During a flurry of exciting wildlife sightings at the time, this post never got published.
The story and sentiment remain unchanged though, and we felt it was valid to post.
It had been 11 weeks since I had set foot back on the soil of Londolozi, and I know that may seem like a short amount of time when compared to a lot of the guests that visit Londolozi on a yearly basis. Level 5 Lockdown had been enforced across South Africa and with the lodge temporarily closed, I was struggling. Then the call came to return to join the few rangers who had remained on site to gather media and keep the online presence of Londolozi going.
I can now say I have got a small taste of the longing you all have to return back to this incredible place.
Upon getting back, Sean Zeederberg and I went into self-isolation out in the bush just to make sure we were Covid-free. We were to sleep on a raised deck for a few nights. We couldn’t believe the luck we had when we were offered the opportunity to sleep out; it was an absolute no brainer for the both of us! We jumped at the chance, packed our bags and off we set.
The first night out was spectacular; the weather was not too cold and the evening was dead-still, allowing us to hear lions calling so clearly it sounded like they were no more than a hundred meters away. While talking around the fire, the discussion of how excited we were to see the new wild dog pups was the heated topic of the moment. We had only seen videos and posts of them but had not been able to see them in reality. The excitement to get out and explore the next morning was overwhelming.
At first light we were out searching for whatever we could find, knowing we were going to make our way straight towards the wild dog den as soon as there was enough light. The sun had now risen and it was playing out to be a perfect morning.
We were now slowly starting to make our way towards the den when James Tyrrell found the male wild dog, who looked like he had recently fed and he seemed to be on his way back to the den. I could not contain my excitement. I had never seen wild dog pups at a den before, let alone on Londolozi. In conversation with James that morning he had said they hadn’t seen the pups at the original den in the last three days or so. This could have meant that the adults had now moved dens, or it had just been bad timing when the other rangers had gone to check the den.
I had played out a scene in my head of us finding a new den more than 50 times that morning. A few minutes went by when James then said he had lost sight of the male and there were no tracks coming out onto any of the roads. My excitement grew even more. The male dog must have stopped somewhere in the middle of the bush. Could this be what I was hoping for? The chance to find a new den?
Within minutes we were in the area and on foot with James, heading in the direction he last saw the male dog disappearing. The expectation building up inside me was indescribable, as we quietly and carefully made our way through the thickets, creeping slowly forward and stopping to listen every few steps. We had split up to try cover more ground when suddenly we heard a bark and growl coming from just in front of us.
Immediately my heart skipped a beat. This was it!
We headed back to get the Land Rover, and after a bit of manoeuvring through the bushes, we were greeted with this sight:
We had just found the new wild dog den, and what we saw that morning was something I will truly never forget.
Sean and I were speechless in excitement with what was unfolding in front of us. Another two pups made their way onto the sandy ridge to inspect our vehicle, upon which they were all aligned perfectly, staring at us.
The majority of the pups were playing on the southern side of the den in the beginning and while we had positioned the vehicle on the northern side of the den to try and get the best angle to see as much as possible, it all unfolded perfectly as they all came to us. The pups all looked well fed but we were still unsure if it was that morning that they had eaten, until one of them emerged from behind a tree with a piece of what we presume was impala hide in its mouth.
It truly was a morning that is heavily ingrained into my memory. From the talk about it the previous night, drastically increasing our excitement levels to every second of action that unfolded; from tracking into the bush to the antics at the den that morning – it was an experience I will remember forever.