A Day On Safari in the Kruger Park

We left the Lodge in the wake of dawn in the open safari game viewing vehicle and enjoyed an exciting morning, with great sightings of elephant, lion and giraffe, and one of the biggest herds of buffalo I have ever seen. We stopped to relax during the midday heat to have lunch at a camp site inside Kruger park, overlooking the Sabi River, and were entertained by a pod of hippo cavorting at close range.

By mid-afternoon, we had seen many more species of game and our checklist registered some 15 species of mammal. We stopped on numerous occasions to identify birds, with some great sightings of Vultures, both white-backed and lapped-faced as well as a beautiful pair of bateleur eagles in a dead leadwood tree close to the road. Herds of elephant slowed our progress to such an extent that the sun was beginning to dip fast in the west and we had to make the gate by 6.00 pm.

We were traveling at the maximum speed limit when a movement to the right caught my eye. We reversed back to a clearing and there, not 40 meters away, were a pack of wild dogs tearing at the last remnants of an impala they had just killed. What a sighting! To only see these beautiful endangered creatures in the wild is unique, but to witness them on a kill, their tales swishing from side to side as they gorge themselves to take the food back to their pups at their den is quite amazing.

The western sky was glowing red, and photography was difficult. We set off for the gate. En- route I explained to my companions that even in my teenage days, wild dogs were considered vermin because of the clash between them and livestock farmers. They were shot on sight, and a bounty of five shillings would be paid out for each tail. I went on to explain that although this practice has stopped, the wild dog’s main predator is still man, but in many parts of Southern Africa, it is the tribesman now and not the stock man who is the main problem. The reason? “Muti”!! (sort of medicine or talisman). The wild dog is a very successful hunter. It’s said that when they go out for a hunt, they have (in the right conditions) a 95% chance of success. A leopard’s success is at about 60% and a lion’s at 30%. Ironically, it is the wild dog’s very success that is its downfall. It is in high demand by the medicine men who will sell a dog’s foot, ear or some other body part as a charm.