Its Monday and a pursuit of the African wild dog

Hello there. I hope that you are sitting comfortably after another lovely relaxing weekend and are ready for a wonderful story from guests Mary & Clive Harber and Joyce & Jeff Serf. Such a wonderful story needs no musings from me so lets dive straight into it…“We first went on safari in 1976 when we…

Hello there. I hope that you are sitting comfortably after another lovely relaxing weekend and are ready for a wonderful story from guests Mary & Clive Harber and Joyce & Jeff Serf. Such a wonderful story needs no musings from me so lets dive straight into it…

“We first went on safari in 1976 when we visited East Africa. Since then, we have undertaken numerous safaris, sometimes back to East Africa, but also across much of Southern Africa. We had many memorable experiences, but as time progressed one keenness developed into a burning ambition. For us one animal took on legendary status. More than any other, we wanted to see wild dogs.

After nearly 30 years, in 2004, we saw our first wild dogs … a fleeting image of several tails wagging above the grass … then a dog stood on its long legs and looked directly towards our vehicle. This didn’t quench our thirst at all; like addicts, we craved more. Over the next few years, we had differing wild dog experiences … following a lone dog for about a mile as it sprinted along a road … spending a magic 15 minutes with a pack as they lay in front of our vehicle before wandering into the bush … hearing, but not catching sight of some dogs as they walked through the long grass.

In 2018 we visited Tena Tena and Luangwa River Camp, hoping, be not expecting, to see dogs. We didn’t. Since then, we have read Robin Pope Safaris’ weekly newsletter in preparation for our return, enjoying (and envying) the reported experiences and sightings of all wildlife. We thought the best possibility of seeing wild dogs would be at Nsefu and so when we arrived at Tena Tena in September 2023 prior to our stay at Nsefu and met a family who had just left Nsefu, we were disappointed, but not surprised, to be informed that they had enjoyed their stay tremendously, but, alas, no dogs.

Oh, how little faith we had.

After our first breakfast at Nsefu, we were walking towards the truck when Willie ran down towards the breakfast table to scare away a vervet monkey. He stopped, yelled, and pointed to the opposite bank. In the far distance we could just about make out 4 dogs. We were happy. That morning’s game drive took us back to the leopard we’d found the previous evening. Of course, by “we” I mean Willie. After that, we/Willie found a pack of 19 dogs – the 9 adults lay in the grass trying to sleep, while the 10 pups played with each other, climbed over the adults and generally entertained us for about 20 minutes. We left them in peace. We were very happy.

That evening we returned to the dogs and found them preparing to move. Rather like a band of unruly children the pack set off down the track, individuals stopping to scratch, disappear into the bush, re-emerge, bite another’s tail, collapse into the dust for a few moments. We followed and as they approached a clearing their manner changed. One by one the adults went into hunting mode – dropping slightly, straightening their backs and pushing their ears flat against their heads and then, just as if someone had fired a starting pistol, the lead dogs set off at an unbelievable pace. We couldn’t follow as their stampede ignored terrain and vegetation. We did find them about 10 minutes later. The hunt had failed, and the dogs resigned themselves to a hungry night. We left them to sleep.

The following morning brought no sign of the dogs, so we had to settle for the usual suspects, including leopard and elephant. However, we/Willie did find them that evening as they moved in their usual confusion through the bush. We quickly lost them, but Willie heard elephants trumpeting very loudly and soon we saw a small herd “seeing off” the dogs. The dogs trotted towards us as we parked on the top of a sand cliff some 15-20 feet above the vast dry riverbed. As they approached the top of the cliff, their demeanour changed – straight backs, flat ears. The lead dog stood on the top of the cliff and, through the rapidly fading light, surveyed a large heard of puku about 400 yards away across the riverbed. They all returned the stare. Then the lead dog leapt off the cliff and began charging across the sand. Another four dogs followed. Even though their speed was astonishing, surely the buck would have plenty of warning of the approaching danger. However, they seemed to look at the approaching dogs for a long time before panic broke out and they scattered. The dogs brought down one puku and it was soon swamped under a mass of wild dogs’ legs, heads, bodies and ears. From the moment the lead dog took off to moment the puku went down was less than two minutes. Then, escorted by two adults, the 10 pups arrived and the excitement that ensued when the adults brought meat to them cannot be described. It was only matched by the silent excitement we experienced as we watched. A 15-minute episode that was worth waiting over 45 years for. We were ecstatic.

Like all addicts we want more and we’re already planning our return. We might even catch a glimpse of a wild dog. Now that alone would make the trip worthwhile.”

Wow, absolutely amazing! What a trip and what a sighting. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and we look forward to your next visit. Between now and then I hope that the stories you read and everyone else reads can keep the appetite to visit going. For this week though, this shall have to do and I shall bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a splendid week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.