Wim Reports from Okavango – Machaba: Adrenalin and Wild Dogs
As expected we headed straight to where we left the Wild Dogs yesterday. After a very early start we arrived there in the pre-dawn gloom – and actually much of the day remained a bit overcast after a terrific thunderstorm that swept through the area during the night.
As we arrived at the dogs, they were just beginning to think about stirring. We had planned to be there early, realizing that after last evening’s unsuccessful hunt, they would probably hunt again at first light.
We were correct!
The next 2 1/2 hours were filled with the most intense excitement, adrenalin rushes, pounding hearts, fun, and sheer amazement as we dashed around after the dogs.
Let me set the scene – we found ourselves on a massive open plain, Lechwe Plain, that stretches several kilometers in all directions. And as the name implies, the plain was teeming with Lechwe. On one side is the Khwai River, and much of the action unfolded back and forth close to the river.
The dogs chased the Lechwe this way and that, determined to corner at least one. It must have been quite a sight – Lechwe dashing at full speed, with a pack of Wild Dogs nipping at their heels, and us bouncing along, trying our best not to be left behind, and trying to capture photographs all the time!
The wily Lechwe learned that if they dashed to a deeper channel in the river, they could swim to safety, as the dogs were very reluctant to brave the crocodile-infested waters. A pod of hippos watched with interest as again and again one of the Lechwe leapt to the relative safety of a swim rather than face the certain death that awaited them on dry land. And immediately the dogs would choose another victim … non-stop action!!
Then one of the Lechwe became stuck in a muddy patch at the edge of the river, and within seconds it was surrounded by hungry, snapping, slavering jaws. We just knew that this was it! Cameras ready, capturing each second of the encounter and inevitable outcome …
It was definitely sheer desperation that gave the Lechwe an amazing burst of energy, and suddenly it sprang free from the mud, to plunge into the deeper water – and swim to safety. Whew! What an encounter! We were shaking,wide-eyed, barely able to hold our cameras, and decided to take a much needed coffee break.
In any case, the dogs were beyond exhaustion by now, and collapsed onto the ground, panting, and clearly ready to rest for a few hours.
After a quick siesta at the Lodge we returned to find the dogs, but they had moved on. We tried to follow them, but in the confusion of tracks covering the plain and running in all directions, we were unsuccessful.
Then, as we stopped for sundowners, we heard yip! yip! yip! The dogs were contact calling and were less than a kilometer away from us – and had clearly made a kill. Although we had missed the final action, we had experienced such a thrilling day, and have gathered literally hundreds of incredible action photos that we are all more than delighted.
On the way back to the Lodge in the dark we found a chameleon and spent a delightful 30 minutes or more using every possible lighting technique to fill another memory card with very special images.
We have heard that a pride of lions has moved into the area. That is where we plan to start our morning …