While on the &Beyond Botswana Superior Explorer Safari we had the most amazing African Wild Dog encounter
A pack of wild dogs had decided to cross the Moremi River and in the crossing one had been left behind. On one side of the river were 16 wild dogs and on the other side one panic stricken wild dog. They were running up and down the river bank parallel to each other calling frantically – able to see and hear each other but unable to get together. Wild dogs are petrified of water (it is believed due to crocodiles) so it takes a lot for them to cross and they usually do it as a pack and very quickly trying to find the shortest point and preferably leap over instead of going into the water.
The poor hysterical wild dog on the opposite side of the river had at least 100 metres of water between it and the rest of the pack as well as a pod of hippos and at least nine elephants.
Finally, knowing he had to join his pack, the single wild dog took the leap while being egged on by the rest of the pack in a frenzied manner.
He leapt metres at a time almost skimming the water’s surface. He maneuvered his way around the hippos gracefully enough but in doing so caught the attention of an elephant bull who charged after him at speed – this was no warning charge but a full on assault.
In my memory the whole interaction still plays in slow motion. The wild dog seemed to freeze in terror midair for a split second and then as if he was side stepping a tackle he maneuvered out of the elephant’s way with poise and elegance. The furiously agitated elephant bull, who was in musth, let out a frustrated trumpet and charged after him at full tilt.
After what felt like an eternity the isolated wild dog touched down on the other side of the river and was given a hero’s welcome by the rest of the pack who gathered around him calling and rubbing up against him in a dizzying display of euphoria.
There were seven of us in the vehicle who had all be frozen in anticipation, and as a group we let out a collective sigh, only then realizing that we had all been fixated on the scene unfolding in front of our eyes and had been holding our breaths. One of those never to be repeated sightings which brings us back for more game drives, time after time, always aware that there can at any moment be another chance to see something unforgettable. A memory that will remain with all of us forever…
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