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Mr. and Mrs. SafariChick's Wild (Dog) Ride


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This is part three of Mr. Safarichick and my three-country safari in February 2017. The first two parts were in Ethiopia http://safaritalk.net/topic/17178-into-thin-air/ and Rwanda http://safaritalk.net/topic/17209-mud-sweat-and-tears/


We’d tried to get to bed early the night before in Kigali at the same hotel at which we’d stayed the night before our two nights in Musanze. We had made it back with a full battery worth of charge and I think the other one even still had a little bit left on it. @@Sangeeta had kindly checked for me after I WhatsApped her where we might be able to find another charger. She found a store in Nairobi that sold Panasonic Lumix cameras that might have our charger. (I knew that Nairobi traffic might make that impractical, though).


We had a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to Nairobi so we had to be at the airport early. Luckily we had no problems such as @@michael-ibk and @@AndMic had on their trip out of Kigali and got through security very quickly. We were pleased that our plane to Nairobi had been changed from one with a stop to a non-stop so that we would arrive in Nairobi an hour earlier than we originally thought and Chalo Africa had emailed Laikipia Wilderness about that. But when we arrived, our driver was nowhere to be seen. He was to be driving us all the way to LWC, about a 5.5 hour drive. We were having trouble with communications – our phones didn’t have phone service and wifi was only free for about 15 minutes. To get wifi you paid for you had to go inside to one of the gates. Luckily, we found RwandAir which let us use their wifi so we could contact Chalo Africa. They got in touch with LWC who got in touch with the driver. Apparently LWC had never seen the message we were arriving early so the driver didn’t know. And then he was at the wrong terminal also. So by the time he found us, it was about the time we’d originally expected to be picked up.


We asked our driver about the camera store @@Sangeeta found online but he said it would be a big delay to go there, and we decided not to do it. We were not at all sure our camera battery would last for four days at LWC though so we were worried about it. I was hoping maybe by some miracle some other tourist would have left one at LWC just as we’d left ours at Bale Mountain Lodge. When we got to Nanyuki, the last city/town/civilization before we’d reach Laikipia Wilderness, we stopped for some lunch and then asked our driver if we could drive through the town to see if by some miracle there might be a store that had a chance of selling our battery charger. We didn’t really think it would be likely but we thought why not just see. We passed one store that had a Kodak sign and sure enough, it was a little camera store. We went in and told the proprietress what we were looking for and amazingly, she had a collection of used camera battery chargers – including one for a Panasonic Lumix – but not ours. She told us if we had about 3-4 hours in town she thought she could get us one (from where I have no idea!) but we told her that unfortunately we could not wait, so off we went.

Our driver was not quite sure where the turn off was for LWC and there was a bunch of calling LWC on his cell phone, losing reception, stopping to ask directions of a local who didn’t seem to have a clue, etc. Finally Steve Carey, owner and guide at LWC, was dispatched to meet us on the main road and then we followed him back to camp. It had been a long travel day, from a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to now about 4:15 pm. Other guests were having tea and getting ready to go out for their afternoon activity, so we went to our tent quickly, washed up a bit, and came out to tea as well. After a quick bite of delicious cake with a passionfruit frosting, we were off on a game drive as well.

Our first guide was Steven. (It was a bit confusing because there was this Steven, Steve Carey, and then Mr. Safarichick whose name is ALSO Steve!) Also with us in the vehicle was a young woman named Emmy, an Australian student taking a gap year who was living at the camp volunteering. She wants to be a guide eventually and was to be starting university in the fall.


We found one of the dog packs in the area, the Tui pack (not sure if I’m spelling that right). The Tui pack seems to be the one that LWC sees most regularly these days. It was the one I was aware of before arriving, that I’d seen photos of on Facebook and Instagram. I knew how many puppies this pack had – I think it was 10 - and had been looking forward to seeing the pack with excitement. I was shocked and saddened to hear that there were only two puppies left. Not sure if it’s known what happened to the rest. But at least the two pups seemed happy with each other and I was grateful that at least they had each other and that at least these two had survived this far. You have to be grateful for small favors sometimes, as my mother used to say.


