A special winter sighting

Sabi Sand | August 2018

In the winter the bushveld changes; firstly it gets cold, secondly the colour of the bush changes and thirdly there is a race against sunlight on the afternoon safari! With these changes we adapt and the safari continues. Guests put on their warm layers, blankets and water bottles are provided on the morning safari to alleviate the cold – especially felt in the low lying areas!

The advantage of the winter safari is that it becomes a bit easier spotting the animals with less foliage to look through and the grass slowly dying off. With this in mind we look for the nocturnal animals that are difficult to spot in the summer. These include secretive animals like the ground pangolin, aardvark, African civet, side-striped jackal and lesser galagos (bushbabies).

One evening, after stopping to stretch our legs and our guests enjoying a hot beverage, we continued on our night exploration into the southern open areas of the reserve. We passed a small waterhole where a crash of rhino was busy having a drink. We stopped the vehicle, turned the lights off and listened to them slurping up the water with their square lips!

Not too far from the waterhole Emmanuel, our tracker, had a glimpse of flickering eyes through the grass with the help of his spotlight. We scanned through the grass for a short while not seeing anything, but with a bit more patience the animal showed itself. In our sight we could see what appeared to be a small cat, posed just like a domestic cat looking straight at us. It was in fact an African wild cat! Small, shy and often solitary or a female accompanied by kittens, we had found a resident but very rarely seen feline.

We watched the small cat grooming itself and noticed the rufous brown colouration behind its small ears confirming one hundred percent that it was an African wild cat. It then started moving and I was able to capture a few photographs to support our story!