After six and half days of the best safari of my 18 safaris I was feeling rather contemplative. Londolozi had sailed past the very high bar that I had set for it and I had not one but two of my best ever African game drives to reflect on. Both had involved the same principle, of sitting and watching and waiting in prime locations.
I was very happy, and looking forward to getting home, getting the cat out of the cattery and sitting for hours at the computer looking at the excellent bird, leopard and elephant photos that I had accumulated.
I was lucky on this day as guests from the previous drive had gone home and I was Simon Smit’s only guest for the drive.
We thought we would have a look for lions. It was possible that the male coalition had crossed back onto the Londolozi traversing area. We hadn’t got very far when the message came in that wild dog had been found.
There were three vehicles and with the reserve policy on not overcrowding any sighting, we continued in search of lion. We quickly found out that one Land Rover had departed and we were called in. Sometimes (and I cannot claim any degree of innocence) guests want to see as much as possible in a short of period of time, so it is not surprising when you have seen a stationary pack that some guests wonder what lies beyond the hill.
By the time we got there, the hunting dogs were no longer stationary but were moving off, what follows is a history of the wild dogs doing what they do best – hunting. No my images aren’t going to win Wildlife Photographer of The Year but were taken at a breathtaking speed.
When we first met the dogs, they were in single file, Simon was thrilled as this pack was rarely seen on Londolozi, and it consisted of adults and juveniles. The pace was brisk but not excessive and the wild dogs stopped periodically and rested for very short periods of time. They later moved off, getting progressively speedier and spread out. When they met up, they seemed so pleased to see each other that they proceeded to jump over each other.
Clearly they were hunting and it became harder to keep up with them as they went into thickets. I was strongly reminded of a pheasant shoot where the beaters flush out the pheasants. From time to time we lost sight of them, but I never got the feeling that we had lost them – it was all pretty frenzied. At one point Simon said that if I looked up I would see a giraffe in the background with the dogs in the foreground.
The pack seemed to miss a small group of impala and an implausibly lucky nyala and then thy veered course, this time into impossibly thick Acacia. All we could do was spread out and wait. It was the luck of the draw. Again I was reminded of a shoot back in England, where the guns are spread waiting to see the pheasants rise after the beaters had flushed them out.
Suddenly there was action and I was glad to be in a Land Rover rather than a bumpy Land Cruiser. The dogs had changed track by 90 degrees and we could only follow them using the dry course of a riverbed. The team of Simon and tracker Foster worked magnificently and we saw them follow the bank chasing an impala. The impala crashed into a drainage channel and that was that. Seconds later we saw a blood soaked pack and a feeding frenzy of tails.
Thus it was that I saw a hunt and kill – an amazing sequence of events for my last drive.
People who have never seen a hunt will say that it is cruel, however as I left Londolozi for the two-hour drive to the airport, I passed a lorry full of cattle facing a long drive to await their fate at a slaughterhouse. The impala probably took no more than ten to fifteen seconds before it died…
Thank you to Simon and Foster for the most amazing game drive I have ever had. What a way to end a safari.
Written and Photographed by Londolozi Guest Ian Hall.
Click here to read Ian’s previous blog – 20 Years to Get the Perfect Shot.