When I was at Phinda, talking with my guide about the animals and birds I hoped to someday see, I mentioned my interest in seeing a pangolin. I don’t recall if he said “It’s never going to happen” or “That won’t happen here” but the message was pretty clear, sightings are incredibly rare (not the first time I had heard that). In fact, from speaking with many guides and trackers, there are lots who spend every day in the bush, and go years without seeing one, if they do get the chance.
Still, I hoped that perhaps one day I would be so lucky.
Fast forward to the very end of my trip, on the last evening game drive. We had been looking for leopard without any success, but still enjoying a lovely warm afternoon in the bush. Radio calls went back and forth, and it was determined that the tracks we had been following and trying to decipher were in fact far older than previously thought. Then another call came in. I know I won’t get the exact wording right, but Dave said something like this to us (with a wild look of excitement on his face) “There’s a really nice, once in a lifetime sighting, but it’s pretty far away. Are you guys interested in going to see a pangolin?” Well, I nearly jumped into the front of land rover to start driving there myself, I was that excited, and regardless if every other member of the group had protested, we were going to that sighting!
When we got there, this pangolin must have been feeling like a rock star. People were out of the vehicles (keeping a respectful distance) taking photos, and the atmosphere was a bit like a party. Vehicles were coming in from all areas of the reserve, and what makes the sighting even more impressive is a guest on another vehicle actually spotted the pangolin, not the ranger or tracker!
The sighting was also wonderful as we ran into Freddie, our tracker from our previous visit, and had a few minutes to catch up 🙂
In case you have never heard of a pangolin before, here is a bit more information:
And now for the photos! To save captioning everyone with the note “Not the best quality”; unfortunately for the photography aspect, the afternoon rapidly turned from beautiful to overcast, then by the time we stopped for a sundowner, lightning was beginning to play across the sky. I’ve done the best I could with editing to show the amazing texture of the scales, as the light just wasn’t there. It honestly doesn’t matter though – I saw one 🙂