Category Archives: Trips

Once Upon a Campsite

Most of the campsites that we stay at have one or two local residents that come and welcome us as soon as we arrive.  We like to think that they are just being hospitable, but we secretly know that they have been lured in by all our predecessors and they’re really hoping that we will keep up the tradition of feeding them scraps.  They vary from birds to jackals and monkeys, but when we visited Cape Vidal we had a marvelously different array of hungry souls that came in search of food.  With the Park’s strict “No Feeding” policy we were hard-pressed not to give in to the pressure as they scrounged around our vehicles.

Red-capped Robin Chat

During the day we had this sweet little Red-capped Robin Chat (and his wife) getting underfoot.  With their beautiful bright feathers they were welcome guests (or perhaps WE were actually their guests) and we were glad to have them around.  Their happy chirping always heralded their arrival and they weren’t scared when we moved around the campsite doing our daily chores.

Large Spotted Genet

Night-time brought other visitors.  On our first night around the campfire we were visited by a Large Spotted Genet.  As we sank a few beers and/or Gluwein we debated whether our Genet was a large Spotted Genet or a Large Spotted Genet – there is a difference you know.  As you can see, the conversations are very deep and intense when you’re in the bush and staring into the dancing flames of a campfire.

Bushpig

Our second night brought in a rather large visitor in the form of a wild Bushpig.  When he came bumbling into our campsite humans and chairs scattered and we dived for our cameras.  It’s always a good policy to keep a camera close on hand when you’re in the bush – you never know what is about to come into your viewfinder!  The Bushpig was a first for us, as we’d never seen a wild one so close by before.  He snuffled around in the sand hoping for some leftovers and then disappeared back into the bushes without so much as wishing us good night.  He came back a couple of times during our stay, but this was the best photo that we got of him.

Mongooses raiding the refuse bin

We were woken up every morning by the chattering of dozens of Striped Mongooses that swept through our campsite like little vacuum cleaners.  They weren’t content just to scour the dusty ground, but even managed to climb into the sealed refuse bin to feast on peels and bones that had been thrown away.  Of course they were always in competition with the monkeys that I wrote about in my last blog.

Tree Squirrel

Competition for food is tough in the bush and every animal is on the lookout for easy pickings.  Next up was a sweet little Tree Squirrel that also wanted a piece of the action.  His magnificent tail looked like a golden bottle brush in the early morning sun.  He was rather shy and fled if we so much as moved a finger.

Bushbuck

Last but not least was a pair of Bushbuck.  They looked so vulnerable on their delicate long legs, but they could take off very quickly when the need arose.

Imagine having all these different creatures in one campsite.  We didn’t even have to take a game drive to enjoy them either.  What an amazing place to park off for a few days to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.   As an added bonus, the game drives during the day also offered up opportunities to enjoy lots of animals and birds.  Definitely worth a visit and a revisit sometime soon.

Monkey Business at Cape Vidal

If you’re planning to visit Cape Vidal in the Greater St Lucia Wetlands area I’m sure you will do some research on the camping facilities or self-catering accommodation that is available there.  You will read how great this park is and you will learn about their monkey problem.  When I read comments about the monkeys I understood that visitors would be under siege the entire time.  Whilst there is a healthy monkey population and these little creatures do use every opportunity to steal food, they really aren’t as bad as they’ve been made out to be.  As they are diurnal animals, it’s only during the daylight hours that one needs to be vigilant.

Samango Monkey - aka Food Thief

The camping facilities at Cape Vidal are quite idyllic.  The campsites are set behind the dunes in the coastal forest and it’s in these thick trees that both Vervet and the rare and endangered Samango Monkeys live.  We had never photographed Samango Monkeys before so were looking forward to having a chance to do so.  After we set up camp it didn’t take long for us to realize that although we couldn’t see them, the surrounding bushes were alive with monkeys just waiting for us to slip up and leave food unattended for a second.  During the week that we were camping there we lost food on about three occasions – mostly when the clever little devils sent in a decoy to distract us while others came in and helped themselves to whatever we were eating.

