Friday 9 September 2016

Dogs: 7 - Cats: 2

With thanks to Adventure World for this tailor-made holiday.
That was today’s score and it was a marvel. On our morning game drive with Chris, I said I would love to see the endangered and iconic African wild dog, an animal with impressive social skills and one I'd never encountered before – so that's what he delivered to us, just like that. At first there were only a few, loping along, looking for prey; but leaving them and working on information from other rangers and tracks in the dust, Chris found us something quite unusual. It was a lone female, lying panting in the shade of a bush, recovering from the exertion of having just chased down and killed, solo, an impala, which lay on the dried mud. Wild dogs hunt together, so it was quite an achievement for this one to have succeeded alone. She rewarded herself with a snack on impala guts before loping off to fetch the others back for their share.
They came running, and as we watched from the LandCruiser from a few metres’ distance, they dispatched the impala in only six minutes. Pretty impressive work for just seven dogs. There was eager whimpering but no fighting as they ate, and when all the soft bits were gone they each dragged bones into the shade to lie down and crunch on. Then they trotted busily off again, back to the den where 13 pups awaited with their baby-sitter for their (regurgitated) shares of the meal.
Witnessing all that was a triumph, and near impossible to top – but Chris did manage to find us two lions that evening. One of them had recently swum across the Zambezi from Zimbabwe on the other shore, two kilometres away, to settle in the reserve – amazing, especially considering the river’s full of crocodiles. They were magnificent, regal animals, and when they looked us full in the eyes from about seven metres away, we felt very insignificant.
On the way back in the dark, after our gin and tonics drunk as the big, red African sun dropped down below the escarpment, we almost became the meat in an elephant sandwich. Eles rule wherever they go, and humans tiptoe around them. So when they’re standing in the middle of the road browsing on a tree in front of you, what you do is sit in your vehicle and wait patiently for them to move on, fervently hoping that the crashing in the bush you can hear isn’t another one about to emerge on the road behind you and take exception to your being in the way.

The night finished with a surprise: the promised porcupine site we were expecting turned out to be a bush dinner for all the guests: we saw lights and fire, and were presented with deck chairs around a fire, a bar, a long table all set and lit by lanterns, and a 3-course dinner waiting. Well done, Royal Zambezi – that was a delightful surprise, delicious, and entertaining. What an excellent day!

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