The Thornybush Guide to The Shy Five

Once you’ve stayed with us at Thornybush for a few days, you are likely to have ticked the Big Five off your list. That means it’s time for the real challenges to begin. Your South African safari isn’t complete until you’ve at least tried to track down the Shy Five too. There are no guarantees, though, as some of these creatures make leopards look like extroverts.

Banded Mongoose

Let’s start with the easiest one first. While banded mongooses are common in most areas of Eastern South Africa they aren’t as easy to find as they should be.

These slinky little creatures are as quick as a flash and difficult to spot unless you are lucky enough to see them foraging out in the open for beetles and millipedes. Unlike most members of the mongoose family, banded mongooses live in colonies of up to 40 individuals, with a complex social structure. They hole up in dens, usually old termite mounds, in the evenings.

The Porcupine

Porcupines are common in Southern Africa, but few people have encountered them in person during a South African safari. This is mainly due to their nocturnal habits. We’ve got this covered on our night drives and we do come across them rattling along from time to time.

Porcupines are notorious for their defensive tactics which involve raising their sharp quills and reversing into their adversaries. Few animals will attempt to tackle one of these well-armed rodents more than once.

The Aardvark

The aardvark is one of the most interesting looking creatures in Africa. They appear to have been concocted out of a rabbit, piglet and kangaroo parts and have an insatiable appetite for termites.

Another night-time operator, aardvarks spend their days holed up in their burrow. They are rarely seen but it’s worth going the extra mile to find these fascinating mammals and we do very occasionally encounter them on night or early-morning game drives.

Side-Striped Jackal

The side-striped jackal is larger than it’s black-backed relative with a silver sheen to its coat. As the name suggests, the jackal has a distinct black stripe running along its body and a white-tipped tail. They are highly territorial, so your best shot at seeing one is on a guided game drive with a ranger who is familiar with the ranges of animals in the area.

Large Spotted Genet

It’s a pity that we don’t get to see these little nocturnal cat-like animals more as they are a particularly attractive species. Their sleek coats are ash-grey with irregular brown spots and a black stripe along the spine. During the day, large spotted genets rest high up in the trees, emerging at night to hunt for small mammals, birds, snakes and frogs on the ground.

The large spotted genet differs from the small spotted genet in two main ways. The large spotted genet has a black-tipped tail and a rust-coloured centre to its spots. The small spotted genet has a white tail tip and black spots.

Expand Your Safari Experiences

Book your South African safari with Thornybush and our field guides will do their best to help you discover the shy five, another one of Africa’s collections of Famous Five animals.

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