Samango Monkey - Cape Vidal

The Samango Monkey is found along the east coast of Africa.  If differs from the Vervet Monkey in that it is slightly bigger and much darker on its back and legs.  It has a long tail and tall hind legs.  The Vervet Monkey is small and grey with a dark face and the male’s genitals are bright blue.  Both types of monkeys share a similar diet of fruit, leaves, berries and flowers, as well as insects and whatever they can steal from humans!  They move in troops of up to 30 monkeys.

Vervet Monkey - Cape Vidal

The gestation period for their babies is slightly different as well, with Vervets requiring a seven month pregnancy to produce young and Samango Monkeys giving birth after about four months.  Vervets breed all year round and Samango’s breed between the months of September and April.

The naughtiest face ever

We were lucky to get photos of an almost albino-like Samango Monkey, which the Park’s Board officials said they had never seen before.  When I first saw these yellow monkeys in our campsite I thought they were juveniles.  If any of our readers can help us out with information on this colour difference, we would appreciate hearing from you.

Albino-like Samango Monkey - Cape Vidal

Don’t be put off by the bad press that the monkeys get at Cape Vidal.  If you’re careful with your food and take reasonable precautions you can have a lovely holiday alongside them and get to experience wonderful sightings of some unusual animals.  In fact our campsite had the most amazing visits from the local animals and birds, which I will write about in my next blog.

A visit to the Southern Drakensberg

We’ve just had a wonderful visit to the Southern Drakensberg in Kwazulu Natal. This particularly beautiful section of the Drakensberg mountain range falls within the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in November 2000. If you’re a keen hiker, or just someone who loves spending time in the mountains, then this park with its kilometers of paths and trails, abounded by dramatic rocky buttresses and amazing scenery, is just the place to visit.

Dramatic mountain scenery

We stayed in a little fisherman’s cottage at a resort called The Old Hatchery (a trout hatchery in its day) just outside Underberg. Our comfortable chalet overlooked a small dam beyond which were vistas of beautiful farmlands where cattle grazed and clear streams ran over rocky riverbeds. Being winter, the air was crisp and we needed the cozy crackling fire in the hearth every evening. One always hopes for snow when visiting this area, but this time the weather was clear and we weren’t able to see the mountains adorned with their white mantle of snow. The misty mornings were a treat though.

Farmlands near Underberg

Our first hike was in the Cobham Nature Reserve. If you prefer to hike in absolute solitude in unspoilt wilderness, then Cobham fits the bill in every respect. We started out on a path near the campsite and made our way through the indigenous Ouhout bushes that lined the Pholela River. Once out of the trees, Hodgson’s twin peaks loomed ahead, beckoning us to come closer. We decided not to overdo it on our first day as I had taken a tumble and hurt my wrist, so we only walked for a couple of hours. The river was close to the path at all times and if it had been a warm summer’s day we could have swum in any number of crystal clear pools. The campsite looked quite inviting, although this being the coldest part of the Drakensberg mountains, it must get pretty cold here at night and in the early mornings. Summer is lovely in this part of the world, but it too has its drawbacks in the form of heavy thunderstorms that come up suddenly in the afternoons.

Rhino Peak

On our second day we drove along the Drakensberg Gardens road to the Garden Castle Mountain Reserve. This is a spectacular drive as numerous peaks dominate the skyline. The highest, Rhino Peak (3051m) resembles a rhino horn, and Garden Castle (2356m) looks like a castle as its name suggests. It was named by Capt Allen Gardiner in the 1800’s when he travelled to the area and thought the peak looked a lot like Edinburgh Castle. I wish I could visit a place and give it a name that stuck. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Rob with a mountain backdrop

We signed in at the Reserve office and set out on the trail to Sleeping Beauty Cave. There are a few busy resorts in close proximity to this trail, and because the scenery along the way is quite spectacular, this is a very popular hike. We came across many folks intent on getting to one of the caves along the way. Like the trail at Cobham, the path runs alongside a river, this one being the Mashai River. The path heads off in different directions along the way, taking hikers to other caves besides Sleeping Beauty Cave (Monk and Engagement Cave) that are big enough to be used as overnight shelters.

