wild facts - sabi sabi private game reserve


Sabi Sabi is situated within a recognised 'hotspot' of biodiversity in South Africa. The reserve supports over 300 species of birds, 47 large mammal species, 57 species of reptile as well as a myriad of smaller animals such as bats, small rodents, amphibians and invertebrates such as spiders, scorpions and insects. It has over 90 species of trees and many more shrubs and grass species.


And while the many visitors from all over the world come to spot the 'Big 5' - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo; just as important are the 'Small 5005' other species.


Bi-monthly, we focus on one of the spectacular creatures that inhabits our beautiful reserve in our 'Wild Facts' section.


monthly bird sightings

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is a bird watcher's paradise with over 350 bird species found on the reserve. Studying the resident birdlife adds a special dimension to any safari and skilled rangers will provide insight into their fascinating world. A bird list featuring which species have been spotted during each month will now be posted on the Sabi Sabi website. - Sabi Sabi Bird List


  • white crested helmet-shrike


    White-crested Helmet-shrikes are common residents on the reserve and are often seen moving around and hunting in family groups. Their most common food sources are moths and caterpillars but they will eat other invertebrates given the chance.


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  • why do hamerkops have such big nests?


    No one really knows, but the nests are really big - with only one breeding pair doing the building. It has been said that the size of the nest may be used as an advertising beacon, letting other Hamerkops know that the area is occupied - this even though Hamerkops do not hold territories and will therefore not defend a specific area.


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  • csi africa (cat spoor identification)


    One of the most fascinating facets of a safari experience is watching the highly skilled trackers interpret the movement of animals from the signs left behind on the sand roads.


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  • water monitor


    The water monitor is one of the most striking members of the Reptile family and is second in size only to the Nile crocodile. Including the tail, large adults can reach lengths of up to nearly 2.5 meters.


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  • urohydrosis


    As we all know the African sun has a reputation for being extremely potent and the animals that live here in the Sabi Sabi Reserve have to somehow cope with this.


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  • elegant grasshopper


    The beauty of this grasshopper is breath-taking, but it should not be taken lightly. Often bright colours in nature are used to show danger and this little insect is no different.


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  • soaring


    The effortless soaring of birds is always intriguing to watch as they glide along with ease, either scanning the ground below for a meal or simply getting from point A to point B.


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  • crab spiders


    The name Crab Spider comes from the fact that these arachnids hold their front two legs together making them look like a crab.


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  • cuckoos


    In the natural world, there is nothing more important than passing on your genetic material. However, parenting, as I'm sure many of you know, is a time consuming job.


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  • the african civet


    The African Civet is an elusive nocturnal creature which is mostly active from two to three hours after dark until midnight.


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  • tree euphorbia


    This cactus-like tree is often mistaken for a cactus but is in actual fact a tree. It has large succulent leaves which are filled with a milky latex.


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  • cheetah


    Often confused with leopards, there are a number of key differences to tell the two cats apart. The cheetah has distinctive black streaks running down its face from the eyes; it has spots as opposed to the rosettes of the leopard and is a lot slimmer than a leopard.


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  • waterbuck


    The trademark white ring around the waterbucks' hindquarters is used as a "follow me" sign. If one of the group spots a predator and runs, the rest know where to follow to avoid becoming dinner for one of the hungry cats.


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  • osteophagia (eating of bones) and other phagias


    The most well-known bone eaters are hyenas. With their powerful jaws, hyenas are able to crush through bone, which is then digested in their incredibly strong stomach acids. The crushing power of their jaws comes from huge jaw muscles which attach to a ridge that runs along the top of the hyenas' skull.


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  • fork-tailed drongo


    These fearless birds have a reputation for being bullies and are known as kleptoparasites. As this name suggests, drongos steal food from other animals, which negatively affects the animal that has had its food stolen.


