My wife has been pleading with me to write down some of my stories. To be honest, I really don’t consider myself much of a storyteller at all. And often I shy away from it. Especially when I’m put on the spot, like when people ask me “so what was your scariest moment?” Well, I’ll be honest: many! But to single out the worst is very difficult. For now, let’s just say I’m still in one piece.
Another question people often ask me is: “What has been your best sighting?” To that, I reply “Seeing a sunrise and sunset in the wilderness every day.” I know, very typical, but when it comes to animals, it will have to be my pangolin.
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to see this elusive animal. I heard so many people talk about them and tell me of their sightings. Or mostly of someone they know that has seen one. Many of my colleagues in Kruger that have been here longer than I have, still have not even come close to seeing one.
Once at Berg en Dal I did come close, but sadly that was a dead pangolin. Not much left of it but the hard triangular scales this animal is so well known for. Needless to say, I must have looked like a Looney to the guests. I stood there stroking the scales and murmuring to myself that one day I will see a live one. Especially because I had 4 Japanese ladies who could not speak a word of English on my vehicle.
After a few years of guiding at Berg en Dal, Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie, I got a post at Metsi Metsi Trail east of Tshokwane. It was 2009 and one of the last few trails before we close in December. I was walking with Phillip, an absolute legend and we decided to walk from camp north towards the Lindanda plains. Not far from camp, we found two old buffalo bulls known as daga boys because of their love for mud wallowing in their retired years.
While we looked at them and they looked at us like only daga boys can, something moved in the long grass to my right. I asked Phillip what that was. He immediately assumed it was a honey badger and put his rifle between his legs. This is a good reaction for this kind of ferocious animal, but it did look comical seeing a big man stand like that.
I cautiously went over expecting the worst. And I must say I did think about protecting my self like Phillip, just in case it was a honey badger. When I looked over the long grass it took me a few seconds to realize what I found. And then the dance began…The guests later described it as my pangolin dance!;-)
I called them over and shouted pangolin! About a hundred times I suppose. Phillips face lit up. Of all his years in Kruger, he has also only seen this animal twice. The Buffaloes just stood there chewing the cud and staring at us.
I was immediately trying to explain to my now very confused trailists just how special this was and very soon they realized and joined in on the excitement. I could not get enough of the pangolin! Graciously he did not roll up in a ball at first but stayed stretched out flat on the ground so I could see his face up close; the small snout and tiny dark eyes and the incredible hard scales that become perfect miniatures all the way down its face.
This really was a dream come true, and Phillip was having a great laugh at my excitement. After a while, in slow motion, the pangolin started to roll into a ball. His head pressed to his belly and the amazing tail hard as armour covering the back. He rolled into a perfect ball the size of a basketball.
What a creature! And it just lay there completely still. I looked up at the guests and said I have to kiss it. After probably an hour with the pangolin and many photographs we left it and carried on north.
The Buffaloes were now lying down and chewing the cud. I kept looking back hoping I had made a friend and the pangolin would follow us. But I’m sure he slowly unrolled, looked around cautiously and carried on to find a place to hide for the day.
Well, that was my first campfire story. I hope you enjoyed it! A lot of readers have already voted for Linda’s blog. If you have not voted yet, can I kindly ask you to do so by clicking on the SA Blog Awards Vote icon? Thank you!!
Until we meet around the fire again! Best regards, Steve.