Dramatic mountain scenery

Tembe National Elephant Park & Safari Lodge – a Timeless Treat

There’s a park in Africa that is sandwiched between Zululand and Mozambique.  It’s a little park – 300 square kilometers to be exact, but it is a magical place, filled with beautiful African animals, birds and insects.  It’s a place where leopards pad around quietly at night seeking their prey; a lion’s roar pierces the dawn and buffalo roam on the empty plains.  Here Africa’s largest elephants break through the bush on their way down to the water and dung beetles have the right of way on the dusty roads.  Nyalas nibble on leaves and grass right next to your tent and bush babies join you for dinner.

The lounge and dining area at Temba Safari Lodge

Tembe is about five and a half hours drive north of Durban and as parks go it ticks every box for visitors – from the Big Five and excellent birding, to bushveld camping in luxury tented bungalows and delicious cuisine.  Tembe Safari Lodge, inside the park, is co-owned and managed by local Tembe folk who know exactly how to make you feel like honoured guests in their special place.  On arrival we were met by one of the guides and driven in an open game drive vehicle to the main lodge, where the entire complement of staff welcomed us with a warm traditional song.  What a lovely touch that was, as were the beautiful bushveld decorations that adorned our bed!

Our beautifully decorated bed

Game drives are part of the package and you get loads of them.  Two a day – each taking three to three and half hours depending on what animals show up along the way.  That’s a lot of time spent out looking for animals.

Young lion

In between sightings, our amazing guide, Carlos, regaled us with tales of his youth when he was a herd boy.  He knew every plant and tree in the area; from the Lala palms that the locals use to make copious amounts of wine (a very laborious process, I might add), to a leafy creeper that can be rubbed to make a shampoo.  His knowledge of the birds and animals was excellent.  We even learned that the Crested guineafowl is known locally as a “Bob Marley chicken” because of its resemblance to his wild hair style and marijuana-induced red eyes.

Crested guineafowl - or Bob Marley chicken

But Tembe is not just about any animal – it’s about a very special kind of elephant called a “tusker” which is a descendant of the huge tusked ellies that roamed the Ivory Route in the days of Jock of the Bushveld.  The pride of their herd is a magnificent old elephant called Isilo whose tusks reach almost to the ground and weigh about 55-60 kgs each.  Unfortunately, at about sixty years of age, Isilo has past his prime and doesn’t look as robust and well-covered as the other elephants, but when your eyes are drawn to those enormous tusks you can only stare in awe and imagine what this beautiful old boy was like in his heyday.  The staff have great affection for Isilo and happily forgive him his trespasses when he causes damage by coming into the lodge area.

Isilo - the most awesome tusker of them all

The terrain in the park is a combination of dense sand-forest that is home to the delicate little Suni, the smallest antelope, and open grasslands where buffalo and rhino can be seen grazing.

Buffalo with oxpecker passengers

Magnificent sunsets are toasted with sundowners and dawns are greeted with hot coffee and rusks whilst examining tell-tale prints in the sand that give up the secrets of who or what padded past during the night.  Our hosts, Tom, the manager, and Carlos, our guide, shared meals with us and we came away feeling quite enriched by having learned more about them and this lovely place in the sun.

Tom and Carlos joined us for dinner

Our three days at Tembe was my birthday treat and it certainly was very special.  It was made more memorable by the staff who baked me a beautiful birthday cake and sang to me after dinner.  Thank you to Rob and the Tembe Safari Lodge for such a wonderful birthday celebration.

