I headed out from Vumbura South Camp with our guide Ron who had guided me on my previous visit here in 2016. The action-filled morning drive had early success, and then a dramatic, unexpected finish.
We decided to check on a leopard and her two cubs who had been spending time around a kill from two days earlier, not five minutes from camp. We found the mother gnawing on a bone and spotted one of the cubs nearby.
We watched mother and cub play together, waiting for the other cub to show up, when we heard reports on the radio of another guide having spotted and then lost the trail of two wild dogs chasing a baby kudu. We peeled away from the leopards to join the wild dog search.
Another guide spotted the two dogs in some bushes next to a rain-flooded grassy depression. When the dogs failed to emerge, we nudged our way to the area where we thought the dogs may be lying down. As we came around a bush, to our surprise, the two were feeding on a half-eaten baby kudu!
The two dogs ate, checked the surroundings, drifting perhaps 100 metres from the kill, and returning to feed some more. This pattern repeated every six minutes for about thirty minutes. We even caught a glimpse of them mating!
We decided to let the dogs be and went back to check on the leopards. This time, we found all three in one tree!
After a successful morning, we headed northwest to an area which had some recent cheetah sightings. Passing much general game, but finding no cheetahs on our search, we decided to break for some coffee.
Just as Ron was setting, up, he let out a loud whisper, “DOGS!” and pointed in the direction of a pack heading towards us, still 300 metres away. We aborted the coffee break and hustled back into the Land Cruiser to join the pack of 13 dogs, who were clearly on a hunt.
We weaved around the trees and stumps, staying with the pack, when their target – a group of impala 400 metres away – came into view.
The pace accelerated and in the next two minutes, there were leaping impala everywhere. Impala going right, impala going left, impala coming at us, impala going away from us. It was like an acrobatic show! The dogs seemed to be going in every direction as well, waiting for an impala to make a wrong turn.
And then suddenly the impalas had vanished.
Seven of the dogs gathered in a shady spot to regroup as the hunt had failed. What an exciting morning it had been. And it was not over yet!
Six of the dogs were nowhere in sight. So we pulled up next to the seven. Not ten minutes passed, and one of the small, young dogs from the last litter (the one at the top in the middle of the photo below), got up, and headed away from the other six, alternately scanning, sniffing and training her ears forward.
To our astonishment, she flushed out a young male impala, which had been hiding in the tall grass. As the impala leapt away, the dogs gave chase.
They shot behind our vehicle and emerged on the other side. The impala had opened up a big lead on the young dog, but the other dogs were in swift pursuit, and catching up.
The action was quick and unexpected, with Ron’s voice reporting what he saw, “A zebra is chasing the dogs and saving the impala. But they still caught it.”
We pulled up 30 seconds later and the feeding frenzy was on.
It took all of four minutes for seven dogs to polish off much of the impala. Several of the dogs walked away in different directions with a leg, a bone and other bits and pieces of the carcass.
We saw and heard one of the dogs call to the rest of the pack, and the six missing members returned from their failed hunt, having also missed the meal.
What a morning drive at Vumbura, seeing three leopards and two packs of wild dogs, the latter eating, mating, and hunting successfully!
Written and Photographed by Prabha Kant Sinha