Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater – Caracal

Rhinos, lions, leopards, servals – were all super lucky spots in Ngorongoro, but nothing could even come close to spotting a Caracal. It is one of the rarest animals to see in the wild and most people never get a chance, despite the animal being widely spread albeit very secretive (kind of like wolverine in the Arctic). I saw caracal once crossing a road in northern Ethiopia, for a fleeting second or two, no camera in hand. Our guide in Northern Tanzania has been guiding people to Ngorongoro and Serengeti for 18 years non-stop, and he only saw caracal once. So imagine how we all felt when we spotted this magnificent cat roaming around the crater in close view in the middle of the day, looking for prey. Caracal is a medium- sized cat, similar to a cheetah, but very powerfully built. It’s main characteristic are tufted ears (like the European lynx), and uniform golden color. These tufted ears are truly extraordinary, each having 20 muscles that allow the ear to swivel like a satellite dish in various directions independently to detest sounds of prey, and the tufts are also somehow instrumental in sound capture. Caracals are solitary, secretive, and mostly nocturnal. They hunt for small antelopes, rodents and birds and can actually leap up to 4 meters high, changing direction and twisting in midair, and grab a bird in flight. Caracals are very territorial and each can control a range up to 220 sq km, so this was likely the only caracal in Ngorongoro. And we saw him twice during the day!