Mtunzini – A Place in the Shade

Drive for about an hour and a half north from Durban up the N2 and you will come to a small seaside village called Mtunzini.  This little town is full of delightful surprises, and some vegetation that is unique to the area.  The coastal forest and mangrove swamps that separate the village from the beach assure one of excellent birding activity and some really nice walks along shady paths.  In fact, the African name for the town is Emthunzini, which means “a place in the shade.”  The summers here are uncomfortably hot and humid so shade is always most welcome.

The boardwalk

We stayed at the Mtunzini Forest Lodge, a timeshare resort nestling in the coastal forest just meters away from a long and deserted stretch of beach.  Our log chalet had a small balcony that overlooked the tree tops, allowing us to watch the numerous Turaco’s, Hornbills and Palmnut Vultures that flew over the forest every day.  It was a magical spot for us and Rob spent many happy hours with his camera at the ready.

Mangrove swamp on the Mlalazi River

It is here that the Mlalazi River winds its way down to the sea, lined on either side by mangrove swamps.  These swamps are alive with thousands of Fiddler craps that scurry to and fro.  During the mating season the males attract the females with their enlarged red claws.

Fiddler crab

The river mouth forms a lagoon that falls under the management of the Umlalazi Nature Reserve.  The Reserve has amazing hiking trails and is the centre for fishing and other outdoor activities.  Zebra, red and grey duikers and bushbuck can often be seen grazing in the undergrowth.

Raphia Palms

 A grove of Raphia Palms has been declared a national monument and if you’re lucky you could see rare Palmnut Vultures nesting in these unique trees.  Raphia Palms were successfully introduced to the area about a century ago from the Kosi Bay Raphia forests.  Their leaves are amongst the largest to be found in the plant kingdom and in the Kosi Bay area are used to build boats.  Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any photos of the Palmnut Vultures, but, as I said earlier, we did see them flying over the forest.

Some lovely colour in the forest

At the lodge where we were staying we could walk through the forest on a wooden boardwalk.  Below us the swamp was home to abundant foliage decorated with beautiful orange flowers.  Rob spent time photographing a family of White-eared barbets that were nesting in one of the trees.  If you can fight off the mosquitoes for the duration of your stay there, it is pleasant to sit at a table in the forest and just watch the birds flitting about in the trees.  After a week our bird list was quite impressive.

White-eared barbets

 You know it’s a laid-back coastal town when you see zebras casually grazing on the sidewalks.  We were so impressed with this lovely little place that we considering living there permanently.  That is until we discovered that some greedy mining company has interests in the vicinity and has plans to pursue a mining agenda that will destroy the forests and interrupt the water supplies in the area. What an absolute tragedy that will be for an area that is so unique and pristine at present.  One can only hope that sanity will prevail and that the protestations of the locals will be heard before greed once more takes precedence over conserving a beautiful and abundant natural area.

Zebras keeping the grass down on the sidewalk

From Mtunzini we took a day trip into the Umfolozi/Hluhluwe Game Reserve.  More about that another time.

Only fools and elephants

Having lived in a region where there are lots of elephants, I do tend to blog about them rather a lot.  Forgive me for this indulgence, but they are such beautiful animals and I have such a great respect for them.  I noticed in a newspaper report last week that two Asian visitors to the Kruger National Park in South Africa had their vehicle trampled when they were charged by an angry elephant.  This is always a danger when humans encroach on the space of wild animals and especially elephants.  The sad thing is that humans always come off second best in these encounters – except when the poor elephant is shot for the sins of the visitors.

A regular visitor to our campsite

Fortunately I wasn’t around to see if these tourists provoked the elephant into charging, but they must have done something to annoy it because they are now both in hospital and their vehicle is in the scrapyard.  When we were staying at Xakanaka in Moremi, Botswana, we saw how foolish people can be when they are on holiday in the wild.  We were staying in an unfenced campsite on the edge of the Okavango Delta and had elephants around us daily.  We always retreated when we saw them, feeling so privileged to share their space.

