Hyena Encounters in iSimangaliso

Spotted hyena in iSimangaliso, South Africa

‘Tourists come to Africa with this one special sighting in mind, adding it to their South-African bucket list.’ This is how Micahel Botes, ranger at Makakatana Bay Lodge sums up what most of the visitors he’s guided have in mind when on safari. They yearn to spot that one specific special animal to them. And they want to see it up close please.

Spotting one or all of the “Big Five” is often top of the wishlist for many travellers; however, an elusive, opportunistic carnivore also makes it onto many, and for good reason. Enter the hyena.

Spotted hyena

Hyena sightings are relatively rare, and safari goers can consider themselves lucky if they happen to encounter one of these unique creatures during their trip.

Michael describes a very special sighting during a game drive with recent Makakatana guests:

‘On a cold, misty morning we set out for an early morning game drive. This is the most beautiful time of the day as the sun rises to the east, highlighting those enormous sand dunes and slowly passing by some sleeping white rhino males.

After visiting the waterhole with some plain game we decided to drive the board walk road. A nervous herd of wildebeest drew my attention as an owl hooted nearby. I changed my position to the opposite side of the thicket and saw a male hyena 20 meters away from the vehicle. Immediately noticing he had no ears and his body was covered in scars, I understood that he had been abused by the dominant females in the clan for years.

The male sprinted off into the bushveld. I noticed many individual hyena tracks on the sand as well as a very clear blood track on the grass. By now I realised that the hyena had made a kill. The guests and I followed the blood trail down the ridge towards an open field where we found a clan of eight hyenas all feeding on a freshly caught Reedbuck male. The clan did not waste any time; in only 6 minutes the carcass was ripped apart and devoured by the hungry beasts.’