Okavango Machaba Safari: Hunting With the Pack

Wim Reports from Okavango – Machaba: Hunting With the Pack

Last night we left the pack of 16 Wild Dogs in thick bush at Sable Alley – and this is where we hoped to catch up with them this morning.

To our utter surprise we found dogs there – but it was the pack of 6 dogs. As we came across them they had just caught a very large Lechwe ram – another cause for amazement. Wild Dogs don’t usually hunt anything as large as this ram, but there it was, clearly killed just moments before.

We sat with the pack for the next hour and a half as they went about enjoying their meal. The interactions between the pack members were just beautiful to watch and to photograph, and we simply could not tear ourselves away.

The most endearing was a youngster, barely out of puppyhood, full of mischief, bouncing around energetically, getting the way of the more somber adults, and piling in to feed in between his antics.

When we eventually left the satiated dogs we decided to spend some time photographing some of the spectacular bird life that we have all but ignored for the past exciting days. Different kingfisher species, Coppery-tailed Coucals, White-browed Coucals, an African Cuckoo, and of course the beautiful Fish Eagles.

This afternoon we decided to check out the Mogotlo area. We arrived, and were photographing the plentiful game while on the lookout for lions.

Another surprise!

Suddenly a Wild Dog came racing past us – a member of the 16 member pack! We hurtled after the dog and soon found ourselves with all 16 dogs. And they were hunting – actually going after anything and everything.

A very amusing incident occurred when, shortly before sunset, the dogs decided that three large giraffe were fair game. It was quite comical to watch as the dogs tried to intimidate the giraffe, eager to convince them that they were fearsome opponents. A very improbable standoff lasted for quite some time, with enthusiastic dogs on one side, and lofty, disdainful giraffes looking down on them from the opposing side.

Then 3 dogs suddenly dashed right past us, less than a meter behind an impala that looked as though it was flying along.

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Wow! The sight of that impala was enough to get us going! We spun the vehicle around and tried to join the chase, but the short moment it took to turn around gave the animals too much of a head start and we lost them.

Our only option was to return to the remaining dogs and wait for the contact calls that would be their signal to join the hunters. Sure enough, within seconds the yips and calls could be heard and the dogs were off – with us close on their heels. It was exhilarating! We felt as though we were part of this pack, running with them, anxious to join the others and see …

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Thud! Bang! What was that? We had hit a log that had not been visible – and a flat tyre meant that we could not continue.

But we had had front row seats to the hunt! The sight of that impala running at full tilt with 3 dogs literally on its heels was a sight that is etched indelibly on our minds!  – more than that – the chaotic scenes that followed as we kept pace with the dogs – these are memories that we will never forget. And we had the presence of mind to grab shots occasionally.

The excitement lasted all way back to the Lodge, with all of us reliving every second and angle of the experience … and I am sure that that will be the main topic of conversation through dinner as well.

We plan to return to the dogs in the morning to see whether they were successful, or maybe off on another hunt …