The Pangolins are peculiar African and Asian mammals. Their bodies are covered with hard scales and they can curl up into a cute little ball in a defensive moment. Unfortunately they also have the title of world’s most trafficked animal. The name comes from a Malay word “penggulung”, meaning “one that rolls up”.

Once they have rolled up into a ball, it’s impossible to penetrate their sturdy scale shell. They look like something from a cartoon with a small head, long snout and surprisingly long tongue. Pangolins eat ants which they extract from inside the nests with their handy long tongue. Another name for this quirky little animal, is a scaly anteater. Depending on the species, Pangolins are between 40 to 50cm long, weighing on average about 1.5kg to 12kg. The Giant Pangolin weighs about 33kg.

#1 The Pangolin Endangered Stats

In total there are eight species, four African and four Asian. According to fossil discovery it’s speculated they may have originated in Europe. All eight Pangolin species are threated. They are listed in the IUCN Red List.

Species Scientific Name Endangered Status
Chinese Pangolin Manis Pentadactyla Critically Endangered
Indian Pangolin / Thick-Tailed Pangolin, Manis Crassicaudata Endangered
Sunda Pangolin / Malayan Pangolin Manis Javanica Critically Endangered
Philippine Pangolin, Manis Culionensis Endangered
Tree Pangolin / White-Bellied Pangolin, Phataginus Tricuspis Vulnerable
Long-Tailed Pangolin / Black-Bellied Pangolin, Phataginus Tetradactyla Vulnerable
Giant Pangolin / Giant Ground Pangolin Smutsia Gigantica Vulnerable
Cape Pangolin / Ground Pangolin / Temminck’s Ground Pangolin / South African Pangolin / Steppe Pangolin Smutsia Temminckii Vulnerable

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#2 One of a Kind

Pangolins are the only mammals covered in scales. Their closest cousins are carnivores. The Pangolin is covered in sharp, overlapping scales from head to tail. The only areas uncovered are the sides of its face, inner legs, throat and tummy. These scales keep growing in the same way as hair. While they are digging and burrowing, the scales are ground down and then regrow again. The scales contain keratin, found in human fingernails. They make up 20% of the Pangolin’s body weight.

But many people around the world believe that the Pangolin scales hold special magical powers, even though they are basically the same as fingernails. In 2017 the Cameroon government confiscated 8 tonnes of Pangolin scales. That means about 15 000 animals were killed to harvest their scales.

#3 Carrying a Shield on Their Back

Pangolin scales are excellent to protect the little creatures from predators. There are very few hunters that can penetrate their shield of armour. It’s only the big cats that can take a shot at attacking a Pangolin such as a leopard, lion, or tiger. Hyenas sometimes succeed in breaking through the scales. Oftentimes the predators simply give up after a few attempts.

#4 Adaptations for Survival

Pangolins are professional ant hunters. They use their specialized noses to find the ants, sniffing out the underground ant hills. Once they start attacking an ant colony, they are able to close their nostrils and ears to prevent a counter-attack from the ants. This is done with the help of strong muscles, specially adapted to provide this skill.

#5 The Boniest Tail in All the World

Another unique body trait of the Pangolin, are their bony tails. They can boast with more vertebrae in their tails than any other animal. A few of the Pangolin species also use their tails to climb trees, and it can support almost its full bodyweight. These include the Indian, Philippine, and Sunda Pangolins. The tree-living Pangolin has a semi-prehensile tail. The females can also use their tails for carrying baby Pangolins. The black-bellied Pangolin wins the prize with 46 or 47 tail vertebrae.

Top 10 Amazing Facts about Pangolins

Photo by BCM Class Blog

#6 A Sneaky Tongue

The Pangolin’s tongue is longer than its body and head! It is attached close to the pelvis, at the end of its ribs. This body feature is engineered to make them excellent ant hunters. Some Pangolin tongues can measure more than 40cm when fully extended.

#7 Another Unique Defence Mechanism

Pangolins use another tactic to deter other predators from showing an interest in them. They have a nasty smell similar to a skunk. It’s secreted from little glands near the anus. It is used both as a defence mechanism and to mark territory.

#8 Interesting Eating Habits

These intriguing little creatures don’t have any teeth. So Pangolins can’t munch their food properly. To counter this, they regularly swallow a few stones. Their stomachs are lined with keratinous spines and the swallowed stones then assist with the grinding of the food. This technique works similar to the gizzard of a bird.

