As our vehicle peaked over Ximpalapala crest a few days ago and we got our first glimpse of the rocky outcrop being lit by the rising sun, one of my guest’s screamed behind me in excitement, “dogs, dogs, dogs!” Ahead of us, twelve wild dogs were tearing towards us in their typically exuberant fashion and I felt my energy levels surge.

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, Wild dogs, Andrea Campbell, Wild Dogs Resting

The pack moving at dawn on a winter’s morning. These animals are diurnal hunters, meaning that they move and hunt during the day, typically during the cooler hours of the morning and evening. Photograph by Andrea Campbell

When you’re with dogs you’ll notice how excitable they are. Their satellite dish-like ears are forever turning, listening for their next meal; their white-tipped tails wave incessantly and they are wild with activity. As a ranger, even on a freezing winter’s morning, you start to strip off your warm layers the moment you see the dogs, in preparation for the sort of driving you know you’re in for when you’re following them.

Normally dogs are incredibly successful hunters due to their stamina and team work and have a much higher success rate than lions, leopards or cheetahs. This particular pack were hunting not only for themselves but for the alpha female they had left at the den and for all the pups she was raising. Surprisingly though, by 9am that morning they still hadn’t made a kill and they eventually flopped down in the shade, apparently giving up.

Londolozi Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, wild dogs, pack, rest

The pack re-grouping after yet another failed hunting attempt. Often it takes wild dogs some time to get used to hunting again without their alpha female, who provides some much-needed leadership during a hunt.

They have very fast metabolisms and especially when they’re denning, they try to hunt twice a day. I was surprised that the pack didn’t keep trying despite the morning of set backs but when I looked at them all scattered in various patches of shade, not a single one seemed perturbed that the youngsters would have to wait till the evening for their meal.

It made me realise how much these animals valued and allowed rest, which when I thought about it, is actually one of the reasons they’re ultimately so successful. It made me a little jealous.

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, wild dogs, game drive, Tim Mitchell

The pack on the move. These animals can move at about 50km/h for up to five kilometers. Prey such as impala can move faster than the dogs but cannot sustain their pace for as long, meaning that they typically get caught from exhaustion. Photograph by Londolozi Guest, Tim Mitchell.

I don’t know about you but I for one struggle to rest. The rate that much of the modern world moves at doesn’t really allow for it but even if I do have the time for it, I carry a certain level of shame around it. Most of the time it’s due to the little voices in my head saying some version of “you’ve been talking about starting this project forever now, get it done” or “you should really be using this time wisely, go for a run” or “you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t keep going”.

Recently I listened to a fascinating Sounds True Podcast where a spiritual teacher, Jeff Foster looked at rest from a new angle. He reckons that we shouldn’t be trying to find rest, making it into yet another goal and only exacerbate the pressure we’re under. Instead, Foster invites us to see rest as our natural state and a place in us that already exists. The podcast discusses different ways of tapping into that place.

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, wild dogs, James Tyrrell

One of the wild dogs framed through the legs of a fellow pack member. These dogs are highly social animals and struggle to hunt and survive alone. Photograph by James Tyrrell

A lot of spiritual teachings encourage us to find peace and quiet by trying to train ourselves away from the noise in our head or to angle ourselves only towards joy and bliss. When we’re not peaceful, the self-berating begins, which let’s be honest, doesn’t bring any joy and the loop persists. Foster challenges that the way to peace is to actually allow the noise in our head and invite in our so-called negative emotions. It requires a shift in focus from how can I get rid of this feeling to how can I make space for this feeling? A longing for rest runs far deeper than a longing for sleep. It’s a longing for peace, truth, authenticity and allowing. It’s a desire to stop running from who we our, from our experiences or this moment.

Are there places in your life where you feel that if you just allowed the discomfort a little more, you’d find greater peace?

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, wild dogs, James Tyrrell

The pack up and moving again after a day’s rest. It is only because they allow these bouts of rest that they can move and hunt at the pace that they do. Photograph by James Tyrrell

When I watched that pack the other day, I saw how none of them seemed to have those nagging internal voices (or if they did, they certainly weren’t listening to them). They knew the pups would survive a few more hours without their meal and they weren’t wracked with guilt. They trusted that they would catch a meal later in the day so they weren’t ruled by their hunger. They were purely listening to their bodies desire to rest.

