Those of you who know what a honey badger is may have the preconceived idea of an aggressive, short-tempered and very dangerous animal when harassed or irritated. You would be right. There are not many animals, regardless of size, with as much resolve, resilience and confidence in their ability. With this being said, we get a very small glimpse into their lives, in fact, I have only ever seen honey badgers run away from my vehicle at Londolozi.

I have always wondered if that window into their natural life would widen. To my surprise on a cloudy and cold winter morning, the unexpected happened. While in pursuit of a leopard, with my tracker Lucky, and my friend and guest, Sergey, we stopped near Lex’s Pan to listen for alarm calls. While sitting in silence, a movement caught the corner of my eye, I had to look twice and then used my binoculars to look for a third time. It was a honey badger walking through a clearing. We sat quietly and watched him walk towards a rhino midden where he proceeded to forage.

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Honey badgers are powerful diggers and believe it or not have similar abilities to an aardvark. They can unearth food that is inaccessible to most other animals. A rhino midden is the perfect place for dung-beetle larvae and other insects. From my understanding their eyesight and hearing compared to other larger carnivores is relatively poor. This was evident when its small eyes were covered in sand and rhino dung. Honey badgers and the rest of the mustelidae family (weasel, polecat and otters) also have the amazing ability to close their recessed ears when foraging and digging underground.

Our sighting didn’t end there, curiosity got the better of us and we decided to edge closer. We hoped that the feeding and the noise created might allow us the privilege to get a closer look at such a rare animal. During our approach, Lucky was worried that the honey badger may get wind of our scent and then flee. Honey badgers have an extremely acute sense of smell which they use to locate food and for social communication using their complex anal gland.

We moved the vehicle as slowly as possible and, with the wind in our favour, managed to get up to 60, 40 and then 20 meters away – we were eventually only 15 meters from its position. I was witnessing something that I have never seen before – an encounter with one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Once the wind started to swirl, he would briefly stop digging to raise his nose in the air and once the wind died down, he would continue his activity. We were able to witness this special sighting for over 30 minutes before the honey badger decided he had enough to eat and trotted right past my vehicle and into the thicket.

This honey badger did not care!

The bush works in mysterious ways and it is the interesting chain of events that leads you to the unexpected and often special things that happen when we least expect it.

Written and Photographed by Londolozi Ranger: Don Heyneke 

Filmed by Wildlife Photographer and Guest: Sergey Gorshkov

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Don Heyneke

Photographic Guide

Don defines the quintessential success story in guide development. Having limited experience in the bush or photography when starting at Londolozi, his years here have been a meteoric rise to prominence, and his understanding of the bush and wildlife around him as well ...

View Don's profile

12 Comments

on Honey Badger Don’t Care

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Marinda Drake
Guest

Awesome experience Don. Great photos. Amazing video

Sandy Johnson
Guest

Great video. So many wonderful animals to see at Londolozi. I checked a honey badger off my list while I was there but he was on the move and soon disappeared.

Adri Pretorius
Guest

Ag how sweet …… love that little face all covered with soil!
Very special!!

denise Jeffery
Guest

Great fotos, captured the whole event making me feel I was there….superb skill

Marla Oppenheim
Guest

Great pictures and video!! One of the animals still on my list to actually see. I missed the other, a pangolin, last September in Londolozi by one day. I guess I will need to return for a third visit!! :>)

Martha Myers
Guest

These images and the video were an absolute joy to watch. I’ve only seen a honey badger from afar in the dark and on the move. So what a treat it was to see it close-up, in broad daylight, doing whatever it is that honey badgers do. Thank you!

Nina Golden
Guest

What a special and incredibly rare sighting, how fantastic! Thank you so m7ch for sharing it, your photos and the vid☆☆☆☆☆

Jill Grady
Guest

Great pictures and video Don and Sergey! I’ve never seen a Honey Badger before so thank you for sharing these great images.

Rich Laburn
Guest

Incredible sighting and video Don, thanks so much for sharing the factual insights as well. I have seen honey badgers on a handful of occasions but almost all of these sightings were brief encounters as the honey badger fled from our vehicle. What a rare occurrence to have one this relaxed! What do you think the age of the one is? Great pics and video!

Kate Collins

Great blog Don, love the photos and the video footage. It must have been incredible to have seen this from so close. I ticked off my first honey badger a few nights ago, it trotted past our vehicle as we approached camp, a great sighting as well.

Gerald Wilson
Guest

What a great sighting. Rare. Like you said when you least expect it, something great comes along to experience.

Janice Rudenauer
Guest

Don, it was long ago that I was fortunate enough to have you as our ranger (2012)– now you are a photographic guide — congratulations and makes perfect sense given your talent. I am obsessed with honey badgers and would love to see one, and seeing your footage and shots is the next best thing. Great PBS special: Honey Badgers, Masters of Mayhem, is currently running. It is a fascinating look into their oversized brains and what they are capable of. Highly recommend and you can stream the full episode online. I hope to be back to Londolozi one day, if I am so fortunate.

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