The long and lizardly days of summer are here, and what were only mirages of expectation last month, have now sharpened into clear view: bee-eaters, monitor lizards, snakes, baby impalas, green panoramas. And, lest I incorrectly credit the season for the bounty of wildlife bestowed upon us, I will simply state: a pack of 25 wild dogs traversed our land during the final week of November.
It’s hard to recall what else we saw – with their characteristic success and exuberance, wild dogs have a habit of stealing the show. Especially a wily pack of twenty-five, thirteen of them pups in tow. When we first found the group wandering the old airstrip, an instant buzz shot through camp; we quit our posts and crammed into a Land Rover. Every evening to follow, like clockwork, before they stirred from their midday sleep, we would be there to watch as they stretched and groaned, rough and tumbled and eventually decided it was time to set out for food. It would happen, inevitably, which never diminished the drama.
Ok, one last story on the wild dog front. One evening we were tracking them. Actually, we literally followed our noses through a thick riverine forest to where they lay in the shade. We parked and sat with them, poised for the next move. As we waited we looked up into a towering leadwood – our eyes could barely make it out in the deceptive dappled light, but sure enough, a big male leopard lay in the fork of the trunk. The base of the tree stood just metres from the sleeping dogs. When they began to stretch and play we had a decision: stay with our new leopard visitor, or follow the dogs. It’s not often you get to choose from such charismatic options. A coin toss settled the dilemma and we followed the dogs. In the end we felt no remorse. After taking down an impala, we followed the dogs to a second kill, which happened to be 100 metres from another male leopard’s kill of a lechwe. The leopard slinked away, silhouetted against the evening sky. We couldn’t believe our luck.
But is it about luck, or just upping the odds? The willingness to follow your nose and feet to wherever the seasonal road may lead. Indeed, there are beautiful, untraversed areas in these parts, begging to be discovered. Sometimes the luck finds you, but often you go out and get your own luck – a lesson we learn from our wild friends.