The majority of safari lodges within the Great Kruger region have a story to tell about wildlife entering the grounds of their lodge. We’ve heard a few tall tales in our time, a couple of old wives tales and a few legend campfire stories told by the ancients of the bushveld. We’ve heard stories of leopards strolling along meandering pathways joining rooms, lions chilling on the balcony, wild dogs trotting through lodge grounds and elephants uprooting water pipes. Oh, there are stories – and plenty of them. Some of these narratives are hair raising, while others nothing short of endearing. Whether it’s a budget safari lodge or one catering for five star discerning guests, one thing’s for certain – we cannot control wildlife behaviour! They type of wildlife you’ll spot on the grounds of your safari lodge is mostly dependent on whether or not the camp/lodge is fenced off from the traverse.
We’ve compiled a list of most commonly spotted species spotted on the grounds of a Kruger safari lodge. Obviously, sightings are not limited to this list and each destination probably has its own popular species.
You’ve been warned ! Honey badgers gained popularity in mainstream media for being tough, powerful and cheeky animals. Their “short and stout” body combined with their bumbling ways makes them look quite adorable. Do not be fooled. This Ratal species sleeps off cobra venom, waltzes through lion prides and fears nothing. They’re comical and fierce; and they love nothing more than to come into camp grounds, often providing much entertainment for guests. They’ll climb fences, scale walls and walk under things just to get what they want. Their resilience and appetite for mayhem is actually quite admirable.
Honey badgers are the reason why guides warn against keeping food in your rooms and leaving doors open. The bumbling badgers will seek out food and scraps; which is why you’ll often see them close to kitchens areas in lodges.
When you’re sitting around the campfire in the boma area you might hear scurrying – this is probably a honey badger ! They tend to cruise the lodge grounds after sunset. We’re pretty sure that your guide will beguile you tales of badgers sleeping on deck chairs, on tables and inform you of their general amusing and pesky behaviour.
A number of lodges have elephant fences surrounding the grounds, designed to keep the giant pachyderms at bay. But there are some lodges that are unfenced – this means wildlife can roam freely throughout. Elephants are seekers of pristine water and will travel miles to find the perfect source of water. Coupled with this, they’re also creatures of habit and one of the most intelligent and emotive of the big five. When a herd realises that a lodges’ swimming pool can double as a waterhole, they tend to return to the same spot year after year during the drier months, even at the same time of day.
Elephants are notorious for slurping up gallons of water in a single sitting, which means they’re quite capable of depleting a small splash pool of water within a short space of time. The water doesn’t harm their system and elephants need to drink daily because of the bulk vegetation they digest. They are most certainly the water-babies of the Lowveld !
Watching the herds jostling at the swimming pool while you sit on the balcony is probably one of the most unforgettable moments of your safari experience. Seeing elephants at a lodge swimming pool is considered lucky, but certainly not a rarity.
The adorable genets are small cat-like creatures with pointed muzzles, spotted fur and lean bodies. They are largely nocturnal and tend to hang around in trees, seeking out their next carnivorous meal. Genets tend to actually eat anything that crosses their path which is you’ll find them encroaching on human settlements. If you look up while sitting in a boma area, try to spot their glowing eyes penetrating the darkness. They’re solitary and quiet creatures so listen carefully for signs of these refined creatures.
Look up for genets, and down for badgers !
Lodges with manicured lawns you’ll often find a sounder of warthog grazing on the grounds. This pig has adapted to both savannah and grazing habitats, and thrives on a diet consisting mainly of grass, fruit, berries, roots and insects. They’re quite skittish, rotund little things that tend to dart everywhere. Their upright, radar-style tail is the perfect “follow me” sign for the youngsters in the group. You’ll often see them darting off to their homes, which are normally in abandoned termite mounds and aardvark burrows. Foraging on the grounds of a lodge is a bit safer than out there in predator kingdom!
Annoyingly cute, the vervet monkey is slight and slender furry grey monkey that loves to spring around the grounds of most lodges. They can be painful at times and will think nothing of grabbing the garnish from your drink, staling your snacks and bolting up a tree with “said” items. They’re often the main source of entertainment at any lodge.
Other commonly spotted creatures include nyala, bushback and a variety of other plains game.