Aardvarks – just like London buses…

August 27, 2009

You aardly see one for years, and then hundreds come along at once…

It’s truly aard to believe.  Our safari specialist client Expert Africa tells us that Samara Private Game Reserve in South Africa has had a record-breaking amount of aardvark sightings – with over a hundred sightings in the past few months alone. 

This is utterly unprecedented: most professional safari guides in Africa count themselves lucky to have two or three aardvark sightings per year.  Expert Africa’s Managing Director, Chris McIntyre – a multiple Africa-specialist Bradt Guide author and the veteran of 20 years’ worth of sub-Saharan safaris, no less – has still never seen an aardvark!

Theories explaining the sudden surge in aardvark activity abound… the very dry winter is cited as a cause by some experts.  Changes affecting their main foodstuff, termites, could be the reason, suggest others.  A few aardent Africaphiles have even posited excitement over next year’s World Cup in South Africa as the rationale for these unheralded daylight cameos…

The aardvark is a native Africa mammal about the size of a large dog.  Also known as an ‘anteater’ or ‘earth pig’, the aardvark feeds almost exclusively on ants, termites and one solitary fruit: the aardvark cucumber. Considered nocturnal, an aardvark will typically emerge from its burrow shortly after sunset to forage, swinging its long nose from side to side to scent food. It can eat up to 50,000 insects per night with its long, sticky tongue and fast digging skills. Its keen hearing warns it of enemies including lions, leopards, hyenas and pythons.

Samara Private Game Reserve
Samara is a 70,000-acre reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, its landscape featuring tall grass, Acacia trees and scrubland.  As well as aardvarks and their foes, other locals include white rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, monkeys, meerkats and especially cheetahs – the reserve emphasising a cheetah conservation project.  There are also amazing cave paintings and fossils to see.

Richard Mellor