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Dirty Doug's Disappearing (Reappearing) Dogs Safari


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Yeah it was a wonderful experience Paul!


7th August – Little Vundu

We were up early and once again spent the first part of the morning trying unsuccessfully to find the Wild Dogs. We did, however, stumble upon a Pearl Spotted Owlet who was enjoying the morning, calling, and preening and generally looking very austere as only owls can do as it peered down at us from it's lofty perch.


This shot is taken with my Olympus


P8072094 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


This is a screen grab from my video:


08-07-2012_060928(2) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-07-2012_060928(4) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Not bad eh?




As the morning pressed on we eventually gave up on the active dog search, which we had focused again around the less productive areas between Vundu and Rukomechi. We had some mid morning snacks and took a walk along the waterfront. Knowing that I was slightly disheartened that we had still drawn a blank on the dogs, Doug made it a priority to try and find some new birds for me instead. With his sterling efforts we quickly added several new birds to our trip list. This included the neat little Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-bellied Sunbird, and Wood Sandpiper.


The wind had picked up and dust was everywhere. We spent a lot of time getting some ground level shots of elephants in the dust and watched as the hippos became increasingly uncomfortable about being in the water with the wind getting quite strong.



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In this one you can see how bad the dust is:


We came across a group walking through the bush. It turned out that they were staying at Vundu Camp but their vehicle had broken down. They had already been walking for two hours, heading back towards the campsite whilst trying to get a signal on the radio to call for assitance. Doug had just heard about a pride of lions in the area and we were looking to track them. So, with the other group needing a lift back, they were given the option of either waiting for us to come back, or to come with us to try and find these lions. They opted for the latter.



We spent a long time trying to trace where the lions had gone, at time scrambling through and around some quite dense scrub. But all to no avail.

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Be interested to know wat you think to the quality of the images I have been able to get out of my 4/3 system :)


I love 'em. I'm very impressed. But I suspect that the photographer plays no small part in that!

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Junior gave a half-hearted mock charge and, with that point made, trunk raised and keeping a wary eye on us, Junior slowly shuffled backwards until the bushes obscured our view.


LOL such typical juvenile bull behaviour. :) I love how on game drives they mock charge the landrover as you start to drive away. But if you stop they quickly back up and hide behind some foliage... until you drive away again. All bluff and bluster!

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Thank you Zaminoz. I have been considering whether there is any mileage in upgrading to an E-3 or E-5 but I'm not convinced so far and I really don't want to be lugging around anything bigger than what I've got. But I do worry about the quality of my images sometimes.

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Back to the report:


Here's a vid of the hippos which got out of the water because of the wind:


A Gymnogene looking for a drink, with Blacksmith Plovers, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Egyptian Geese and Elephants:


We had a less eventful lunch this time and relaxed for a while, before heading back out for the afternoon. Our first sighting was a party of Southern Ground Hornbills. But as before they didn't stick around. A Crowned Hornbill also flew over. Then we watched a huge herd of impala running flat out in front of us. Not from any predators that we could see so it was probably our vehicle that spooked them, if anything.


Edited by kittykat23uk
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We also came across the two lionesses we had seen the day before. This time they were more alert, but still didn't seem particularly active. So after a while we left them to it and carried on to see what else we could find. We passed a small group of buffalo and stopped to photograph a magnificent Kudu bull who posed on top of a termite mound.




P8072342 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Further on, a flock of Natal Francolin played chicken in front of our vehicle and a party of Banded mongoose gave cause for confusion as they had some dark-coloured youngsters with them that looked like oversized dwarf mongooses. More birds were in evidence as we headed towards the back of Long Pool. This included the ubiquitous Helmeted Guineafowl and the rarer White-browed Coucal. Doug had suspicions that the lions that we failed to find this morning would visit the back of Long pool to quench their thirst as so we spent most of the late afternoon in that area. We Took a walk around the pool but didn't find any lions.



P8072352 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



P8072356 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



P8072361 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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The area was, however good for a few waterbirds. Yellow-Billed Storks were fishing in the shallows and allowed us to approach quite closely. More distantly we could see Wood and Common Sandpipers, grey heron and Cattle Egrets as well as African Spoonbills. As the light faded we focussed on photographing the Yellow-billed storks in the golden light as the sun began to set and then switched to trying to get a few atmospheric silhouette shots of the Marabou Stork. As we drank sundowners Doug pointed out a bird I had been wanting to see for some time, a Bat Hawk! As we prepared to head back to camp nightjars began performing acrobatic stunts over the pools, whilst hawking for insects.



