Many of us dream of fantastic sightings of the Big Five while on safari. However, it’s often the smaller, rarer or lesser known fauna and flora that can create the most excitement – and of course fabulous memories. 

Here are just a few examples of some of these animals and birds that, if fortunate, you might see while on safari at Kavinga. 

The pangolin

On two occasions our team has been lucky enough to see a pangolin. While unbelievably rare to see in the wild, we occasionally spot their tracks when out on bush walks. We’re so grateful to have some of these threatened animals living on the concession. 

Did you know that the pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world? The name pangolin comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’ which means ‘roller’. And this is exactly what pangolins do when threatened: they roll into a tight ball. 

Pangolin among autumn leaves on Kavinga concession

Amazing sighting of a pangolin among the autumn leaves (© Siraaj Gardner)

See more photos of our two pangolin sightings on Facebook: sighting one and sighting two.

The porcupine

The porcupine is one of our favourite nocturnal animals. If you’re patient, and a little lucky, you might be treated to a sighting of one drinking at the pan after dark. Africa’s largest and heaviest rodent, the name porcupine comes from the Latin for ‘quill pig’ – no guesses needed for why! 

The aardvark

Dylan, our head guide, has been lucky enough to see aardvark a few times in the past few months. These fascinating animals are a rare and special sighting. Did you know that aardvarks can grow to the size and weight of an average human?

Watch a video of Dylan’s most recent aardvark sighting.

The African Pitta

The African Pitta is a strikingly vivid and beautiful bird, but their shyness and preference for dense thickets makes them extremely elusive. To spot them you need good local knowledge, an ear for their distinct ‘pleep’ call (which is only made before they pair up to breed), and lots of patience. Fortunately for us, several pittas choose the Kavinga concession as their breeding spot at the start of the rainy season. Visiting camp in November offers a good opportunity to tick this lifer off your list. 

An African Pitta standing on a branch in a tree

These birds are notoriously difficult to photograph (© Mitch Riley)

Read more about Mitch’s experience spotting this pitta on Facebook.

You could also see…

There are various other ‘smaller’ nocturnal animals you have a chance of seeing at Kavinga. For example, the african wild cat, large-spotted genet, civet, white-tailed mongoose, honey badger and side-striped jackal to name a few. On one very special occasion we even spotted a serval. 

Cheetah are quite rare in Mana Pools National Park. We’ve had a few special sightings of cheetah over the past couple of years, including a mom with two sub-adult cubs and two cheetah having a face-off with Venus the leopard. (Watch the video of cheetah vs leopard on Facebook). 

Finally, packs of the endangered african wild dog (also known as the painted dog) pass through the concession relatively frequently. These active, playful, and social animals are always a very special sighting. Watching them hunt is also quite incredible. 

Wild dogs lying and sitting in the sun

It’s always exciting to see african wild dogs (© Clyde Elgar)

Whether it’s the thrill of seeing lions, leopards, elephants or buffalo, the chance of spotting a wild dog or cheetah, or the challenge of seeing some of the nocturnal and/or rarer birds and mammals, Kavinga offers plenty of great safari opportunities. 

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Guides at Kavinga sitting on river bank watching elephant grazing in dry riverbed