After seeing a kill on our first drive in Kruger, I would have left my Kruger trip happy. But my guide and the rest of the safari-goers in my group knew that I really, really, really wanted to see wild dogs.
Be nice to your guide, and your guide will do what he can to find what you really, really, really want. This means be happy about other sightings, be engaged, ask questions, and don’t sleep in the vehicle, and then your guide might just ask every other guide he meets if anyone has found wild dogs.
No one had seen them. Our guide KB took a chance driving to the farthest reaches of potential game drives, a place we were both thinking of because it was a road we had not yet driven. It was hot and the middle of the afternoon. We watched a rhino leave a watering hole and head to the shade for a nap. We continued onward, nearing our turnaround time. I was watching intently on the left side of the car so that KB could solely focus on the right. We approached a car that signaled for us to stop, and there they were: three dogs resting in the shade of a shrub. After those three, we spied seven more, and then two more joined the pack to happy hellos from the group.
We watched for nearly an hour as they ended their siesta to look for a nice zebra meal, but it looked like they would stay hungry as the zebra stallion quickly organized his females to protect the foal. Even 12 wild dogs cannot take on so many zebras; they would need to separate one away from the dazzle (a group of zebras) in order to make a successful kill.
A couple self-drivers passed while we were watching, and neither were entranced. It was a perfect example of how underrated and misunderstood the wild dogs are. They are not mutts that have returned to the wild, but canines that have always lived as a part of the bush life. A wild dog is similar to a hyena because of its pack mentality and social structure, yet one is much less likely to take on a lion than a hyena.
While I have seriously been looking for wild dogs for the last year, it was my fabulous Acacia guide Phelile whose passion about wild dogs convinced me to love them (and birds!). And then there’s KB, who shared bush lingo secrets and answered my endless questions during this trip’s quest. Thank you for increasing my passion for the bush! Ngiyabonga kakhulu and kea leboga!
For more on traveling to Kruger from Swaziland, check out my post Why I keep returning to Kruger.