand Reserve.

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A must for any bucket list

September 10, 2010 - Experience,Singita,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

The Great Migration, which makes its way through the Singita Grumeti Reserves, has to be one of the top 10 awe-inspiring natural phenomenons. The fact that two million wildebeest and zebra make this same journey on an annual basis is mind-blowing. It is definitely something that should be experienced at least once in a person’s lifetime.

This year from the 1st of September until the 30th of November, guests at Singita will be able to fly into the northern Serengeti, where the migration is at its densest during these months, and be guaranteed exceptional viewings. Accompanied by one of our knowledgeable Singita Grumeti Reserve Guides and a delectable Singita lunch, the day-excursion is conducted in true Singita style.

For more information please visit our website.

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