Happily grazing in the swamp nearby

For almost a week a big bull elephant wandered in every day and waded into the swamp next to our campsite.  In fact we woke up one morning and found ourselves eyeball to eyeball with the elephant.  It was quite scary and poor Rob had to make a hasty retreat out of our rooftop tent to a safe spot.  The elephant was not concerned with our presence and grazed the entire day just meters from our campsite.

Waking up to company

Imagine our annoyance when ‘our’ elephant was disturbed in his peaceful grazing by a group of four tourists who walked right up to the waters edge and provoked him into coming after them.  Once they had his attention and he was seeing them off, the husband positioned himself with his camera to get a shot of the elephant going after his wife.  Fortunately for the lady concerned there was a tree behind which she could take refuge, because the elephant was clearly annoyed.

Hoping to get a photo of a death

They then all came over to our campsite and lured the angry elephant towards us, not only endangering us, but putting our vehicles and campsite set up in danger of being trashed.  When we told them how stupid they were, they said they knew all about elephants and there was no danger when a male elephant was feeding on its own.  Maybe one day those famous last words will be on their gravestones.

Happily grazing in the swamp nearby

If you happen to recognize these silly people, perhaps you can talk some sense into them while they are still alive.  We certainly couldn’t.  The Africans have a good name for these kinds of folks – Mampara’s!  Which means ‘idiots’.

 

Khwai Me A River

Botswana has many amazing campsites, especially in the Okavango Delta, and they can be jolly pricey to stay at too.  Just occasionally you strike it lucky and come across a place that was merely meant to be a stop-over en route to somewhere great, and find that it too is an absolute gem.  We found this when travelling from Savuti to Xakanaka.  We decided to head for the Khwai Community Campsite, having heard that it was reasonably priced and a good place to stop between the two.  And what a lovely spot it turned out to be.  In fact a stay of more than one night was warranted.

Road to Khwai

The sandy track that we turned on to just outside Mababe Gate took us on a narrow and windy drive to the Khwai Community Campsite.  Only once we turned off it onto the main road did we realize that it was a shortcut and we could have taken a much easier route.  It was fun though negotiating the narrow track and dodging the bushes (when the thorn trees scratch your vehicle on both sides it’s known as a “Kalahari car wash”.  We certainly had that! ) There didn’t appear to be any locals manning the campsite when we arrived, so we drove around and settled ourselves on campsite no. 3, right on the banks of the Khwai River.  There were no amenities whatsoever, but that made it more special as it was quite wild.

Sunset on the Khwai River

A safari vehicle pulled up in the afternoon and informed us that there were lions on campsite no. 10 – gosh, that was exciting news!  We hastily made our way a few hundred meters along the river and found a pride of nine lions enjoying an afternoon rest.  Most of them were lying on their backs, feet in the air, trying to keep cool while they slept.   This beautiful lioness showed only a glimmer of interest in us as we drove into the bush alongside her and waited for some movement from the other sleeping cats.  Alas, it was not to happen – they all appeared to be settled for the rest of the day.  It doesn’t matter how often you see lions, they are always a thrill to spot in the wild.  They are such majestic animals – you just know that they rule the bush.  It was quite exciting knowing that they were just a few campsites away from us.

Beautiful lioness

The broken trees around the campsite bore testimony to the elephant activity in the area.  This  place is a conservancy, but is not part of the Moremi Game Reserve, so seeing wild animals is a real treat.  We woke up to find that we had a visitor occupying the river just meters from our campsite – an enormous hippo wallowed in the shallow water and kept an eye on us as we ate our breakfast.

Hippo meters from our campsite

The birdlife along the river was amazing with Openbill storks, African jacanas and White-faced ducks feeding in the shallows.

