Madwikwe, South Africa – Lion & African Wild Dogs

Morning comes early on the safari game drive as we arise at 6AM. Coffee/tea are delivered to the room and the guests meet at 6:30 to head out.

Brian honed us in on a male lion quickly. He had an idea where the king of the jungle might be and his intuition proved correct. We came round the corner after a 15 minute drive to be met face to face with a  fully mature 9 year old male and his brother laying in the thicket nearby.The animals are habituated to the vehicles and, while it is hard to believe, the open topped Land Rover is able to pull within 10 feet of the mighty beast without his being the slightest alarmed. He stayed put as long as we wanted to watch his thick dark, almost black, mane waft in the morning sun. To be this close to a wild animal weighing 500 pounds is both awe inspiring and a bit worrisome for the fist time safari traveler. It is hard to accept, but these animals see the vehicle as one object, not 8 people (possible food) in a car. As long as no one stands up or steps outside the vehicle, everyone is safe. These experiences show me that once animals do not associate danger with a foreign object, they become as relaxed as if we were not there. We took ample photos from the benefit of the morning sun and headed our way to see what else awaited us.

Only 30 minutes after our lion viewing, we came across a band of the exceptionally elusive, African Wild Dog. These creatures are brightly colored in a patchwork of black, white and brown colors highlighted by bright white tails. They are ferocious hunters and perform the task of finding food by wearing down their prey. Lions, cheetah and leopard will depend on stealth to kill. Wild dogs will simply exhaust their prey until it simply collapses. Pursuits of impala, wildebeest, kudu, zebra and many other species can go on for an hour. The dogs hunt as a team, each taking a turn at the lead position so as to not have an individual get too worn down. If a member of the group is hurt or sick, the group kills for it and brings back the food for the less fortunate member. That cannot be said for the big cats. If a lion is injured, it will be left behind to fend for itself. We followed these animals for 20 minutes until their stamina outlasted our ability to keep up with them from our vehicle.