After a few hours drive through more sandy tracks, with swampy and damp woodland lining the route we arrived at our final destination of the Moremi section of our trip, North Gate. The campsite was again lovely, close to the Khwai River and literally behind the exit point of the north of the reserve, with Khwai village just a couple of kilometres away. We had a another huge pitch and located on the edge of the riverine forest, with a gorgeous view looking out to small open plains. From here we watched Zebra and elephant meandering back from the river as we knocked up a quick bite to eat.
We embarked on a pleasant drive in the afternoon, meandering around dry desolate vegetation and huge areas long ago foraged by elephants. The area was also home to a beautiful marshy area, where swamp met dry land, inviting a number of species such as Elephant Hippo, Red Lechwe, Impala and Zebra. All congregating in within a beautiful landscape.
The following morning we awoke feeling a tad jaded, after what can only be described as a long, painful sleep deprived night! We were 'treated' to incessant drums playing in the village from 11pm to 5am!! As cool as this initially seemed the novelty soon wore out after an hour or so!
We cruised around the marsh area once more hoping for an early morning glimpse of a Leopard or the morning roar of a lion, but all was quiet. We had around an hour or so before we shoud think of heading off on the long journey to Savuti so game viewed a little more in a different area.
Stopped in our tracks around 500m away we spotted a vehicle and saw a herd of incredibly alert zebra. Initially assuming while lifting the binoculars that it would be lion perhaps. However, did we ever think that through the binoculars we would see Lion AND wild dog!! Yep, that's exactly what we were looking at! We were so excited, the feelings were beyond comprehension initially. All of our christmas's had suddenly come at once! We had always wanted to see wild dog, and yet after countless travels across many African countries and a handful of "you should have been here yesterday's" we had finally done it!
The sighting revealed a pack of 8 wild dog, trying to steal a kill from a solitary lioness. It was such a distance away to make out really what was happening but she appeared to remain defiant. She disappeared into the bushes where the dogs excitedly followed, taunting her. It appeared she was winning the fight as none of the dogs seemed to be able to advance close enough. A small herd of Zebra watched the scene, facing forward in full defence posture. At this point having overcome the initial feeling of 'OMG Wild Dog' our attentions then draw to the frustration of how far away these amazing dogs were, so close and yet too far to get any good images. Just as we were wishing for closer action the wild dog tired of the lioness in the bushes and with full coordination in a matter of seconds turned their attentions to the Zebra, they had 'transformed' into hunting mode and the dogs were off!
We were so lucky to be witnessing such an array of behaviours, it was quite astonishing to watch them all in full hunting mode. A small herd of wildebeest scattered in the chaos and we had expected at this point to lose the dogs as they charged after the Zebra. However, after initially fleeing the Zebra turned and amazingly stood their ground, forming a defence around one young foal. The dogs ran around after various individuals as the Zebra faced them off. All of them running around in circles, with the dogs unable to penetrate the zebra herd. It was somewhat hard to try and keep up with the chaos that ensued. However, the Zebras were seemingly winning the fight and after just a few minutes the dogs gave up, not willing to risk a potential deadly kick from the increasingly aggressive Zebra. With this the dogs retreated, the Zebra trotted off and the dogs ran off into a direction where we were unable to follow, disappearing into thick vegatation. We knew the distance these fearsome predators could cover and suspected our time with them had come to an end. However, we drove around hoping they may reappear further up the track, Yet there was simply no sign of them at all. We decided to return back to where we had seen them across the plains, we had to leave this morning for the long trek to Savuti and so we decided this was as good as place as any to stop and 'regroup'! As we started to pack away our photography kit and return the inside of the Landrover to some kind of organised normality (in the chaos Sarah had managed to lose a lens cap, become somewhat dishevelled and sat on a chocolate bar!!)
However, you guessed whats coming next! We suddenly detected movement in the small forest that lined one of the tracks, this time much closer than before. We drove up and sure enough in the small wooodland we saw the dogs bounding along, and they were bounding our way! Just as we had managed to reorganise ourselves it all went crazy in our vehicle again, lens caps flying everywhere and Sarah scrambling into the back seat again poised for hopefully another photographic opportunity.
We stopped the vehicle and sat patiently, hoping the dogs would continue to advance our way and they did! They were completely unpeturbed by our presence and trotted up the track towards us, and we mean right toward us!!! Andy frantically took shots as they advanced, they circled our vehicle, sniffing around the tyres and at one point one of them putting their front paws up on the bull bar at the front of the vehicle, while another was fascinated by the braai grill on the back wheel, no doubt smelling last nights burgers! It was practically impossible to capture this with stills with Andy frantically complaining 'I have too much glass'! (In other words meaning he had too big a lens fitted at that point). Not a problem you encounter very often but when you do its a real frustration, it was not something we had expected to encounter and therefore why Andy had one of the big lenses on. Cest la vie! However, having said that we knew we must have surely captured some nice shots, even though we also missed a few opportunities in the chaos! They stayed around for 10 -15 minutes, a few of them sitting down nearby. Although rarely did any of them seem to keep still for more than a nano second!! After a short time the Alpha male and female suddenly rallied the group and with a split second they all turned and trotted off back into the forest, following their illustrious leaders and out of sight.
At this point it was time to draw our morning to a close, we should have left for Savuti over an hour before yet who in their right mind could have left at a point in time when wild dog were in the area! It was time to regroup once again and this time head off without looking back! What an unbelievable morning, the wild dog were just utterly fascinating and we were so lucky that our first sighting of them in the wild had allowed us to see so many interesting behaviours.
As we exited through the northern point of the Moremi reserve we bid a fond farewell to what had been an incredible few days in this beautiful game reserve. Now it was time to travel onto our next part of our trip and embark upon the long 5 hours journey over the infamous Magwikhwe sandridge and onto Savuti.