Top 10 Amazing Facts about Pangolins

Photo by National Geographic Blog

#9 Versatile Travellers

Although many Pangolin species only live on solid ground, there are a few that traverse across land, trees, as well as water. They are very good swimmers. The Pangolin’s semi-prehensile tail works well to grip onto tree bark, as well as help with steering in the water.

#10 Build for the Hunt

Pangolins have sharp little claws, boasting with three per foot. These handy tools help them to tear an ant or termite hill apart, and also assist the tree dwelling Pangolins with better climbing skills.

When is World Pangolin Day?

On the third Saturday of February each year people across the world celebrate these curious creatures. World Pangolin Day was created to make people more aware of the plight of these little critters.

The African Wild Dogs are oftentimes misunderstood. There are only about 5 000 left in the wild, putting them on the critically endangered list. They are very effective predators, with an 80% hunting success rate, in comparison with the 30% success rate of lions.

Here are a few interesting facts about the illusive animals.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs

#1 Peculiar Physique

The scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “the painted wolf”. It refers to their multi-coloured fur, painted with yellow, brown, black and white spots. The dappled fur serves as a unique fingerprint for each dog, no two patterns are alike. The African Wild Dogs boast with a potent bite, their specialised molars evolved to give them the ability to effortlessly break bones and shear meat off a carcass.

They have a set of killer senses with excellent sight, smell and hearing. The dog’s large rounded ears can be swivelled around like radars because of the numerous muscles. Their long legs and a lean shape turns the dogs into formidable hunters. They also boast with rapid muscle recovery.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs 1

#2 Dynamic Social Hierarchy

The African Wild Dogs are truly a social pack. They operate with a very altruistic system. As with all pack animals, the dogs operate under a strict hierarchy. The alpha breeding pair rule over the other subordinate pack members. Once new pups arrive on the scene, they are prioritized, even above the alphas. When they are old enough to fend for themselves, they join the hunting party, with first choice of the spoils. This ranking system ensures that they rarely fight about food.

If a member of the pack falls ill, is injured or elderly, and is unable to be effective as a hunter – the rest of the pack takes care of it. An example of this remarkable altruistic system was seen in Botswana. An alpha female lost a foreleg during a hunt. In any other animal pack system, it would have been a death sentence. But she remained top of the pack for a few years after the incident, still breeding and raising pups. Her pack took care of her.

#3 Nomadic Animals

The African Wild Dogs can travel up to 50km in a day. This means they have huge territories that can range between 400 to 1 500 square kilometres. The only time they remain in one area, is during denning.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

#4 African Wild Dogs Have Good Coordination

Their high hunting success rate is mainly attributed to their well-coordinated nature, as well as working together as a pack. Communication is very important and during a hunt they constantly update each other about their location as well as that of the prey. The excellent teamwork of the African Wild Dogs and their high intelligence give them the ability to adapt to scenario changes during their hunt.

#5 Agile Hunters

Most African predators rely on their stealth to hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have other tricks up their sleeves. They are streamlined for high stamina chases. The hunt usually starts with the pack forming a line, to better move and cover ground. When the prey has been targeted, the dogs will start to approach and test the defences, pinpointing a weak target.

When the target is secured, they will start to threaten the herd and force it to separate. Next, the chase begins, focusing on the targeted animal. The pack will enclose the animal, blocking any escape routes. They start operating like an Olympic cycling team. If the dog at the head of the chase starts tiring, it will pull back, and another dog will take its place. The prey eventually becomes too exhausted to continue, a few kilometres into the hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have excellent stamina and teamwork on their side, and the take down happens effortlessly.

Another tactic they use, is to force a herd towards a source of water, such as a river or lake. In Africa large bodies of water means lurking crocodiles, and most African wildlife are afraid of venturing into deep water. Sometimes the prey is brave and takes the chance of diving into the water. But mostly they panic and turn back towards the pursuers. Other times the African Wild Dogs use a tactic borrowed from lions, with one hunter flushing out the prey and driving it words the others awaiting ambush.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

Photo by Flickr

#6 Few Natural Enemies

In the African wild, only lions are the African Wild Dogs’ main threat. A high population of lions means a low population of the dogs. Not many other predators are a threat to them. The hyenas will try to steal their kill, but won’t deliberately hunt the adult pack members.

Humans, on the other hand, are a very real threat to the African Wild Dogs. Although there are no concrete evidence to support the belief, they are seen as pests. Only in desperate times would they attack livestock. And till this day, there are no noted incidents in Africa of wild dog attacks on humans. But because farmers see them as vermin, they shoot the dogs when they see them near their livestock. And sometimes they will even track them down and poison the whole pack.

