Many rangers, in collaboration with their trackers, tend to have a general plan when they leave camp of what they’re going to look for on a game drive based on what their guests would like to see. But as much as we like to have a plan, nature doesn’t often abide and quite often the plan goes out the window to make room for an unexpected occurrence. This is no more true than with wild dogs who seem to pop up and disappear at the most unexpected times. I refer to one particular morning recently where we had been tracking the lionesses from the Mhangeni pride for over an hour with little to no luck. The tracks moved through a very thick area where a number of elephants were now feeding, forcing us to divert off course. After some time we managed to re-find fresh tracks, and with renewed optimism continued following the lions down into the Sand River. At this point, Freddy Ngobeni, the tracker I work with, looked up and exclaimed with immense excitement in his voice “wild dog, wild dog!”. Immediately I erupted with elation as we watched the dogs slowly trotting on the northern side of the Sand River.
In true wild dog fashion, the pack sharply changed direction and demeanor and began chasing after an old nyala bull who was no match for the determined dogs. Having witnessed the beginning of the hunt from the southern side of the river, and with limited access, we raced around to a crossing point where we caught the culmination of the hunt and the successful take down of the big male nyala.
Being such endangered animals, it is always incredibly exciting to see wild dogs but to see them on foot and hunting, completely made the morning for all of us. Proof that sometimes the best plan is in fact scrapping the plan and just going along with what nature puts on offer.