When we first saw the pack, they were still resting, so we hung out watching. Eventually, they began waking up, first the puppies playing then all the rest began to wake up and take part in a greeting ceremony.






















From where our vehicle was stopped, we couldn't see the greeting ceremony well as they all had started moving to the side. Steven asked whether I wanted to go down on the ground. On our very first outing at LWC? Oh, ok, twist my arm! Emmy got out with me and we got down on ground on our stomachs and tried crawling forward. Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to me that we’d be doing this when we went out on drive and I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt so my knees and elbows were not very comfortable! The dogs didn’t take any notice of us and we watched them for a little while from there. This is me and Emmy:




When they began to walk off to go hunting, we quickly clambered back into the vehicle. We attempted to follow them hunting and we would see them and lose them. At one point something jumped out and almost crashed into the car - it was a warthog dashing out of its hole - luckily it stopped short of crashing into us and ran off the other way. Eventually, we had some success. We didn't manage to see what they caught but we did see the alpha male regurgitate food for the pups which was very cool!


The alpha male and female are both collared; the male is very old, much older than the female:






It was pretty dark by now - here's the only halfway decent photo we got of the whole (or most of?) the pack:




In addition to the dogs, on this drive we also saw zebra, giraffe, white-tailed mongoose, vulturine guinea fowl.


All in all, we were quite happy with our first drive!

Edited by SafariChick
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Close encounter of the wild dog kind! Beautiful!

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Wow, what a loooooong day, but at least it ended well with the dogs. Being able to get down onto ground level actually with the dogs is amazing, and I love the shots you got out of it, maybe particularly the one of the yawning dog. Looking forward to more.

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Very strong start with the dogs - and well deserved after that long travel day. They seem very dark to me.

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Sorry this is going so slow, everyone.


@@hannahcat thanks for your nice comments!


@@michael-ibk Yes, the Tui pack is very dark indeed. We did feel we deserved it after the long travel day!


Continuing on, I have to say that my notes got a bit more scanty so I'm doing my best to recreate what happened on this morning. It was some fast-moving action and a bit confusing even when it was happening but here's what I can piece together:


This morning, our second drive since arriving at LWC, we went out with a different guide, Mugambi. It was just Mr. Safarichick and I in the vehicle. All the guides have the telemetry equipment to track the dogs, and they all seem to be very good, both at that and just in general.


Mr. SafariChick bundled up against the morning chill:




Mugambi, searching for the dogs:




At first we saw some Vulturine Guinea Fowl, Goshawk, and the ever-present Dik Diks which make up a large part of the wild dogs’ diet around these parts.

But then this morning took an interesting turn. We encountered the Tui pack which we’d seen the afternoon before. They were already up and about for the morning, and we noticed them looking around with agitation. Then they ran off, we thought to hunt. After they moved off though, we heard more noises and Mugambi picked up the signal of another pack sometimes seen in the area! We did not see it at that point, but the sounds we heard seemed to indicate a confrontation and altercation between the two packs! Check out this video and turn the sound up - this was when the Tui pack was running off - wild dogs at their chirpiest!



We began driving around, trying to find where any of the dogs had gone. We never again found the Tui pack that morning but lucky us, we ran into the other pack, known as the Croc(odlie) pack! The Croc pack has 5 puppies and they are about about a month younger than the ones in the Tui pack. One dog in the Croc pack has a badly broken leg but seems to get on well and is able to move with the pack.


Here are some photos of the dogs from the morning which I think are mostly of the Croc pack as we didn't see the Tui pack for too long that morning:

















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It was not only dogs we saw that morning. We also saw giraffe, elephants and the afore-mentioned Vulturine Guinea Fowl. Also, a poor Dik-Dik that had some kind of problem with a hernia or some part of his anatomy hanging down very low. A few photos:












an attempt at a leaping impala but didn't get its head in the photo very well!












