Wild Dog den – a dream come true!
After a hot and dusty drive, yet this time with the confidence we had all gears in working order we arrived at Third Bridge campsite. As per usual we enquired at the camp office as to what game had been seen recently, with our attention as always on predator activity!
The reply came as music to our ears and what we had dreamt of became reality! Lion had been seen two days ago a few km away but the real amber nectar was the fact that Wild Dog had been seen. This is when we grilled the office attendant for more detail, “when, where”!!
“Oh they were seen this morning, they have a den just up there, just past the pan”, the lady referring to a small waterhole about 500 metres away that we had just passed. We could hardly digest what we were hearing. So then came the next question in anticipation after she mentioned the word den. “So they must have pups then?” “oh yes” she replies. We both tried to contain ourselves, wanting to shout out loud “are you freaking kidding!, wild dog pups”! So you can guess exactly where we headed that afternoon………
Still not convinced that we could be that lucky we headed to the area she pointed out. As we approached the area (a staggering 1km from camp!!) we saw a dog on the track, just sniffing around, then another laying in the grass near the road. We were both at that moment speechless, you could almost hear our brains traying to digest what we could see.
Just as we managed to comprehend what was only our second ever wild dog sighting in ten years of travelling to Africa more dogs started popping up at the den, both young ones and more adults arriving. The dogs barely kept still, older pups jumping around and playing and the adults partaking in greeting cermonies as we were frantically taking shots, whilst still in complete awe of these incredibly beautiful creatures. We were fortunate that the den was not that far off road, although still needing to shot between 500-850mm (full frame) So far we had counted at least 6 or 7 adults and at least 5 older pups. To our delight around one hour after arriving suddenly another two tiny heads popped out of the dens and two ‘black blobs’ appeared! These pups were tiny, still black in colour and the cutest little things ever!
We stayed with the dogs at the den throughout the warm evening glow of the setting sun. Just as the sun disappeared behind the horizon a few of the adults darted off in the direction of the nearby pan where they began to taunt a small group of wildebeest on the opposite side. The wildebeest were however defiant, staying in a tight knit group, charging toward the dogs. Pushing them away and preventing any opportunity for them to try and hunt. Darkness was finally almost upon us and so we left the scene and headed back to camp just a few hundred metres away. We had thought that was the last time that evening we would see the dogs but we could not have been more wrong!
As we stepped out the vehicle in camp we heard a rush in the reeds a few metres away and immediately spotted two of the dogs racing through the campsite. Careering through pitch number ten next to us before hurtling around the back of our camp. It had already been an unbelievable afternoon seeing the dogs but the bar had been raised as we now stood on foot and watched the dogs darting around. As soon as they had arrived they vanished in a matter of seconds and back in the direction of the den, leaving us both with an unbelievable adrenelin rush. Days like this are just ‘pure gold’ when it comes to wildlife sightings. Any disappointment that so far we had not seen anything of the felid kind was rapidly replaced by complete euphoria. It was a day that we felt we had found the holy grail.
So fortunately we were here at Third bridge for three nights and whilst we would have ordinarily spent our time here searching for the ‘cats’ we knew that for the next three days we would now focus our time at the den. Situations like this come along once in a lifetime and we had waited ten years for an opportunity like this so we intended to suck up every moment we could with the dogs at the den……..the lions were going to have to wait! (Something you rarely hear us say!!)