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Pangolins in Africa

Pangolins are among Africa’s most extraordinary safari sightings, appearing more pine cone than animal in their unique armoury of scales. These nocturnal, ant-eating oddities are highly elusive and, today, increasingly rare.

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Quick facts about Pangolin

Scientific name: Smutsia temminkii Habitat: Savannah woodland
IUCN status: Vulnerable Adult weight: 5–27kg

Pangolins are the only mammals with scales. These overlapping plates of keratin encase the animal’s upperparts to form a protective armour – impregnable when it rolls into a defensive ball. This species is one of four in Africa and the only one found in the east and south.

It feeds on ants and termites, holing up in a burrow by day and foraging by night. Long claws dig out its prey, which it laps up with a long, sticky tongue and – being toothless – crushes in its muscular stomach.

A pangolin walks largely on its hind-legs, extending its long tail as a counter-balance. The newborn baby rides on the base of its mother tail for its first few weeks.


Length of newborn baby


Length of tongue


Scales as proportion of body weight


Pangolin species worldwide

Africa's top camps for seeing pangolins

Based on 42 reports by our travellers since Jun 2018, the camps below have the best chances of sighting pangolins. Simply follow the key below.

Best chances to see

Good chances to see

Some sightings

No sightings yet

Top 10 camps for pangolin

% of travellers who saw pangolin

Top 10 camps for pangolin

% of travellers who saw pangolin

Where to see pangolins in Africa

Pangolins are widespread but scarce. Sightings are highly unpredictable and remain a safari holy grail, even for experienced guides. Today, one or two locations in South Africa offer visitors slightly higher chances.

Top tips for viewing pangolins

To see a pangolin, you must head out on a night drive with fingers tightly crossed. Many reserves record occasional sightings, including the Okavango and Central Kalahari (Botswana), Luangwa Valley (Zambia), Hwange (Zimbabwe), Serengeti (Tanzania) and Kruger (South Africa), but, realistically, your chances are slim.

The odds are higher in a handful of reserves in South Africa’s Northern Cape and Karoo, notably Tswalu Kalahari and Samara, where pangolins are more active by day during winter. When approached, a pangolin may roll into a ball rather than retreat. Look, but don’t touch: its scything scales can inflict serious injuries on fingers.

Today all pangolins are of high conservation concern, the lucrative eastern market for their scales making them the world’s most illegally trafficked mammals.


Holiday ideas to see pangolins

Based on our travellers recent observations, these are the holidays which will give you the best chances of pangolin sightings

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Rothschild Giraffe Safari

8 days • 3 locations

A example of a luxury Kenyan safari, starting at the iconic Giraffe Manor before fabulous stays on the spectacular Solio Reserve and Sala’s Camp in a remote corner of the Maasai Mara.

US$11,120 - US$15,300 per person

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Brown Hyena Self-drive

14 days • 8 locations

The perfect trip for those who want to mix the adventure and freedom of a self-drive with some of our favourite luxury camps in Namibia and a great mix of activities.

US$5,250 - US$5,930 per person

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Namaqua Chameleon Self-drive

12 days • 7 locations

A classic 12-night self-drive adventure around the highlights of eastern and northern Namibia taking in Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, Etosha and a final stop at Okonjima. Comfortable lodges and great value.

US$2,700 - US$3,020 per person

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Black Kite Fly-in Safari

10 days • 4 locations

Explore Kenya in-depth with visits to Nairobi and Meru national parks, the Mara Conservancies and Amboseli. Nestled in remoter regions, four camps provide fantastic access to rich game, a range of activities and beautifully diverse landscapes.

US$10,140 - US$11,650 per person

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Rock Agama Self-drive Safari

9 days • 6 locations

Big on experience and light on time, this self-drive trip packs in Namibia’s highlights while staying in a selection of luxury camps and lodges for an unforgettable 10 days.

US$4,310 - US$5,210 per person

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Monteiro's Hornbill Fly-in Safari

9 days • 5 locations

Stay in four of Namibia’s most famous environments on this fly-in safari. It would be hard to pack more variety into a trip of the same length.

US$11,130 - US$15,500 per person

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Chongololo Self-drive Safari

21 days • 11 locations

This self-drive safari focuses on the best walking experiences in Namibia. Get your boots ready for the apricot dunes of the Namib Desert and the ancient hills of Damaraland.

US$5,960 - US$6,610 per person

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Pygmy Mouse Self-drive Safari

18 days • 10 locations

A truly epic southern African self-drive safari adventure from Namibia’s mountains and deserts, along the lush Caprivi Strip to Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, staying at luxury lodges throughout.

US$5,090 - US$7,160 per person

View all holidays to Africa

Our top destinations for pangolins

Click below for detailed information about pangolins in these countries, including our latest sightings data from the camps and lodges there.

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