At a little before 11 a.m. we met up with other guests at a dam for a brunch that was brought out to us. There's a structure where guests can sit and eat and observe any wildlife passing by which was quite nice. Here it is being set up:



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Oh boy sorry to hear of your misadventure getting into LWC - it reminds me of our own misadventure getting into makanyi lodge in Timbavati!


But seeing the pack that evening more than made up for it surely! Love those chirpy sounds!

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Holy cow- that video of the two packs....wow....the sounds just sent goosebumps down my arms.....

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After a delicious brunch at the dam (the lunches were always so good – well, all the meals were good, honestly – but lunches always seemed to have yummy salads – we went back to the camp for a midday rest. Others have described the homey feeling at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, and Mr. S. and I completely agreed. We hadn’t met Annabelle the first afternoon as she’d been off camping with the boys. (Steve and Annabelle have two young sons). She was a delightful hostess, very sweet and pleasant to talk to. We discussed a few times the problem with our not having a charger for our camera battery. Steve had thought that a guest had left one that might work with our battery – he thought Annabelle might have it with her and the boys but when they returned, it seemed they did not. Annabelle was then kind enough to lend us one of her cameras but the memory card slot didn’t fit the cards we had! We did mention the woman in Nanyuki who said she could get a charger with several hours notice, in case anyone was going in to Nanyuki to get supplies – but Steve Carey was dubious about the woman’s claim! Finally, Barend, one of the guides, mentioned that he had one of these chargers at his home that was about 10-20 kilometers away, I can’t recall exactly how far. He thought maybe he could send someone to get it for us and eventually that is exactly what he did – we were able to charge both our batteries – Barend saved the day!


There are several adult domestic dogs who make their home at LWC but while we were there, a puppy was also in residence. It had apparently been abandoned in a home next door to the Careys’ Nanyuki residence and was alone for days until the Careys rescued it. They found it a home but were keeping it at camp for a few weeks until the adopter was ready to take it. Mr. S. enjoyed playing with the puppy, trying to teach it to play fetch with a ball, and attempting to keep it from chewing everything in sight.






We set back out with Mugambi in the late afternoon. Mugambi once again using the telemetry equipment to try to locate dogs:




and were lucky to find the Croc pack once again about 5:25 p.m.. They were resting when we first found them, though the puppies were never totally still. We enjoyed watching them play and nibble on each other (so much like the domestic puppy back at camp but in this case there were five siblings ready to reciprocate instead of the one puppy chewing on all the humans.


The alpha pair:




These two were not getting up any time soon:




Well, maybe a little chance of waking up:




At first the pups were lying flat too - but notice not all eyes were closed:




Soon they were starting to play, even though from a supine position:




then some standing - and one chewing on some dry grass, reminding me of my boy we left at home who loves to eat grass and chew on dry leaves






Eventually everyone began to get up and move around:










Someone here seems to be going the wrong way:








We hung out with them until 6:45 p.m. when it was almost dark and they never actually went off to hunt.


Here's a video of the pups playing:


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@@SafariChick Your'e bringing back very pleasant memories of my previous stay there. I'm delighted that you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. One of the most astonishing things I've ever seen on safari is watching a jackal chasing a huge female hyena. I also saw a bat hanging upside down in the daytime, elephants,reticulated giraffes, and so much more. I really appreciated the wilderness vibe of the place even if one see cattle everywhere. I'll defiantly be returning.!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a quick note to say sorry I'm so delayed in continuing this report! It's been very busy the past week as I was taking my daughter to make final visits to some of the colleges she's been accepted to during her Spring Break - it's almost decision time for her! I will get back to the report ASAP!

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@@SafariChick Please don't worry about it because bringing your daughter to the colleges where she has been accepted is far more important. Please give my warmest regards to @Atravelynne if you can.She is only lady for whom I have nothing but the highest respect and admiration. I consider her a lifelong friend and a wonderful person/

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The long journey was worthwhile! A great encounter with the dogs. I love the video of the dogs playing - and the photo of MrS playing with the pup - they both look very happy!