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P8072543 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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8th August- Little Vundu


Some observant readers of this trip report might have noticed that we are now up to day 8 and still no sign of Wild Dogs! Now, one could attribute this to many factors; a poor guide? Definitely not! The vagaries of animal movements? Possibly. A butterfly flapping it's wings in Kuala Lumpur? Hmm, well that might account for the weather but the disappearing dogs? I think that's a bit of a stretch? Hmmm... Just sheer bad luck?? Maybe. But...No! We all knew the real reason. It was our (un-)lucky mascot Difa!! Every day of the trip, I had brought Difa (a plush toy wild dog that I bought in Kruger) with us on our jeep rides. Today I left him in my tent. It was the right decision..


The weather had turned and we’d had some unseasonal rain during the night. The fresh scent of petrichor was refreshingly welcome, but it remained windy and overcast all day. We planned to leave early instead of having morning coffee. Doug was a bit late bringing the vehicle around, (or I was a bit early) so preferring not to get eaten by a lion, I went and waited in Sangeeta’s tent. We headed out of Little Vundu, towards Vundu and guess what we found...




(apologies for the shaky start, haven't got around to editing these yet)..


As I couldn't film and photograph at the same time, here are a few screen grabs from the video:



08-08-2012_052856(4) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


The Vundu Pack waited for us in the middle of the road, 14 dogs strong, some dark, some more honey coloured. They milled about briefly but looked to be restless. The wind was gusting, showering us all in dust. Some appeared to be uncomfortable- possibly suffering with some internal parasite. They scratched and a few dragged their backsides along the ground. Then in response to some unseen signal, as one they all started trotting away from us, towards the dense mopane. Doug suspected they were either on their way back to the den and/or on the hunt for some breakfast. He advised that we should drive parallel to where they had headed, and try and head them off further up.



08-08-2012_052856(7) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-08-2012_052856(8) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-08-2012_052856(9) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We parked up and headed out on foot and soon came across some of the pack. In the short space of time that we’d lost sight of them they had already downed and mostly eaten an impala. Their faces were covered in blood. From our vantage point we started to get set up to watch the dogs finishing off their meal. Doug advised that we could try and get closer, but as we approached, they seemed quite nervous, eating more hurriedly. There wasn’t much time to focus on shooting both film and video so I focused on the video for this encounter. It was clear that a few of the dogs wanted to stay and finish their meal but they seemed to be called away by the rest of the pack. In just a few minutes they had melted into the thick mopane bush.





These are some screenshots from the video:



08-08-2012_055554(1) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-08-2012_055645(11) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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08-08-2012_060058(1) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-08-2012_060058(1) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



08-08-2012_060058 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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This was a fantastic opportunity to try and locate the den so we set off on foot to track them. Little did we know how many kilometres we’d have to walk to find them! We walked for several hours, scouring the dense bus for fresh sign. We eventually did locate the den, but it was in really deep cover. The dogs, also very nervous having just recently moved their den, were not at all welcoming, and so, with some deep growls, they warned us to keep away. We of course heeded this warning, and, though it was disappointing after all that effort to not get the reward of seeing the dogs and puppies interacting, it was certainly the right thing to do for the dogs. At least we could let the researchers know where the new den was.


Walking back to the vehicle was another 5 ½ kilometres but at least we had some warm coffee and nice sandwiches waiting for us. Doug helped me to pick up some nice new birds on the way back, including African Scimitar-bill, Bearded woodpecker, Red-headed Weaver and Chinspot Batis. We also realised on our way back that the dogs had made a second kill on their run through. As a group of vultures and Marabou Storks revealed:


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Lovely, lovely vids, Jo! I had completely forgotten how windy it was that day until I saw the videos again. Great shooting, great writing and great memory... chapeau...

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Indeed! He will not be returning with us.


For lunch, Doug drove us to a lovely spot overlooking the river, but it was cold, with the weather being so overcast and windy. Various birds were around, as were hippos and crocodiles. Of particular note were two skimmers which landed on a distant sandbar.


Later we came across a herd of buffalo out in the open. We watched them for a while and then drove around to long pool where African Jacana, Hadeda Ibis, Great White Egret, Sacred Ibis were feeding and where an elephant was bathing. Some eland could be seen walking in the tall grass, and a crocodile got up and slithered down into the water. A few waders were also feeding on the edges of the pool, including Black Winged Stilt, Ruff, Little stint and three African Spoonbills. On the way back to camp, a Little Bee-eater hawked for insects from a small dead bush. After stopping for sundowners we headed back.



