Before I left for my first trip to Africa, people would ask me what I was most looking forward to seeing. Of course, I would say “Everything!”. I enjoy nature, love watching wildlife and birds, and enjoy traveling and seeing new places, so I really was looking forward to seeing everything. When pressed though, I would admit I would really love to see a baby elephant, and wild dogs.
As we were traveling to the Zambezi River and a taking a day trip into Botswana, I knew the chances of seeing a baby elephant (or many baby elephants as it would turn out) was quite high. In talking to people though, wild dogs seemed very unlikely. My ranger at Londolozi explained that for private reserves, unless the wild dogs den on the site, viewings are very rare because the wild dogs travel over great distances, and are a threatened species, so there are not many of them to see. She also told me of more than one group she knew of that had been on several safaris, never to see the elusive wild dogs.
In Botswana, we spent a lovely morning on a boat cruise, viewing elephants, hippos, water buffaloes, crocodiles and loads of different types of birds. In the afternoon, we went for a game drive in Chobe Park, allowing us to get much closer to the elephants. Our lovely guide Mike pulled over early in the drive to read a text message sent by another guide, and told us that wild dogs had had a kill the previous day in the area, and would likely still be near the water hole – would we like to try and find them? I answered yes for the group and we went off on an hours trek, up to the water hole, following their last tracks, over to their kill site – which by this point was nothing more than a pile of bones being fought over by vultures.
Just as we were giving up hope of seeing them, another guide had found their position, and a few minutes later, we were sitting amongst a pack of wild dogs – 18 in total. They were enjoying the shade, trying to beat the mid afternoon heat and digest the large meal they had recently had. The lighting was unfortunate for photography, but the experience was simply amazing.