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  • honey badger


    This ferocious little creature may not be large in stature but it has more heart than most big predators. In fact, honey badgers have been known to chase young lions off kills and have even been recorded killing buffalo, wildebeest and waterbuck.


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  • the secrets behind the big cats' mating


    Both leopards and lions have exactly the same mating rituals which, when averaged out, has them mating every 15 minutes for up to 5 days. This means that if they last a full 5 days, they can mate more than 250 times.


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  • the impala rut


    The noise of the rut can be heard for long distances as the winners proclaim their territories with snorts and growls and chase the other males out.


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  • the impala lily


    It is very hard to explain the reaction of our guests to the beautiful flower as we drive through the bush - suddenly the brilliant pink and white dazzles your eyes as if they have just been opened after a long sleep.


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  • moth sense


    Previously these were thought to be used just for smell and touch but research has shown that moths also use their antennae as a "gyroscope" to stabilise their flight.


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  • talon grappling


    In a place as unforgiving as Africa there are often occasions where animals will compete for territory either with the same or with other species. Birds are no different and will often engage in very elaborate displays to figure out who will stay and who must go.


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  • reptiles at sabi sabi


    Reptiles are cold-blooded (ectothermic), scale covered creatures which occur all over the world with the exception of the Antarctic. The class Reptilia consists of four different orders, of which three can be found at Sabi Sabi: Squamata (snakes and lizards), Crocodylia (crocodiles) and Testudines (tortoises, terrapins and turtles).


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  • frogging at sabi sabi


    Summer nights at Sabi Sabi are filled with a cacophony of song as the nocturnal species begin their extraordinary sound rituals. Once the daily temperatures rise and the rains have begun, the amazing variety of frogs in the bushveld are stimulated to call.


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  • african paradise flycatcher


    Paradise Flycatchers are intra-Africa migrants which are found throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the south-western section. They are well adapted to riverine and open forests, woodlands or savannah habitats, and are regularly found in cultivated gardens in highly populated areas.


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  • the nightjar


    Nightjars are a species of nocturnal or crepuscular birds which are found in most countries of the world except in the Arctic or Antarctic. Nightjars can be found throughout Africa, south of the Sahara in grasslands, forests, woodlands, wetlands or bushveld.


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  • black-bellied bustard


    These birds have distinctive long legs and necks which enable them to see over tall grass. In Afrikaans the Black-bellied Bustard is called the "Langbeenkorhaan" which translates as "long-legged" bustard.


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  • the tamboti tree


    The trees are monoecious, meaning male and female flowers grow separately on the same tree. In this species there are large quantities of golden pollen covered male florets all situated in the top of the tree and a smaller quantity of red female florets growing lower down.


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  • common / blue wildebeest (gnu)


    Wildebeest have a broad muzzle with wide incisor row and loose lips specially adapted for close, rapid bulk feeding on short grass. They favour grass plains covered by colonial grasses which spread by means of rhizomes which carpet the ground and respond to grazing and trampling by means of re-growth.


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  • functional evolution in animals


    Over many eons, several animal species have developed adaptations which enable them to use limbs and other modified appendages on their bodies as "tools". These profound evolutionary changes are all part of the on-going quest for survival.


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  • the serval


    Servals are the most successful hunters of all cat species. Whereas lions and leopards are only successful in taking down prey 3 or 4 times in every 10 attempts, these little cats are able to make a kill 50% of the time.


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  • spider hunting wasp


    All species of spider hunting wasps are solitary, and most species will paralyse their prey after capturing it. Being solitary these wasps don't colonize; they nest alone in crevices or burrows.


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  • side-striped jackal


    The Side-striped jackal is found in West, Central and Southern Africa, except for the most southern part of the continent, and has a wider distribution than its Black-backed cousin. It is found in many different habitats, from game reserve areas, to towns and cultivated farms, in woodland savannah, marshlands and bushveld.