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I asked Doug for a Civet, which he duly delivered on the way back, a great end to a great day!



civet by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Can you spot the Civet?? :)



Civet2 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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9thAugust- Little Vundu to Ilala


What a day! During the night I heard something scuffling around outside my tent. Curiosity got the better of me and I tried to carefully pull away the velcroed flap of my tent to see if I could catch a glimpse of whatever it was. However, nervous that it might be something predatory I didn't take too much of a chance and so only raised the flap a crack. I peered into the darkness but did not manage to see who the culprit was. I eventually tried to get some more sleep, but to no avail.

Soon it was time to get up and by reading the morning bush paper Doug confirmed that it was a White-tailed Mongoose that had been foraging around my tent. As this was our departure day for our next camp, we had a leisurely breakfast to allow time for Doug to get everything organised. We said our goodbyes to the Little Vundu camp staff and headed out on our way to the Nyamatusi Wilderness area. We had only just left camp when we came upon a friendly bull elephant who was feeding on some tall trees, stretching right up with his trunk in order to reach the tastiest leaves. He didn't “handstand” but got quite close, almost fully lifting one leg off the ground. He was so curious that he got unbelievably close to the vehicle to give us a good looking over.



P8092648 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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P8093391 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



P8093398 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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As we headed back towards Mana Airstrip, we came across a pair of rare avian visitors to the area. Racket-tailed Rollers. Unfortunately they were not in a particularly good place for photography as far as the light was concerned. After taking a few snaps, we moved on.


P8092669 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



Doug had promised us a trip to a hyena den that he had found near the airstrip. When we arrived at the site we were delighted to see that the pups were out and playing around the mound which comprised the den with an adult watching over them. We didn't try and set up where we were because the view was pretty obscured by thick scrub. So we painstakingly “crab-walked” and “bum crawled” in an arc around the den to try and get to a better vantage point. We scraped through sand, soil and a whole host of animal dung, to try and keep a low enough profile so as not to disturb the hyenas. But even so, the hyenas had already caught sight of us and disappeared back down into the den.


At this point, all pretence at skulking was abandoned and we stood and walked towards the den in the hope that if we waited long enough the pups would reappear as they got more confident around us. We gave it most of the morning, passing the time spotting birds. A Livingstone's Flycatcher, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds added some interest while we waited. Some of us took the opportunity to have a nap. Sadly, despite giving it our best efforts, the hyenas didn't reappear.


Edited by kittykat23uk
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So we moved on. We found a nice group of waterbuck, including a youngster. Then we found a delightful “Pumba” who posed nicely for a portrait with his little entourage of red-billed Oxpeckers that were hitching a ride on his back.


P8092684 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


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A party of “eyelashes,” were the next sighting as they chased and fought over some scrap of meat.


A handsome slender mongoose put in a brief appearance as we headed into the wilderness concession.



P8092728 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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No, a former member...................... you just need to get closer! :D

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Easier said than done with those hornbills. They seemed particularly flightly in Mana. Got a bit closer in Kruger and Bots though. :)

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A handsome slender mongoose put in a brief appearance as we headed into the wilderness concession. Then we came across another pool. There we some nice birds, including Sacred Ibis, Black-winged Stilt and Greenshank. At the back of the pool was an African Fish Eagle feeding on something we had a debate about what it was eating, but we believe it was a terrapin.


We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a wide vista and waterhole. There was a small group of elephants as well as two Saddle-billed Storks. I set up to film the storks. After some time, I tried to reposition myself to get some footage of the elephants. However, these particular elephants were not used to seeing people and were incredibly nervous. They froze, not knowing what to do, as did we, not wanting to provoke them. They swayed their front legs uncertainly and then eventually began to move off.

Edited by kittykat23uk
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A little further along we stopped at the river front. Doug fetched us a picnic lunch which had been stashed by the camp staff in the bushes. Doug had expected that we would have the area to ourselves, but unfortunately for us a group of fishermen had beaten us to this secluded spot and were making their way back towards us. They left soon enough and we then settled down to enjoy our picnic. A couple of Spur-winged Geese could be seen some distance away and an African Fish Eagle circled overhead. We had our lunch set up on a bank overlooking the vista, but we had left our cameras in the jeep nearby. This proved to be a bad move.


