Many people planning a trip to Africa want to see African wildlife first and foremost. You’ve probably heard of the African Big 5—the most dangerous mammals to meet on foot on safari—and maybe even the Little 5. But have you heard of the Elusive 11? These (mostly) nocturnal animals are some of the hardest to spot. Don’t put your camera away when the sun goes down! Shots of the Elusive 11 are a rare treat on your safari in Africa.
The aardvark is an incredibly well adapted nocturnal creature. It almost looks like a small kangaroo, but with a snout like a pig. (“Aardvark” is Afrikaans for “earth pig.”) Its powerful paws act like shovels to burrow for termites, the aardvark’s preferred meal. The nostrils of its snout seal up as it burrows to prevent dirt getting inside, and its long, curled tongue reaches into small crevices to find insects. Because they hole up during the day and forage at night, aardvarks are difficult to find on an African safari.
The aardwolf is a strange looking creature, with the face of a dog, the body of a cat, and the stripes of a zebra. It’s actually related to the hyena, but it doesn’t scavenge for meat. Instead, like the aardvark, its diet consists mostly of termites.
This family-oriented mammal is monogamous and protects its territory by spiking up its mane and making a strange clucking sound. It lives in southern and eastern Africa and leaves its burrow at night to hunt insects. If you’re lucky, you might see some aardwolf cubs hanging around the burrow on a nighttime safari!
- African Civet
The African civet looks a bit like small snow leopard mixed with a raccoon. It’s a solitary animal, hiding in tall grasses during the day and hunting at night, when its unique stripes-and-spots pattern blends in with the shadows. The African civet is an omnivore and will eat nearly anything: fruit, frogs, eggs, and poultry. Its favorite time to hunt is about an hour after the sun sets, making it rare and rewarding to spot.
- African Wildcat
The African wildcat is believed to be the ancestor of the modern domesticated cat. It looks like a typical tabby cat, but with longer legs and distinctive black stripes and bands. This cat will sometimes hunt during the day, depending on the availability of food and the temperature, but is most active at night and in the early morning. See if you can sight one on your next African safari.
The bushpig is a wild African pig with small, sharp tusks and a long, slightly curved snout. It’s a very social animal and lives in small groups, usually with a dominant male and female in each group. The bushpig is nocturnal and rarely emerges in the daytime during the hot summer months, but it tends to make more daytime excursions in the cooler winter months. Lucky adventurers can sometimes be treated to a rare morning sighting.
Check back next week to learn more about the remaining members of the Elusive 11 and the wildlife of Africa. Want to see these mysterious nighttime creatures for yourself? Check out our safari vacation packages in southern and eastern Africa.