Other threats they have to deal with include diseases like rabies, which they usually contract from domestic animals. Because they are such social animals, one rabid wild dog will infect the whole pack, wiping it out entirely.

#7 The African Wild Dog Is Crepuscular

This means they are mostly active at twilight, the period before dawn and again after dusk. This is the best time for the African Wild Dogs to pursue their prey because it’s the time they are most active. And the darkness gives them the upper hand to hunt effectively, perfectly camouflaged because of their dappled fur. This has a two-fold advantage, hiding them from both their prey and predators.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs Pups

#8 Strong Focus on Relationship Values

The alpha pair remains monogamous and are usually the only ones to breed within the pack. Sometimes a beta pair will also produce a litter, but then they are either adopted or killed by the alpha pair. A litter can range between 4 to 12 pups.

They have an unusual tradition of the sexually maturing males staying within the pack territory. And the mature females will travel far and wide in search of a potential mate. This is a great countermeasure against inbreeding.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

Photo by African Sky

#9 Strange Genetics

Although the ancient ancestor of the African Wild Dogs is the wolf, they are no longer genetically compatible with any other canid. So unlike domesticated dogs that can be subjected to selective breeding, this is not possible with their wild counter parts.

They used to populate the whole African continent but are now limited to South and East African countries. Their population density is most in the Selous Game Reserve and Okavango Delta. The East African wild dogs are a little smaller than the South African dogs. There are five subspecies, namely the East African wild dog, the West African wild dog, the Chadian wild dog, the Somali wild dog, and the Cape wild dog.

#10 Can’t Be Domesticated

For centuries people have tried to tame the African Wild Dogs, but without luck. They remain naturally distrusting of people, or in fact of any animals outside the pack. Domesticated dogs have certain characteristics in common, including a willingness to be touched by a person. Combined with curiosity and pure luck, humans were able to domesticate dogs. But African Wild Dogs remain weary of humans, and will most likely remain undomesticated.

The lives of the legendary lions of Sabi the Sands read like the script for a soapie. A thirst for power, brutal techniques to gain it, betrayal among siblings, and unexpected take-overs from the rivals. Below a video series, following the journey of the famous lions of the Sabi Sands.You will be surprised to discover how much these magnificent wild beasts have in common with humans. See the behind the scenes of life in the African jungle.

Lions and Elephants are both members of the Big 5.Lions are strong, carnivorous predators that usually hunt in co ordinated prides to bring their prey, although they can hunt and kill when alone.Elephants are the largest land mammal in existence today, they are massive herbivores that operate in complex family structures called herds. These herds usually led by a matriarch ( female leader ). Elephants can often be encountered on their own either as loan bull or during a temporary foray away from the herd.

The infamous Mapogo Lions of the Sabi Sands have become legends in their own right due to their impressive dominance of the area for 6 years, but also because of the violent and shocking way that they gained control of their territory and held it over the following years.

Did you know that the famous waterfall has a little town tucked away close by, with the same name? In Lozi ( the local dialect ) the falls are called “The Smoke that Thunders” and thousands of people flock to admire the magnificent waterfall every year. It’s 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high, creating a majestic sight to behold.

If you’ve travelled to Zimbabwe to admire the waterfall, and you’re staying over at one of the fantastic Victoria Falls hotels, there’s a lot of other activities to indulge in after you’ve seen (and felt) the thunderous waters. We’ve gathered the Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls for you.

#1 Zambezi River White Water Rafting

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls - White Water Rafting

Not only can you stand and admire the Victoria Falls, you can also ride the “waves” created by it. Below the falls the Zambezi River offers you top-notch white water rafting opportunities. It’s some of the best in the world. There are 24 thrilling rapids to conquer. Right after the falls lies an intense stretch of the river with a channel of high volume water. A truly unforgettable experience!

Average cost: US$ 120 p/p

Suggested companies: Wild Horizons or Shearwater

#2 Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jump Victoria Falls Top 10 Things To Do In Victoria Falls

If you don’t like the idea of the water slapping you in the face on a raft, why not get your adrenaline shot from jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge? It is 111 metres high, guaranteed to give you the thrill of a lifetime.

Average Cost: US$ 160 p/p

Suggested Companies: Shearwater Bungee

#3 Swim in Devil’s Pool

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls - Devils Pool

Another option if you like being adventurous, but still prefer to stay on the safe side of thrill seeking. The rocky bathing pool is on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls and offers an extremely unique swimming opportunity. With the assistance of a local guide you can scoot to the edge of the pool to stand in awe of the 108m drop. But beware, the water is quite icy.