White-faced ducks

Openbill Stork

In the campsite we were visited by this beautiful little Barred owlet, which, at the time, we identified as a Pearl-spotted owl.  It was only when we got home and saw the photographs that we realized our mistake.  This is something we have learned with our birding photography – it’s very easy to misidentify a bird in the field, so it’s good to have a photo to confirm what you actually saw.

Barred owlet

 It’s a veritable Garden of Eden there – well worth stopping off for a day or more, and by doing so you will not only enjoy the amazing wildlife, but you will also benefit the local community with your tourist dollars.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last week I blogged about our stay at Mudumu National Park in Namibia.  From that wonderful place we took a day trip further up the Kwando/Linyati River to the Mamili National Park (also known as Nkasa Lupala NP.)  Mamili should be a great park to visit because its wetlands, river channels and islands form the Linyati Swamps and are host to an abundance of birds and animals.  Sadly, we had a most unfortunate and harrowing experience there that disturbed us for days.  It had to do with elephant poaching, which is always a nasty subject.

Bridge leading into Mamili National Park

As we drove into the park we noticed a young elephant limping badly whilst making its way painfully in the direction of the staff quarters.  It being early on a Sunday morning we weren’t too surprised to see that nothing was open, so we went to the staff houses to find someone to admit us to the park.  To save time we offered the receptionist a lift back to the office and on the way pointed out to her the elephant that was in such distress, hoping that she could get someone to give it medical attention.  She immediately phoned through to a ranger and told him about it.

Greeted by a baby elephant

By the time we had driven the few meters across to the Reception area, we heard a shot ring out, followed by loud bellows from the terrified elephant.  Horrified we listened as the ranger took about eight more shots at the bellowing elephant before killing it.  For animal lovers this was most distressing and put a damper on our entire trip.  It seemed that either the ranger was a very poor shot, which added to the distress of the elephant, or the rifle he was using was obviously not up to the job.  This is not something that a tourist wants to experience on a visit to a game reserve.

Don't you love my moustache!

The young lady at Reception explained that four days earlier six elephants had been poached on a nearby island and this elephant was probably hit by one of the poachers’ bullets causing it to suffer for days.  One can only imagine what this injured elephant must have gone through in its last moments, being shot at again and reliving the incident in which members of its herd had been killed days earlier.  How traumatic.

African wattled lapwing

One always knows that poaching is happening, but when you live in a city hearing about it is not the same thing as seeing the results of this despicable trend first-hand in the bush.  It is very sad that humans can treat these magnificent animals so callously for their ivory.

Mamili has some wonderful community campsites which will soon be more accessible due to the tarring of the road leading to the park.  Unfortunately for us, our day there had been ruined and we were only too happy to get away from the place.

Mudumu National Park – a Namibian gem

It’s so exciting staying in a nature or game reserve and even better if you can set up camp in a wild area without any fences.  We decided to rough it on a recent trip to northern Namibia and opted to leave the beautiful (but crowded) Camp Kwando with all its facilities, to stay in a small park nearby called Mudumu.  The beauty of this place is that they only have three campsites and all that makes them campsites is a rough long-drop a few meters away from each clearing and a ring of old coals marking a fireplace.  You have to be totally self-sufficient to stay there, but the rewards are great.  Not only do you get to have the place to yourselves as the campsites are far apart, but you get to stay in amongst the elephants and wild animals.

Mudumu sunset

Our great campsite

All three campsites are on the banks of the Kwando River where the ellies love coming down to drink during the hot days and glorious still evenings, or to cross over into Botswana to feed.  Have you watched a small herd of elephants crossing a river?  It’s the most awesome sight.  They go in a straight line and babies are strategically placed between older ones so that they can be helped out if they get into difficulty.  Often just their trunks stick above the water like little periscopes.  It’s too cute to watch.