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  • knob-thorn tree


    The Knob-thorn is a slow-growing, medium to tall tree reaching heights of between 8 - 20 metres. It is found growing from the wooded grasslands of the lowveld in Southern Africa to as far north as Tanzania, surviving in many different soil types.


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  • southern ground hornbills


    The Southern Ground Hornbill which can be seen at Sabi Sabi, is a gigantic bird (sometimes referred to as a Turkey Buzzard - although it is neither a turkey nor a buzzard), and is the largest of the hornbill species. It can grow to a height of 130cm, with the males attaining a weight of up to 6 kgs and the females being around 2 kgs lighter.


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  • giraffe


    The scientific name of the giraffe refers to its skin pattern which is reminiscent of a leopard, and its face which somewhat resembles that of a camel. Giraffes are only found on the African continent, from Central to Southern Africa.


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  • tree squirrel


    Smith's Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi), otherwise known as the Yellow-footed Squirrel or in South Africa simply as the Tree Squirrel is found in Central Africa, Eastern Africa and the northern regions of Southern Africa. This species lives in savannah woodland areas, favouring trees with suitable nesting holes.


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  • the leadwood tree


    The Leadwood tree is a very long-lived but slow-growing tree, found from the southern regions of South Africa as far up the continent as Northern Tanzania. There are Leadwood trees at Sabi Sabi which are thought to be nearly a thousand years old.


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  • baboon spiders - part 1


    The Southern African baboon spiders are largely terrestrial and are found in a variety of habitats such as dry acacia scrubland, grassland or savanna woodland. They have powerful jaws and fangs which can loosen soil and excavate burrows.


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  • anting and dust bathing for birds


    Coming back from a safari, one of our rangers was very excited to share video footage where he captured one of the unique behaviours acted out by birds - dust bathing.


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  • puff adder


    In general these are sluggish snakes relying on their camouflage to ambush their prey - birds, amphibians, small mammals and lizards. Their colour varies in shade of brown, black and sometimes yellowish or orange, making them very hard to see on the ground.


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  • how the big ones sleep


    When looking at size and weight, the question is always, how and when do big animals like elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and giraffes sleep.


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  • redbilled oxpeckers


    The redbilled oxpecker is a starling sized-bird. Although it is a fairly plain olive-brown with creamy under-parts, the bird is very easy to identify. Adults have totally red beaks and distinctive yellow rings around their bright red eyes. They have strong legs and long, particularly sharp claws which enable them to cling onto the sides and backs of their hosts at precarious angles.


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  • epauletted fruit bat


    The Southern African fruit bats are mostly frugivorous, meaning fruit-eating. Their diet is largely very ripe soft-fleshed, pulpy fruits such as guavas, mangos, peaches and figs and they will remain in areas close to fruit bearing trees whether in the wild or near cultivated areas.


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  • african wild dog


    Wild dogs weigh between 20-30kgs, with the males being just slightly larger than the females. They have large ears capable of hearing the slightest sound, and excellent eyesight which they need for hunting.


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  • golden orb web spider


    Its size and formidable looks make this one of the most recognisable and easy to identify spider species. Although it is frightening to look at, this spider is non-aggressive and relatively harmless.


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  • mud-wallowing


    Mud-wallows (and their nearby rubbing posts), are found throughout the bushveld, their length of existence directly dependent on the number of animals visiting them on a daily basis.


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  • sycamore fig tree


    The Sycamore Fig species is characterized by a unique pollination system. The trees have a symbiotic relationship with a wasp species from the family Agaonidae, known as a fig wasp.


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  • leopard


    Unless they are the rare, dark melanistic form of the species, leopards are usually a light tawny colour( with dark spots on the head, neck and legs, and with patterns called rosettes over the rest of their bodies.


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  • sausage tree


    The genus name Kigelia Africana is derived from the words kigeli-keia, its name in one of the African languages spoken in Mozambique. The common name is self-explanatory, the fruit looks just like an enormous sausage.