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Finally I am continuing the report. I’ve had a particularly hard time trying to decide which photos to post for this day because so much happened and I have so many so it’s taken a little longer than it might have to get back into this! I will do my best to not overwhelm you with photos!


This day started with a beautiful sky as the sun began to rise. It was an auspicious beginning to what would turn out to be an incredibly jam-packed day.









At not quite 7 a.m., we encountered the original pack we had seen on the first afternoon, the one with two pups called the Tui pack. We had to laugh at the way we found them. We had been looking off road where we thought we had signal from them and got into some really thick bush that was quite tricky to get back out once we realized they were not there. Just as we finally got back to the main road, all of a sudden there they were running at us on the road. We were thinking great, we should have just waited here instead of getting into that mess, but we were still very happy to see them coming towards us, one pup having a dik dik leg in its mouth.








After they finished off the bits of dik dik they had brought with them, they ran off out of sight for a bit. While we didn’t see another kill, they apparently caught more dik dik and we caught up with them eating again about 5 minutes later. As we were watching them, suddenly from behind and to the side of us, a Hyena came walking up! As you’d expect, this began an interaction in which the hyena tried to steal some of the bounty. The dogs resisted and moved away, carrying the leftovers with them and still eating. But more Hyena appeared and eventually one intimidated a pup into dropping a dik dik head!










































After the drama with the hyenas was over, Mugambi asked if we wanted to get on the ground with the dogs, and this time both Mr. Safarichick and I said yes. The dogs were coming towards the road from one side of the road and we quickly got out and got on the ground on the other side of the car, then Mugambi backed up the car. This time, unlike the first time, they were interested, looked right at us and some came up until they were maybe only a couple of feet away and sniffed at me! My heart was pounding but it was amazing!








Mr. S. took this one of me with the dogs in the background:




and we got some shots of the dogs from ground level:






and Mugambi took a few of us from the vehicle with my phone (the other vehicle in the background is other guests staying at LWC who drove up after we were already on the ground and the dogs were already approaching us):














With all that had happened, we were with the dogs (and hyenas) for about an hour. When they started to settle down for the morning, we decided to leave them to their rest and move on.



Edited by SafariChick
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@@SafariChick I just loved your photos of the confrontation between the wild dogs and the hyena. I'm sure that Laikipia Wilderness Camp will be open again especially because Steve and Annabelle are such resilient people.

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@@optig thanks! I believe Laikipia Wilderness camp is open as usual, not aware of any news otherwise.

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When we left the dogs it was only about 8:30. We drove on and saw, among other things, giraffe, an zebra with a wound on its belly, white-tailed, dwarf AND slender mongoose (no photos of the mongooses - mongeese?) and of course various birds including a lot of different eagles: I wrote down Grayish eagle owl or Verreaux eagle owl and also Fish eagle and Tawny eagle but not sure what avian creatures I have photos of here since I'm so bad with birds - you all can tell me if you know.









I know what these are but it may not be apparent - flying Guinea Fowl which I am not sure I'd seen before!














After this, we went to see if we could find some elephants at the water and wow! We were rewarded with an amazing sighting of 57 elephants that came to the water and were drinking and playing and just having a wonderful time. It was just a fabulous sighting and we sat watching them for a long time and took way too many photos!


















They did get scared out of the water briefly when a helicopter flew rather low over the area where we were - not sure who was in it or what its purpose was but I felt very bad that they all ran out - however, luckily they got back in as soon as it was gone.


Here's a video of a little one just having the best time in the water!


After a while, a tractor came trying to collect water to bring to the (legal) cattle on the ranch. They waited a while until the elephants started to leave on their own, and then moved in to get their water.


A mama and baby zebra




View at our lunch spot




After a very full morning, we went back to the camp for a nice siesta.

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@@SafariChick I just love your photos of flying guinea fowl because I've never seen them fly either. I also think that your sightings of elephants was just amazing as well.

