Breakfast With Wild Dogs

The beauty of game drives is the unexpected. Lurking around every corner and behind every bush lies the possibility of a life changing encounter; whether it’s your first outing in the bush or if you’re a seasoned guide, it’s the draw that makes every outing so exciting and rich with potential. The sighting could last for an hour or mere seconds; you just never know.

I teach wildlife photography and conservation for African Impact, a volunteer organisation based in the Greater Kruger area of South Africa, and the above is exactly what I preach to all of my photography volunteers; that no matter how quiet it may seemingly be, it only takes a split second for everything to change… and this is one such occasion. It was a quiet morning, the sky was a dull grey with a thick blanket of cloud blocking out a lot of light – not ideal for photography, but we headed to a local dam to chance a sunrise. We waited patiently but to no avail, the sun was already up but concealed by gloom and rain was beginning to threat. A sigh of tiredness and disappointment carried across the truck… that was, until we saw something emerge out of the bush at our flank. A panicked shout of disbelief and excitement broke out; “Wild dog!”

A lone African Painted Wolf trotted down to the dam’s edge and proceeded to drink; not caring at all about our Land Cruiser’s close proximity. After a quick drink, the wild dog began a quick jaunt back to where it came from, and we of course made haste to follow. It had made an impala kill, not far from where we were, and we positioned the vehicle for the best photographic angle as the rest of the scene played out. The rest of the pack, another sixteen or so, quickly joined and swarmed the fresh kill with the joyous and overwhelming excitement one usually associated with children in a candy store. Every morsel was stripped near clean off the bones within fifteen minutes, leaving nothing but a stark reminder of what once was and an impressive display of their efficiency – nothing went to waste.