Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of visiting 18 of South Africa’s national parks. Aside from big and impressive wildlife, we’re more than often surprised by our parks’ lesser-seen mammal species. But where to find them? Judging by our adventures, the Kruger, Kgalagadi, Mokala and Mountain Zebra national parks rarely disappoint. By Mohammed Jinnah

Bat-eared fox

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (8)-min

Usually difficult to find during the day and very skittish, these fluffy foxes are exceptionally playful. We had one sighting in the Satara area of the Kruger National Park many years ago and a great sighting of a family on a night drive in Mountain Zebra National Park. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is by far the best landscape to spot bat-eared foxes and during summer adult foxes can be seen denning with cubs. When you do come across a den, keep your distance, switch of your vehicle’s engine and be very quiet. Try to win the family’s trust and you may be rewarded with a splendid family scene like this one near Union’s End in the Kgalagadi’s north.

Honey badger

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (9)-min

You’re almost guaranteed to see this feisty and stocky little animal in the Orpen, Satara and Tamboti rest camps of Kruger. We regularly cross their paths on the S131 and S51 close to Phalaborwa Gate. In the Kgalagadi, near Leeudril, we were treated to a remarkable sighting: an opportunistic honey badger tried to dig up a Cape fox den to get to the cubs.

Side-striped jackal

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (10)-min

Side-striped jackals might not weigh more than a mere 10 kilograms, but they can take down birds as big as helmeted guineafowls. We were blessed with a sighting of a mother and four pups when spending the night at Kruger’s Sable Dam Hide in December 2016. Since then, we’ve had more sightings on the Sable Dam Loop and the area around the intersection of the H14 with the S131 and S131 west of the H14.

Brown hyena

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (2)-min

Although many claim sightings in Kruger, I’m yet to see photographic evidence. The Kgalagadi is definitely a go-to park and you’ll double your chances when overnighting at Grootkolk or Kieliekrankie. One night at Grootkolk we had seven visit the waterhole in two hours. An early morning drive could also reward. Did you know that brown hyenas are only fully grown at 30 months and their lifespan is at least 16 years?

Roan antelope

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (1)-min

Although roan is usually more elusive in Kruger, we finally bagged a sighting of a lone bull near Mopani Rest Camp in July 2017, and a herd of thirteen south of Mopani on the H1-6 in March 2018. They are also regularly seen in the Babalala area. Roan, the second-largest antelope species in Africa, is most active in the morning and late afternoon.

Small-spotted genet

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (4)-min

We regularly see small-spotted genets when spending a few nights at Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp in Kruger and at Nossob Hide in the Kgalagadi. There’s also a resident lesser-spotted genet at the Kgalagadi’s Urikaruus Wilderness Camp. This one, pictured above, peeped into our bathroom in December 2015.

Porcupine

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (6)-min

Known for their quill-covered bodies, porcupines can be tricky to find – as they are nocturnal, they usually shelter during the day in caves or burrows. One particular Kruger sighting comes to mind when a leopard near Kumana Dam set its sight on one of these rodents. When residing in the Kgalagadi, be sure to get up early if you have hopes of seeing a porcupine. We saw one returning to his burrow with a tuber north of Urikaruus in December 2015, and a mother and youngster north of Leeudril in April 2018.

Bushveld elephant-shrew

Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah (5)-min

This is a difficult animal to find – they are solitary, and males and females only associate for mating purposes. Bushveld elephant-shrews are also challenging to photograph as they rarely sit still to entertain preying eyes. Grootkolk Wilderness Camp in the Kgalagadi is a good place to go in search of these critters. And if you’re not certain which species of elephant-shrew you’re looking at: bushveld elephant-shrews are paler than other elephant-shrews with longer and finer fur.

Why not brag with your #HowWildIsThat sightings? Email your pictures to [email protected] and your pictures could be featured in Wild’s bi-monthly newsletter.

Pictures by Mohammed and Sharifa Jinnah
Additional source: Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa. A Field Guide. Revised and updated by Peter Apps. 2012. Struik Nature.