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Your battery saga had a happy ending. Good thing you had enough power until the charger appeared to get those first wonderful dog shots and videos. You made the most of the low angle while on the ground. Don't you wonder what those dogs are thinking?


Success all around after a little shaky start from the airport. Did the guide say anything about the chances of the Grevy zebra with the wound?

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All a bit idyllic. Great experiences with the dogs and elephants.

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  • 1 month later...

After a very long break, I am finally back to try to finish this report or at least post another installment or two.

On the afternoon of February 15, after our siesta  we went back out to look for dogs again.  On the way, we saw a few other things of course:






About half an hour later, we found the Crock pack, the pack with 5 puppies. By this time it was about 5:45 p.m. and still they were mostly resting though some of them did get up when we first arrived, but they soon settled back down.










Periodically the pups got up and tried to rouse the adults but when that didn’t work they lay back down.










We waited a long time watching them and even at 6:05, the puppies had gotten up and played a bit and adults even getting up again from time to time but then resettling, We were not sure if perhaps the dogs were hunting at night rather than late afternoon/dusk but eventually it was getting dark at about 6:30 p.m. and we left them to their rest. 


On our way back to camp, we saw




and a peaceful group of ellies at the water at sunset:











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I can't recall if I mentioned that there were a couple of families with kids staying at LWC at this time, at least one of which knew Annabelle and Steve's kids from school.  It was a school break that week so it made sense that some local families were taking time to go to the bush.  We were having a wonderful time and did not want it to end. Some of the families decided to do a fly camping experience, including the ones with the kids.  Steve Carey was sleeping out with his kids and they brought some of the dogs. We all had dinner out by the camping area, which was near a body of water.  When it was pretty dark, as we were eating, someone (one of the guides I think) spotted a leopard!  I tried to see it but I could not make it out, but it was drinking at the water. I wished I could see it, but it was exciting knowing it was there!  That late afternoon, a new couple had arrived, an older couple from Israel, and they were at the dinner.  They had been on safari before but not to Laikipia.  They were in our vehicle on the way home that night and we learned that the next day,  for the first time we have them in the vehicle with us.


The next day would be our last full day. We'd been fortunate to be alone in the vehicle the whole time we'd been there til now. It was perhaps not ideal to have a new couple in the vehicle with us since we'd been there several days but they were very nice, and it all turned out ok.  So the four of us went out with Mugambi the next morning. We spent the whole morning looking for but not finding dogs.  We had been so lucky to see them on 5 out of 5 drives, every drive we'd been on since arriving, that we could not be too upset. We did feel bad for the new couple but they had a few days to go. We went back to camp for a big breakfast. Before going back out, I finally took a snap of the collection of bones near where the vehicles would pick us up to go out on drives:





When we went back out, we did see something the woman of the new couple really wanted to see: giraffes




We also seen something we'd not seen at LWC:  4 jackals!










We decided to meander our way back to the water hole where Mr. SafariChick and I had seen so many elephants the day before. On the way we saw:


















Did we find elephants when we arrived at the water hole? You will have to wait until the next installment to find out!

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On 4/30/2017 at 4:47 PM, Atravelynn said:

Your battery saga had a happy ending. Good thing you had enough power until the charger appeared to get those first wonderful dog shots and videos. You made the most of the low angle while on the ground. Don't you wonder what those dogs are thinking?


Success all around after a little shaky start from the airport. Did the guide say anything about the chances of the Grevy zebra with the wound?


@Atravelynn yes, happy ending for the battery saga, as unlikely as it seemed - boy were we lucky! I do wonder what they think - I wondered that with the gorillas too!


No the guide didn't mention the Grevy zebra's chances but I didn't hear a lot of concern either.

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Fortunately, when we arrived at the water hole, we did find elephants. Not as many as the day before - this time we estimated we saw about 30 - but they were once again very entertaining and having a wonderful time, it seemed.




















here's a video where you can really see eles both young and old just having a grand time rolling in the mud and dust.



Edited by SafariChick
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