Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The South African Hyena in all it's rude glory

One of my favorite African safari animals has to be the hyena. So interesting and unique. Some things in life can almost be so ugly that they are beautiful. That’s the hyena for me. Every time I see one I am mesmerized. They are almost ugly beyond redemption. Even a little bit mangy. Certainly not the most majestic animal to behold, but they have a powerful beauty about them that will almost hypnotize you into watching their every movement.

On my first safari in 2014 at Thornybush we only encountered two solitary hyenas the entire time. Our guides even searched for them one day. It was frustrating because I really wanted to have a hyena experience. These were the only two we saw and both were quick sightings.

South African hyena


This year we went to Sabi Sabi in South Africa on a four day safari. The hyena was high on my list of animals I wanted to see for sure. Little did I know we would be so lucky. On our very first game drive from the lodge we ran across a beautiful young cheetah happily lounging in the evening sun.


beautiful South African cheetah


Our guides told us it had killed an impala earlier that morning but had lost the kill to a hyena. We sat for several minutes watching the cheetah roll around playfully before heading off. Only minutes later we came across a solitary hyena standing over what was left of the cheetah’s kill.

fat hyena eating imapal



What an incredible sighting. The hyena had pretty much eaten the entire impala over the course of the day. Just look at how fat that fella is! We sat only 20 feet away as this hyena ripped away at what remained of the carcass. Taylor took this awesome video of the encounter.



Soon it was time to leave the hyena to finish its meal and we drove off in awe of what we had seen. First a beautiful cheetah enjoying the afternoon sun and then the fattest hyena on the planet finishing a monster impala meal.

Little did we know there would be more hyenas to be seen over the next couple of safari days! The very next morning we were off on another game drive when we suddenly stopped. In the distance about a hundred yards was another solitary hyena walking. This is where our wonderful guides showed their talents. As the hyena emerged from the creek bed we parked right next to the trail he was taking. Taylor took a video as the hyena walked towards us not really concerned at all about our presence.



The big guy walked straight past our vehicle only feet away and proceeded on his journey. Wow!

There would be more hyenas in our future though. On the evening drive that day we would have our most incredible sighting of the entire trip. We came across a mating pair of leopards. A beautiful male and female which our guides told us had been mating for about a week. Their courtship was coming to an end as the female was almost certainly pregnant according to our guides. The female moved over and decided to take a comfortable spot on a downed tree. The male followed and the was aggressive towards her resulting in quite a fight. (We will save that event for an upcoming story so be in the lookout. It is amazing!)

The fight was so loud that a pair of hyenas in the area had to come see what the raucous was about. They arrived only a minute or two after the leopard’s commotion to inspect the area. The male leopard had taken the perch in the tree from the female and was now sitting there after the female had fled the immediate area. One of the hyenas decided to get right in there and see what was going on.

ugliest hyena in Africa

The courageous hyena moved within feet of the agitated leopard who growled his warning to the hyena. I thought we might see another fight as the male leopard was not happy at all. Thankfully after several seconds the hyena heeded the warning and moved away to a safer spot. Even though this sighting was clearly about the leopards, the quick arrival of the hyenas showed their opportunistic attitude and only enhanced the leopard experience.

One last hyena encounter awaited us on our final day of the Sabi Sabi safari. Once again a solitary hyena walking. We were zooming down one of the main roads on a quest to find the elusive African wild dog when we came across this hyena. It walked right past our big safari Jeep clearly having a more important mission. It paid us almost no mind as it continued its hyena hike.



As you can see over the course of our safari we were lucky enough to have several pretty incredible hyena encounters. The hyena sits high on my list of safari animals. You can have your elephants, giraffes and water buffalo. I’ll take the hyena with all its rude glory.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures and videos. The hyena is fearless and will attempt to steal kills from many other animals

    ReplyDelete