Written by: Greg McCall-Peat
Before I share my amazing recent experience, I must tell you what I often tell our guests – luck plays a huge part in being out on safari! It’s often thought that everything is down to the sixth sense, skill and knowledge of field guides and trackers. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case and guides and trackers also have their old friend Luck to thank a lot of the time.
On this particular chilly morning as we set out on a game drive in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Lady Luck was sneakily sitting right on my shoulder. Guests at Umlani Bushcamp had been enjoying some amazing sightings over the past few days and hopes were high for the morning, which made braving the cold that much easier. However, soon those hopes started to fade as the bush was eerily quiet. To add to this, the usual reprieve from the cold given by the warming sun peeking over the horizon just wasn’t happening as clouds had moved in overnight.
I decided to head to the far eastern section of our traversing area in the hopes that we would perhaps bump into some lions or a leopard; anything really just to get back the excitement.
Then it happened. The vehicle started pulling to the left and the ominous thumping sound of a flat tyre began to resonate over the sound of the engine. My tracker glanced down and confirmed the fact that our morning had just become a little worse.
We stopped and everyone climbed out of the vehicle so that we could change the wheel. One of the guests walked down the road a few metres in order to take some wheel changing photos when suddenly there was a rustling in the grass to the right of us and cries of “HYENA!”
As I looked up, I saw a blur. A duiker hurtled right past the guest who was standing down the road, followed by a lone wild dog in hot pursuit. Let’s just say the wheel change came to a temporary halt as we watched the hunt take place.
The dog managed to catch the small antelope about 100 metres from where we were standing. The distress calls snapped us back to the task of changing the wheel as quickly as possible. And by the time we got the job done we could no longer see the wild dog as it had moved into a thicket with its meal, so we tried to relocate it.
After scouring the area with not a sign of the dog, we were just about to give up, satisfied enough that we found the kill. The lifeless body was still almost untouched, and we found this strange as dogs are notoriously fast eaters and a kill of this small size wouldn’t last long even with only a single dog feeding on it. My guess was that we had maybe disrupted the action by changing the wheel, but how wrong I was!
As we were making our way back to the road, a movement in the far tree line caught my attention. It was the dog and the rest of its pack. It had left to get the other members to come and share in its success. I announced the sighting on the radio and, after a stunned silence, the radio came alive with the voices of other guides responding to the sighting.
In total, eight dogs broke out of the thickets at a jog in the direction we had just come from, and they were heading straight to the kill. We doubled back quickly and watched as the pack fed.
Once the first vehicle arrived in response, we left the sighting beaming from ear to ear at the magic we had just witnessed. By the sound of the radio going crazy with guides wanting to see the dogs, we realised we had saved the day, thanks to a bit of luck and a flat tyre!