Elephants crossing the Kwando River

It was exciting to lie in bed at night and hear the rumbling sounds of the elephants as they walked quietly down to the river.  Their feet didn’t make a sound, but their rumbles sounded like a very loud cat purr and it was enough to give me goose-bumps knowing how close they were.  The park has literally hundreds of elephants and driving around can be quite challenging because the roads consist of deep sand in places.  Trying to make a quick getaway from an approaching herd of elephants is a bit of a challenge when your wheels are churning up sand.  They are very protective when they have young ones in the herd so it’s always wise to keep a safe distance between yourself and the animals.

Heads down.  Bottoms up!

A highlight of our visit was seeing a herd of about two hundred elephants walking through the veld in a straight line.  When we stopped to watch them, a command went out, probably from the matriarch, and every elephant just froze.  Some had feet in the air in mid-step, trunks were raised or lowered, but they didn’t move.  They stayed like this for many minutes and didn’t make a sound.  It was almost eerie watching this beautiful spectacle.  When the command came that they were safe, they all moved on again, very quickly and quietly.  We felt so privileged to watch this beautiful sight.  Apart from elephants there is an abundance of birdlife and other mammals.  We found these baboons quite amusing if only for the attitude they displayed!

Baboon sentinels

Our previous visit to this park was disappointing, although we did see a pack of wild dogs, but this time we were fortunate enough to see lots of roan and sable.  These antelope are not terribly common so it’s always great to get sightings of them.  That’s why it’s better to stay in the park as opposed to taking day trips – you put yourself in a better position to have all the right experiences.

Roan - Mudumu National Park

Mudumu National Park has yet to catch up with the 21st century as far as pricing is concerned.  We paid about N$50.00 per person per day to stay there, which was basically the entrance fee to the park as well.  With Botswana pricing itself out of the average holiday-maker’s range, this place makes financial sense.  We didn’t book ahead.  I don’t think it’s necessary as not many people know about it.  For all you South Africans reading this – this place is worth visiting, as is nearby Mamili, which I will chat about next week.  Not only do you get good value for money but there is a great adventure factor too – you definitely feel like you have left civilization far behind and it’s just you and the wilds.  What a pleasure.  Never mind the abundance of elephants and the solitude of the place – the sunsets alone would be enough to get us back there!

 

African wild dogs in Moremi Game Reserve

One of the highlights of our visit to the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta in September was a wonderful sighting of a pack of African wild dogs.  It’s not that common to come across these unusual animals, so when one does it’s a great privilege for game viewers.  We’d been driving around for a while without seeing much activity when we saw a flurry of movement in a clearing of Mopani woodland.  With great excitement we counted at least seventeen wild dogs in the pack, most of which were young pups chasing each other playfully around the area.

African wild dog near Xakanaka, Moremi

The adults, more sedate, lay down under the trees keeping an eye on the activity of the youngsters as they jumped over logs, ran through water or just chased each other around joyfully.  It’s great to be able to enjoy this sort of spectacle and even better to be ready, with cameras on hand, to capture it in detail.  It wasn’t long before we were joined by numerous other game vehicles, all jostling for the best situation for photography.  Fortunately the dogs weren’t phased by the onlookers and they continued to play as if no-one was there, or as if we didn’t deserve their attention!

If you go down to the woods today ....

Wild dog enjoying the water

The African wild dogs that we saw were within a few kilometers of our campsite at Xakanaxa.  With an abundance of small buck in the area, the dogs are never short of food to eat.  A few days before this we saw an alpha male run across the road in front of us with a blood-stained face – obviously having just partaken of a nice juicy meal.  We were disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to photograph him, but the pack of seventeen more than made up for that.

African wild dog near Xakanaka, Moremi

Botswana wildlife authorities spend a lot of time researching these unique animals and they are sometimes collared for tracking and monitoring purposes.  They are particularly concerned about them crossing busy main roads and it is not uncommon to see warning road signs as you near the game reserves.  We were glad that none of our dogs had collars on them – it kind of detracts from a wildlife photograph.

Look out for Wild Dogs

If you’d like more information about African wild dogs, click here for a blog we did on them about two years ago.

Young wild dogs playing