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  • the steenbok


    The species is abundant and common, and can be found throughout Southern Africa, in semi-arid countryside, as well as in savannah bushveld and grassland. They favour areas where they can gain cover and camouflage from shrubs and grasses and are seldom seen in rocky or forested areas.


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  • the marula tree


    The tree is deciduous, and also dioecious, which means it has a specific sex. This lead to an African belief that drinking an infusion of the bark of a male tree would lead to the birth of a boy child, or that of a female tree, to the birth of a girl child.


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  • southern white faced scops owl


    The Southern White-Faced Scops Owl is a smallish owl easily recognizable by its very striking white facial disc, with a border of black plumage.


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  • praying mantis


    In South Africa, the Khoi and San tribes call the praying mantis Hottentotsgot, which means God of the Bushmen.


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  • violet-backed starling


    Less noisy than other starlings, this bird is a monogamous species, and will remain so unless its mate dies.


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  • chacma baboons


    Within the families are males, females and their offspring. Females give birth to a single baby after a gestation period of around 6 months.


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  • lions


    Uniquely for cats, Lions live and hunt in groups, called prides. They have a highly evolved social structure in the pride.


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  • bateleur


    The name Bateleur means "tight-rope walker" in French. This aptly describes its distinctive, erratic and unstable manner of flying.


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  • dung beetles


    The Scarabaeidae are a super-family of tens of thousands of beetles, including the sub-grouping Scarabaeinae, the dung beetle, which on its own has more than 5,000 species.


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  • woodland kingfisher


    It has very bright blue feathers on its back, wing panels and tail, with black shoulders and a white belly.


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  • buffalos


    While old Buffalo bulls can be seen by themselves or in groups of two or three, generally Buffalos are gregarious, moving together in herds that can number in the thousands.


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  • zebra


    Plains zebras are social animals, often seen standing nose to tail mutually grooming each other. They live in small family groups known as harems (colloquially called dazzles).


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  • warthog


    With a flat head and large warts, this is a really unattractive member of the pig family.


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  • southern yellow-billed hornbill


    The yellow-billed hornbill is mainly an omnivorous ground feeder, eating small insects, spiders, seeds and occasionally fruit.


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  • dwarf mongoose


    The dwarf mongoose is a social, diurnal, territorial carnivore, living in groups of as many as 20 members.


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  • lilac breasted roller


    The rollers have a distinctive courtship flight, during which they dive from extreme height, rocking and rolling..


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  • chameleons


    Chameleons are a specialised group of lizards forming the family Chamaeleonidae, which, loosely translated means ground lion.


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  • spotted hyena


    Although hyenas appear fairly similar to dogs, they make up a separate biological family that is more closely related to cats...


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  • elephant


    The gentle giants of the African bush, Elephants can weight up to six tonnes and live upwards of 60 years.


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  • small 5


    The small 5 are those fascinating little creatures in the bushveld with similar names to the real 'Big 5'.


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  • hippopotamus


    The name hippopotamus means "riverhorse" from the Greek words "hippos," meaning horse, and "potamus," meaning river....


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  • impala


    The impala is a gregarious antelope species encountered in large numbers at Sabi Sabi. Impalas have developed a number of adaptations that allow them to thrive.


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  • jupiter


    Jupiter is a massive planet, the largest by far in our solar system - with a diameter 11 times that of the Earth.


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  • klipspringer


    The Klipspringer ('rock jumper' in Afrikaans) is a small African antelope that lives on rocky outcrops from the Cape of Good Hope all the way up East Africa and into Ethiopia


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  • scorpions


    Scorpions are from the class arachnida, and are very closely related to spiders. There are almost 2000 scorpion species, of which only a small percentage have deadly venom.


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  • termites


    Insects, including termites, are the most successful group of living creatures in the world today. Termites are the only insect order in which all species are highly social.


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  • vultures


    Vultures play a very important role in the environment by helping to remove carcasses of animals, which prevents the spread of disease.


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