Average Cost: US$ 110 – 175 p/p

Suggested Companies: Victoria Falls Guide (official tour guide provider of Devil’s Pool swims)

#4 A Guided Tour of Victoria Falls

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

The waterfall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore on your own, but a guided tour can give you the inside scoop on interesting little-known facts, delving into the history of the Falls. There are various viewpoints along the way to admire the waterfall from different angles.

Average Cost: US$ 23 p/p (excl. US$30 National Parks fee)

Suggested Companies: Visit Victoria Falls or Shearwater

#5 Tiger Fishing on the Zambezi River

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

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Tiger Fish are feisty little buggers, ranking among the top fighting fish in the world. Sit next to the Zambezi River, soaking up the serene surroundings, awaiting a bite, and then get ready to work hard to haul out one of these mighty fish. In the fast-flowing waters of the Zambezi, they can grow to weigh up to 10kg, with the smallest ones weighing around 2kg.

Average Cost: US$ 145 p/p

Suggested Companies: compare packages on Tiger Fishing Zambezi

#6 A Sunset Cruise

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

Watching the sun sink below the horizon from the leisure of a riverboat is a once in a life time experience. With the thunderous falls in the background, you can enjoy the constant flow of the river pushing you along while you soak up the vibe.

Average Cost: US$ 55 – 85

Suggested Companies: Wild Horizons or Raikane

#7 Historical Tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

Photo by Ilala Lodge

Challenge your tolerance for heights to learn more about the great architectural feat bridging the gap between the two sides of the river. The tour includes walking along the catwalks below the bridge, which were used in the construction process. The informative presentation will leave you with a greater appreciation of the formidable bridge.

Average Cost: US$ 65

Suggested Companies: Pure Africa Experiences or Shearwater

#8 High Tea at Victoria Falls Hotel

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

A visit to the Victoria Falls Hotel will transport you back to colonial times. Sip tea and pretend you are one of the early explorers of the country. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to indulge in the tea drinking ceremony. It’s not every day that your cup of tea is accompanied by a view of one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the world. Keep an eye out for the rainbows forming in the spray. The High Tea is hosted from 3 to 5PM.

Average Cost: dependent on menu selection

Suggested Companies: Victoria Falls Hotel

#9 Flight of Angels

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

Another great safe thrill-seeking option. Experience the Victoria Falls from a completely different angle, soaring about the roaring waters. David Livingstone coined the saying after writing about the area, “a sight so wonderful that Angels must have gazed down on it in flight”. The helicopters used for the aerial exploration have a special structure that offers each passenger unhindered views of the formidable falls. There are 15- and 30-minute flights available throughout the day.

Average Cost: US$ 150 – 290 (excl. US$15 National Park Fees)

Suggested Companies: Zambezi Helicopters or Wild Horizons

#10 Local Village Tour

Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Falls

When you are visiting a foreign country, it’s great to immerge yourself in its culture. The area around the Victoria Falls is rich with fascinating history, stories date back to over 700 years. The local guides will give you a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who call this area home. Try the local cuisine and learn more about the traditions of the communities staying close to the waterfall.

Average Cost: US$ 50

Suggested Companies: Wild Horizons or Pure Africa Experiences

If you are pausing at the O.R Tambo International Airport during your travels, you don’t have to stay stuck at the airport. The Gautrain is a great way to travel to the city from the airport. The airport is situated 25km (15.53 mi) from the city centre. This great train service can help you to travel quicker into the city, without worrying about traffic.

We’ve got a few ideas for you to consider during your layover, depending on how much time you have available between your flights.

Using the Gautrain to Travel into the City

You will need to buy a travel card, costing R16, to use the train. You can top up your card at the various stations. The Gautrain station is situated at the top of the airport, above the International Arrivals hall. To use the train to Sandton, it will cost you R158, to the Rosebank and Park stations it costs R170.

During peak hours (Monday to Friday from 06:00 to 08:30, and 15:30 and 18:00) the train departs every 10 minutes. During off-peak times it departs every 20 minutes. On weekends and public holidays the train departs every 30 minutes

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Luggage Storage at the O.R Tambo International Airport

While you are exploring the city, you don’t want to be lugging your baggage along. If you are switching airlines, rather book your luggage in at A-Teck and collect before your departure. Their rates are R70 for up to 5 hours, R80 for 5 to 12 hours, and R90 for 12 to 24 hours.

