Southern Africa

5 Best Wilderness Camps to see Hyenas



Tenneil Zondagh


The hyaenas, or hyena – however you choose to spell it – is a remarkable predator. The four extant species are the striped hyena Hyaena hyaena, the brown hyena Parahyaena brunnea, the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta, and the aardwolf Proteles cristata. We will be focusing on two of the species that can be seen at some of our Wilderness camps; namely the brown hyena and spotted hyena (also referred to as the laughing hyaena). Though the aardwolf occurs in Southern Africa, it is a rarely seen animal and a big tick for every safari enthusiast’s checklist.



The spotted hyena is characterised by its bulky build and sloping back. Sociable animals, hyaenas live in a structured clan of as many as 10 animals and are based in a communal den, while the brown hyena is a more secretive and solitary scavenger. By contrast to the spotted hyena, brown hyenas are distinctive for their shaggy brown fur.


Here is a selection of Wilderness camps where you can see these fiercely misunderstood animals.


Chitabe Camp – Okavango Delta, Botswana



Situated on a beautiful old tree-island in a prime wilderness locale in the south-east of the Okavango Delta, Wilderness Chitabe is built on elevated decks to provide superb views across an expansive floodplain. Thanks to its mosaic of habitats, a plethora of plains game is seen on day and night drives, as well as guided walks.



Spotted hyenas produce multiple different vocalisations, each of which means something distinct. The “laughter” vocalisation for which they are known is a high-pitched series of short giggle-like sounds.


Abu Camp – Okavango Delta, Botswana



The Abu Private Reserve offers exceptional Okavango Delta game-viewing in a variety of pristine habitats. Abu Camp guides are highly skilled interpreters of tracks, calls and behaviour, using these signs to reveal the secrets of the African bush. Guided day and night game drives, guided nature walks (seasonal), mokoro excursions and boating (both water levels permitting) take in the diversity of abundant general game roaming the 180 000-hectare (445 000-acre) reserve.



A spotted hyena’s jaws are the strongest of any mammal. They can exert 40% more bite force than a leopard.


DumaTau – Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, Botswana



Nestled deep within the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, on the northernmost fringe of Botswana, lies DumaTau. With unique access to both the Linyanti River and Savuti Channel, the reserve’s diverse, pristine 95 000 acres (38,445 hectares) offers truly exclusive excursions and close-up wildlife encounters. DumaTau’s extensive lagoon frontage ensures that each ultra-spacious 142 m2 guest suite has uninterrupted views over Osprey Lagoon, and the movements of the mega-herds of elephant that the Linyanti is so famous for.



According to an ancient African belief — one that can be traced to colonisation by the Romans — the hyaena is a “medicinal” animal, used to ward of ailments caused by evil. It is also said that they are able to guarantee fertility.


Linkwasha – Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe



Linkwasha is a luxurious camp that lies in a private concession in the enormously productive south-eastern corner of Hwange National Park. Situated on the edge of the famed Ngamo Plains – where wildlife gathers in numbers during summer, to add to the year-round excellent viewing from the camp itself – Linkwasha overlooks a pan that is a magnet for game seeking to quench its thirst, especially in the dry winter months.



Female spotted hyenas are more muscular and more aggressive than their male counterparts. This is because the females have three times as much testosterone in their bodies. As a result, spotted hyena societies are matriarchal. Even female cubs rule over the males.


Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp – Skeleton Coast, Namibia



The name “Skeleton Coast” conjures up romantic images of desolate beauty, and proudly remote Hoanib in Namibia’s Kaokoveld does not disappoint. The dry bed of the Hoanib River supports a thin green ribbon of vegetation, and the wild beaches of the Atlantic coast are within reach, with their noisy seal colonies and eerily quiet shipwreck remnants. Eight large en-suite tents (including one family unit) and the main area provide shady viewpoints, while nature drives into the surrounding area reveal a wealth of desert-adapted wildlife. Desert-adapted lion and brown hyena may also be glimpsed in this barren but far from lifeless landscape.



On Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, the brown hyena has the Afrikaans name strandwolf for its practice of combing the shoreline for dead seals and other carrion left by the sea.


Brown Hyena Research at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp


Wilderness is thrilled to be supporting Emsie Verwey and the Skeleton Coast Brown Hyaena Project as she undertakes the first official density survey for brown hyaenas in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park, in collaboration with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Wilderness’ Sustainability Fund has sponsored the funds required to purchase camera traps, memory cards and batteries, in order for this vital conservation survey to begin in one of the world’s harshest – and most beautiful – wilderness environments.



(Emsie Verwey, hyena researcher, is based at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp and is often available to interact with guests. Visiting researchers are also available for questions and more information on their research when in camp.)


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