We finished our lunch and were about to pack up and leave. However, at this moment, a herd of elephants came down and started to feed on the Water Hyacinth. They stayed and ate for quite a while, but most of the herd eventually moved to cross in front of our parked vehicle and into the bushes ahead of us. One greedy little calf refused to join his family and continued eating, ignoring the matriarch's calls to join her. He just stood there, stuffing his face for what seemed like hours. Another group of elephants then came into view and joined the calf, one female gave him what appeared to be a stern talking to for defying his mother. But even that didn't phase the little greedy chap and he just kept scoffing his little face!


This caused a bit of a problem for us, as our vehicle was right between the calf and the mother! Doug bravely nipped back to get our cameras during a quick lull in activity but it was too risky for us all to drive off so we waited on the bank. Finally, the second group crossed and headed up towards where the other elephants were browsing. But the calf carried on eating, oblivious to the fact that he was alone once again. Suddenly, an elephant, presumably the same matriarch, gave a loud trumpeting call to get everyone moving and the little calf reluctantly fell into line, waded through the water and clambered up the bank to join his mum.


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P8092768 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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This was our cue to leave so we quickly packed up and piled into the jeep before more elephants arrived. We were very late getting to Ilala Camp. Ilala is situated right on the bank of the Zambezi. Here the river is really wide and the cliffs quite precarious. The tents were the same as we had at Chitake, only this time we shared a loo. We had time for a quick cup of tea before we hit the road again to get up the the Chikwenya Airstrip for our date with the dogs.

Views from Ilala camp:

Pied Kingfisher:

Brown-hooded Kingfisher:



P8092777 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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When we arrived, Doug went off scouting for signs of the dogs. He came back and teased us saying that there was fresh puppy fur and hyena tracks all over the trail to the den (which lay about 2km away through the dense scrub). Of course we didn't believe him because he had a rather large smile on his face so he quickly came clean and gave us the great news that the signs were fresh and indicated that the dogs had passed through on their way to the den earlier in the day and in all likelihood had not left to go hunting yet. So we should have a very good chance of seeing them on their way out. The only issue was that the light was quickly fading.


We got set up and were stood around the back of the vehicle. Doug had just poured us a sundowner and we stood facing Doug, with our backs to where the den was. Then, casual as you like, Doug looks over my shoulder and says “oh, there are the dogs,” I turned around. Like ghosts coalescing from the shadows, six dogs emerged from the bush into the open ground of the airstrip. In a hushed whisper I commented to Doug that I thought he was joking again, but sure enough there they were. And more, they were coming right towards us! I had just enough time to get my video camera set up as they trotted right up to us, curious of these two-legged invaders on their home turf.


I was overcome with a sense of awe as the dogs surrounded us and watched us with curiosity just a few feet away. I was not afraid, but it was a more intense experience to when we saw the dogs feeding the day before. That time, the dogs were tolerant of us being there but, in effect, we were just a part of the scenery to them. When we tried to go to the den, we were not welcome at all.


This time, it was not us walking up to them and forcing our presence upon them. We were the passive ones and it was them who initiated this contact with us. They could just as easily run right past us but they decided us worthy of intense scrutiny. It is difficult to describe the feeling of that very special and intimate moment sitting on the ground, face to face with wild dogs so close that I could have reached out and touched them. It is an experience that will stay with me forever.



I had to leave my video camera rolling where it was, we had to freeze when the dogs were right upon us. I didn't try and photograph them, for two reasons, it was already getting too dark for my camera to focus, and I just wanted to give all my attention to the experience of being with the dogs. The first group of six soon lost interest and trotted off further down the airfield. Ecstatic, we got up and toasted our success! A little while later, another three dogs emerged and also passed close to us, but did not pay us much regard, as I think they were in more of a hurry to catch up with the pack. This was not the whole pack as Doug mentioned there were 13 adults in total and an unknown number of puppies.



ilala pack by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


As a finale, three more dogs emerged further up the airstrip, but they did not stick around and went straight off after the rest of their packmates.



In the twilight, we packed up and tried to follow the dogs as they were heading roughly in the direction of camp, but it soon became too dark to follow them. It seemed we were not the only ones following the dogs as a hyena crossed in front of us. A scrub hare froze in our headlights on the drive back as well. We drank and laughed a lot that night! Then as we settled down in our tent we were kept awake by a terrible racket of screams and howls! Doug advised that it was just hyenas.


Edited by kittykat23uk
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So glad you didn't edit out the quiet/blank time from the dog video. That's what I call a 'meaningful pause' :D


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Incredible. I really look forward to seeing wild dogs in Zim. Even my dog was mesmerized by those videos!


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LOL! That's great! I've just been trying to work out what was going on at the den for the report. Sorry for the delay...

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