African wild dogs risk it all to cross the flooded Klaserie River!
February 2023 will always be remembered for the arrival of the once-in-a-decade floods that inundated the Klaserie with a staggering torrent of water. However, at Klaserie Drift Safari Camps, the flood brought with it something even more spectacular. Keep reading to find out more...
Watch the Video of the scene unfold on our YouTube Channel:
Cruising along the water’s edge one morning, Guide Khutso spotted a pack of more than twenty endangered African wild dogs being hounded by a clan of hyena on the opposite bank. Instantly recognising their intent to cross, he surmised this was due to some recent lion activity just to the east as wild dogs will largely ignore hyena unless food is involved. Known as eternal enemies, hyena will often simply follow the dogs at a distance until they see a chance to steal a kill. Lions, however, are recognised as one of the greatest threats to these charismatic canines, killing at will if given the chance. Even so, the pack’s yearning to dive into the turbulent current – something that they normally avoid at all costs – was still a surprise to all.
For several minutes, the wild dogs dallied on the sand, not wanting to approach the water. Searching for an answer to this behaviour, Khutso’s keen eyesight then spotted something else that was adding a fourth danger to the dogs – a basking crocodile. Another callous killer of anything that wades into its path, the pack was naturally cautious. Caught between lions, hyena, a crocodile and the raging river, it was the alpha female’s job to led her pack out of peril. Deciding the situation at hand was too risky, she confidently headed upstream to look for a less dangerous point to cross.
From the opposite bank, Khutso and his guests continued to follow the dogs until they reached another launch point. After a moment’s hesitation, and to the astonishment of all on the safari vehicle, the first dog launched itself into the Klaserie river. One-by-one the rest of the pack followed, forming a line of more than twenty tiny, black heads bobbing above the surface. Fighting against the current, the pack swam hard and pushed ahead, willed on by their relentless will to survive. For a moment, a lone straggler at the back appeared to get left behind, causing everyone’s hearts to leap into their throats. Will they all make it safely across?
For what seemed like a heart-stopping eternity, but in reality was little more than a minute or two, Khutso and his guests watched in near silence. Yet finally, elatedly, the last pup made it to land on the western bank. After a small greeting ceremony to gather themselves, there was no stopping these inexhaustible canines as they set their sights on a nearby herd of impala. Perhaps a little sloppy from their aqueous adventures, the impala quickly spotted them and darted into the distance before the pack could take advantage. However, it didn’t stop Khutso and his guests from spending almost an hour enjoying their fun and frolics as they chased and played across the bushveld.
With the sun rolling ever higher in the sky and a mouth-watering breakfast ready and waiting at the lodge, it was at last decided to leave the dogs in peace. After safely guiding her family away from lions, hyena and crocodiles, as well as successfully crossing a flooded river like none would have seen in their lifetimes, it was the least that this triumphant alpha female and her pack deserved. As for Guide Khutso and our guests, it will be a morning forever etched onto each of their hearts – a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of these iconic African wild dogs.
Watch the Video of the scene unfold on our YouTube Channel --> HERE
Words by Emily Whiting
Photos by Klaserie Drift Guest