The radio broke the silence amongst us. Wild dogs had been found, on the move. My heart started pumping with excitement, which the guests probably sensed as we were now going twice our previous speed in order to try and catch up with the pack.
It’s always a gamble going to try and find wild dogs as they cover huge distances and can lose a vehicle off road in thick bush without batting an eyelid.
After a ten minute high-speed pursuit, we reached the area where the dogs were last seen. No sign of them. Anywhere. My heart sunk…
The radio crackled again. This time a leopard had been found, literally a few hundred metres from us! Now what do we do? We made a group decision to continue searching for the rare wild dogs for another 15 minutes. I was proud of our commitment but we eventually gave up as it had been raining and no clear tracks could be found. After this length of time, the dogs could have already run a marathon distance.
We decided to reward our efforts with a look at the leopard that had been found in the vicinity. A large male was lying on top of a termite mound, staring intently below him towards an active warthog burrow. Warthogs will often use borrows in termite mounds as a safe shelter overnight. It really was a beautiful sight, as we had a clear view of the leopard lying majestically on the mound. He seemed to be falling in and out of a shallow sleep, but was still on alert for any sound of the warthogs coming out of the burrow beneath him. We waited patiently for about 45 minutes, not knowing whether the warthogs were even inside the burrow or not…
Now already about 30 degrees Celsius and definitely time for breakfast, we decided to slowly move past and start making our way back to the lodge. As we edged forward the leopard suddenly became tense, dropping into his shoulders and staring away from us and the mound. Something else was there. Out of the thicket, out trotted a pack of wild dogs! The pack of dogs ran straight past the leopard without noticing him, and chose to come and lie around the vehicle. I was thrilled, as our patience had payed off unexpectedly! What a rare privilege – viewing South Africa’s rarest carnivore, the wild dogs, with a leopard not even 100 metres away in clear view at the same time… Breakfast could wait. We sat tight for another 45 minutes or more, knowing that some real action could unfold.
The leopard ignored the dogs, still unaware of him, and continued to wait patiently for the emergence of the warthogs. He had edged closer and closer to the entrance over the two hour period.
Without warning, a warthog burst out of the hole, catching both us and the wild dogs by surprise! Second out of the burrow was a younger warthog, the perfect size for the leopard to overpower. All chaos ensued as the leopard leaped down the mound, grabbing the warthog and narrowly escaping the mother coming in to defend her youngster.
The dogs woke up to the squeals of terror from the captured warthog, and came sprinting in, much to the horror of the leopard.
After chasing off the leopard, the dogs pursued the injured warthog, managing to catch it themselves:
We later learned that the leopard had come slinking down out of his tree, and managed to steal back some scraps of the kill for himself.
Needless to say it was a morning we won’t be forgetting in a hurry…
Video by Londolozi Guest Julie Skattum