3 Hours

The Gautrain is your best option for travelling quickly, without worrying about getting stuck in the city traffic. If you are adventurous and don’t mind rushing a bit, you can use it to go explore one of the Johannesburg malls. There are two options for you, the Sandton City mall (travel time with the train, 29 minutes, one way) or the Rosebank mall (travel time with the train, 35 minutes, one way)

At the Sandton City mall you can get a great selfie with the 20 foot tall bronze Nelson Mandela statue in the Nelson Mandela Square. It’s a 10 minute walk from the Gautrain station to the mall. The Rosebank mall is located closer to the Gautrain station. There is a Starbucks located 10 minutes’ walk from southern exit of the station.

nelson mandela square What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

Photo by Pathfinda

5 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 48 minutes (one way)
Tour prices: from R80 to R100

This gives you a bit more leeway with your travel time in and out of the city. You can visit Constitution Hill from the Gautrain Park Station. It’s a 20 minute walk, or you can take an Uber. View the South African Constitutional Court and the old military fort which was also a prison. A few of the famous prisoners that spend time here include Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. There are guided tours of the Old Fort, courthouse, Women’s Jail, and Number Four. You can also do a self-guided tour using the app. This is a great place to learn more about the challenging political history of South Africa.

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constitution hill What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

Alternative Option

Travel time from the airport: 1 hour 13 minutes (one way)
Entrance Fees: R55 (kids) | R90 (adults)

Another great activity in the city, is the Johannesburg Zoo. You will be travelling with the train and the bus to reach it, with a 20 minutes’ walk from the bus stop. Alternatively, you can Uber from the Rosebank Gautrain station, which will take you 10 minutes. This option will shorten your travel time with about half an hour. The zoo was founded in 1904 and covers 55 hectares of land.

7 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 56 minutes (one way)

We all know shopping and restaurant hopping always takes longer than expected, so with a bit more time at your disposal, a trip to Maboneng is the perfect activity for your layover in Johannesburg. This gentrified neighbourhood buzzes with art and culture inspiration. It will give you a great feel for the Joburg city life. Pop in at the curio shops to buy the ultimate African souvenir. Grab some local cuisine at Pata Pata or mix it up at Mama Mexicana. Finish it off with a rooftop cocktail at Living Room for epic panoramic views of the city.

Alternative Option

Travel time from the airport: 57 minutes (one way)

Experience a different side of the city, with a more laidback suburbia feel at 44 Stanley. From the Park Gautrain Station, you will be taking the bus, and then walking about 10 minutes to reach it. Alternatively you can Uber from the Park station, which will take about 15 minutes. It’s a mixture of downtown urbanism and subtle sophistication. There’s a wide variety of restaurants to choose from including chic coffee shops, fine dining, and fancy fast food. The restaurants are complemented by various bespoke stores from stylish clothes, to quirky gifts and books. All of these are tucked away in little courtyard nooks, with olive trees as well as a central fountain feature.

44 stanley What to Do on a Layover at the Johannesburg International Airport

12 Hours

Travel time from the airport: 35 minutes (one way)

The City Sightseeing Johannesburg tour starts at the Rosebank mall. After you’ve travelled with the Gautrain to the Rosebank station, you can join the tour from @ The Zone. You can also buy bus tickets at the airport to save time. This is a great way to soak up the city vibe, from the comfort of the famous red double-decker tour bus, seen in various major cities across the world. There are two tour routes to choose from, the Green Suburbs Loop or the Red City Tour Loop. If you have enough time, you could do both. Stops include Zoo Lake, the Military Museum, Constitution Hill, Apartheid Museum, SAB World of Beer, and more. You can also opt to do a township tour of Soweto.

Alternative Option

If you prefer to rather dictate your own tour through the city, you can contact Explore Sideways. They specialise in special curated immersive tours. You can choose to book their Johannesburg Bucket List tour, or request your own customized tour. The Bucket List tour includes a walking tour of the artsy Maboneng Precinct, plus a visit to HAZARD Gallery and The Cosmopolitan to view inspiring contemporary African art. Next more shopping and lunch at the trendy 44 Stanley, before heading over to Victoria Yards, a uniquely integrated urban complex. And the tour ends with the Keyes Art Mile of Rosebank with famous galleries such as Everard Read, Circa, SMAC, Gallery MOMA and more.

If you’ve fallen in love with the bushveld after an African safari experience, why not consider a career in the safari industry? This growing tourism field offers exciting opportunities for those with a passion for nature. Combine that with a personality which easily connects with people, and you are set for an exciting career in the African wild!

Many people have questions about the difference between a National Park,, a private game reserve and private concessions when they are planning their first African safari experience.