Nineteen-year-old Justin Waddy had a close encounter with a majestic caracal or ‘rooikat’ on Wednesday, August 5. He had made his way along the Pipe Track overlooking Camps Bay with some new friends when he came across this amazing sighting.

“Making our way slowly up Kasteelspoort, we realised how harsh winter is on Table Mountain. The valley we were climbing was windy, freezing cold but, above all, beautiful. We questioned our safety and sanity at a few points along the path, which meandered far too close to cliffs,” Waddy told Cape Town ETC.

“Having made our way up Table Mountain, and lightly making banter along the Woodhead Dam at what felt like record low temperatures, George shouted for us to look up. I poked my head to the front of the group, six-all in total, expecting a bird or mouse – but was surprised to see a majestically shy cat. Upon closer inspection, I glimpsed at his long, magnificently pointed ears – he was, indeed, a caracal.”

Hermes the caracal takes leisurely stroll past hikers
Photograph taken by Justin Waddy (Source: Supplied)

“Having spent a great part of my childhood growing up on a lodge in the Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe– being up close with wildlife in general wasn’t out of the ordinary. But, a sighting of a shy cat like this was spectacular – the equivalent of spotting a leopard back on the farm, or winning the lottery in Cape Town,” Waddy said.

“We think that the caracal was crossing the wall to save time. The alternative route across – a deep valley or lengthy walk around the dam – was clearly not worth it. The caracal had stopped and was checking us out.”

Hermes the caracal takes leisurely stroll past hikers
Photograph taken by Justin Waddy (Source: Supplied)

“We were immediately aware of how the animal was feeling. After all, he may just look like a big cat, but he’s a wild animal certainly worth respecting. Initially wanting to walk back the third of the pathway we’d already crossed, we decided it might be easier (and less awkward with the caracal slowly watching us) to sit on the dam-wall and let him cross whilst we sat motionless. The result, shown in the video below, is the beautiful caracal slowly slinking past, checking our every move.”

“The experience was extraordinary, a result of the cold temperatures (as I’m sure they’re usually nocturnal) and chance. He was an exquisite cat. The key takeaway for us was understanding that we constantly live in harmony with nature. We immediately submitted our spotting to the Urban Caracal Project, a Cape Town-based conservation organisation who identified him as ‘Hermes’. It’s not impossible that you’ll spot him, recognisable by his blue tagged ear, on Table Mountain. Remember to stay aware, ensure your dog is on a collar and look out – Hermes seems to love showing off,” said Waddy.

Also read: Hermes the caracal shows off stunt skills

Picture: Amber Fanchette/Suplied

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.