Bush walks are different to vehicle-based safaris, in that they are intended to draw attention to some of nature’s smaller features, like interesting plants and animal signs.
Of course, one may come across a great animal sighting on the way, which is not an unwelcome outcome!
A recent bush walk stands out in particular for me. It was a beautiful sunny morning. We left Marataba Mountain Lodge at 6:30am to depart on a Trails Experience bush walk.
A few hours into the walk, we came across a small group of white rhinos. The white rhinoceros is generally more docile than its relative the black rhino, and can be approached more safely on foot than other members of the Big Five.
Watching these giants from the ground is an incredible experience, so with conditions in our favour, we made an approach. We got to a safe viewing point and looked onward in silence.
Then in a flash, an animal darted out beside us, giving everyone a fright.
When walking out there, the last thing you want is to be surprised by an unknown animal catching you unawares past you!
Luckily, this animal couldn’t do us any harm and was actually running away from us. As it turned out, we had stopped right in front of a bat-eared fox burrow!
We had unknowingly disturbed it, and it was making a run for safety. Then a second one sprinted out, while a third popped its head out of the burrow.
Once about 20 metres away, a distance that they felt comfortable with, the two stopped to have a look at us. It seemed they were as surprised to see us as we were to see them.
Bat-eared foxes are nocturnal so they are unusual to see during the day, and especially on foot.
They are one of the unique species at Marataba that aren’t commonly seen on most reserves in South Africa.
They occur in arid areas and are well-suited to Marataba’s open plains. The Bat-eared fox is easily distinguishable by their large ears, which they use to pick up the sound of insects moving underground.
The ears also play a large role in visual communication, which is important to them as a highly social species. Unlike most other canids, Bat-eared foxes have an unusual diet and feed primarily on termites.
Words by: Field Guide Nick Nieuwenhuizen
Photo by: Charlotte Arthun