Later that afternoon, the pack arose from their slumber and after a short bout of greeting and playing, set off in search of a meal. Because they had given their bodies a chance to recuperate, they were able to chase down and catch an impala ewe and were soon all well and truly engorged. With full bellies, they set off to nourish the pups.

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, wild dogs, James Tyrrell

A wild dogs with some blood on its muzzle, evidence of a successful hunt. The pack will then return to the den to regurgitate meat for the youngsters. Photograph by James Tyrrell.

Like us, they are pack animals, intimately reliant on and connected to one another. They acknowledge that rest is an essential part of their lives and because of it, they have the capacity to live a life of service to one another. It is not selfish to rest if it means that when you awaken you use that energy for the good of the whole.

It was such a good reminder to me that only once you’ve listened to your body, allowed the rest and nourished yourself, are you then truly capable of nourishing the rest of your pack, whatever form of nourishment that may take.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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16 Comments

on An Unexpected Lesson About Rest From Africa’s Most Energetic Hunter

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Kevin Savage

Superb blog and excellent advice! I will be checking out the podcast asap. 😬

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Kevin. Ya the podcast is really worth it! Have you listened to any of the Sounds True Podcasts before? Many thanks, Amy

Caroline Proctor

Amy – as soon as I saw dogs I knew this would be your blog post! I have such wonderful memories of chasing wild dogs with you. So good to see a healthy successful pack.

Amy Attenborough

Haha, Caroline, you know me too well! When we going to see you back here for another dose of the dogs?

Caroline Proctor

Werner and I need to start planning my next trip to Africa for next March. So far I have plane tickets and that’s all. I’ll let you know if I can get to Londolozi for a visit. Would love to see you and you know I always love to see the leopards.

Amy Attenborough

Amazing Caroline! Keep us posted!

Lucie Easley

Starting with the dawn image these pictures, along with the lesson on the importance of rest conveyed via the wild dogs, has helped me set the slower more restorative pace for my day. Such beauty in Londolozi.

Amy Attenborough

That’s so good to hear Lucie! We all need these little reminders every now and again. Hope today is another slower and more restorative one. Fin Lawlor has a beautiful Week in Pictures coming out later today, which has lots more beautiful photos from the goings on here this past week. Enjoy!

Gawie Jordaan

How immensely true Amy! Truly a matter as well as trying to have a balance between work or busyness and rest.

Nickolette Karabush

This is a wonderful blog, thank you! I usually get a chance to read these blogs 1/3 into my work day, when I feel the stress approaching. They always give me a since of calm and rest, allowing me to approach the balance of my work day feeling recharged. Always so informative and such beauty in all of the pictures.

Amy Attenborough

Makes me so happy to hear Nickolette. Thank goodness for technology that allows us to tap into the wilderness from wherever we might be in the world! Wishing you a happy start to the weekend…

Denise Vouri

Your prose suggests that animals are smarter than humans by listening to their bodies and knowing what is expected later – a fact that I totally believe. I was fortunate enough in February to witness wild dogs in Singita and in the Tau Pan , Botswana actively engaged in hunting and the former lucky enough to bring down a wart hog. The Botswana group tried to catch an impala but weren’t clever enough to make the kill. It was just too fast. At that point they regrouped and found a spot to relax. I love your stories.

Amy Attenborough

So glad that you’ve been lucky enough to see this in real life Denise, it really is such a privilege. Didn’t you find their team work remarkable?

Geri Potter

I agree, the world around us does not allow for much peace, we need to make our own. I would also say, most people do not ‘hunt’ for the greater good of the whole, but rather for their own prosperity, therefore, finding ‘peace’ is more individual. Figuring out where your own peace of mind begins is a true test, quest and worth the journey. Londolozi is a great place to start.

A B

I’ve never been to Londolozi Game Reserve yet but reading these blogs make me yearn to be among the wild and learn their habits : )

Amy Attenborough

We hope you can get here AV. It really is amazing what there is to learn from these wild animals and Nature in general!

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