Year in the Wild Blog

Kruger Catch up – Week 7 – Wild dogs and big male leopard at Shimuwini

Shimuwini Camp is one of my favourite places to stay in Kruger. It’s one of the so-called bush camps (like Biyamiti, Talamati, Sirheni and Bateleur), and is only accessible to people who are booked to stay there. Also, the roads into camp are off-limits to general visitors, so you have a good chance of being alone at wildlife sightings.

I was very lucky here. Once again, most of my luck came early in the morning or late afternoon. After seven weeks of getting up every morning at 5, to make sure I catch the early light, I was tired! But if you don’t get up early, you’re going to miss the action! And on several mornings at Shimuwini, I was rewarded. First, a big male leopard, and then a pack of seven wild dogs on the hunt.

Enjoy the photos!

African wild dogs near Shimuwini Camp. I found a pack of seven dogs (three adults and two sub-adults) hunting early one morning along the side of the S41 River road near the camp.

 

They were intrigued by some buffalo dung that was very fresh. They ate some of it, then rolled in it. I presume to mask their smell while hunting, but also to supplement the bacteria in their stomachs? I need to clarify this with a wild dog expert.

 

The second rarest carnivore in Africa, after the Ethiopian Wolf. About 5 000 individuals occur in the wild in Africa, only about 550 in South Africa, and most of these occur in Kruger. To see them in their natural wild environment is a privilege, every time.

 

Mmmm, lovely! A wild dog rolls in some buffalo dung.

 

Some wild dogs - if they've never seen vehicles or people before - are very inquisitive of cars. These sub-adults kept walking closer to me, and when I reversed, they kept on walking towards me. I guess their intrigue stems from their lack of persecution by humans, as so often happens outside protected areas. Their naive trust of humans makes such a nice change from most wild animals which are scared of humans, because we have hunted them for so long. (Although, this is one theory why Africa's large mammals have survived for so long in the modern world - because wild animals evolved alongside hunting humans, and are intrinsically wary of us. On other continents, when humans first arrived from Africa, animals had no idea that we were hunting, marauding predators, and so consequently the poor creatures were easily wiped out by homo sapiens.)

 

 

They are beautiful creatures, and finally the world is starting to realise that the old negative prejudices against wild dogs are totally unwarranted.

 

The bird hide at Shimuwini Camp...overlooking the Letaba River

 

A big boy - baobab silhouetted against the sun

 

Shipandani hide near Mopani camp...with hippos in foreground.

 

I spotted this big male leopard early morning near Shimuwini Camp. He wasn't sticking around. He saw me, then ducked off quickly into the riverine thicket. But an impressive specimen, and probably the biggest leopard I saw in Kruger

 

The big male leopard patrolling his territory near Shimuwini Camp. It's amazing how these animals melt into the bush. They disappear within a few metres of the road. I can understand why leopards are so revered and feared in many African customs.

 

Sunset at one of the baobabs near Shimuwini Camp.

 

There's a beautiful baobab that's easily accessible near Shimuwini Camp. But you have to be booked into Shimuwini to see it, because this is one of the exclusive bush camps in Kruger (which are my favourite!)

 

A fish eagle, at Sable Dam near Phalaborwa Gate.

 

Sunset at Sable Dam. This is the view from the sleep-over hide. There are 8 fold down beds where you can put your sleeping bags, and an outside boma with braai. It's basic, but a great experience for people looking for somethign wilder.

 

The inside of Sable Hide, where up to eight people can sleep over. I spent one night there, but didn't see much. But I heard that there is a resident pride of lion that regularly come to drink. But because it's such a big dam, it may be difficult to see the wildlife on the other side of the water. Nevertheless, everyone who loves Kruger should spend a night here.

 

An old man, with wrinkled skin and full of wisdom.

 

At Phalaborwa Gate (and other gates), there are sniffer dogs now to find rhino horns hidden in cars...and other animal products.

For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.

Thanks to my partners Cape Union MartFord EverestGoodyear, and K-Way.

As well as WildCardEeziAwnFrontrunnerGlobecommHetznerNational LunaOutdoor PhotoSafari Centre Cape Town, Tracks 4 Africa, and Vodacom.

Conservation partners BirdLife South AfricaBotswana Department of Wildlife and National ParksCapeNatureEastern Cape Parks and TourismEzemvelo KZN WildlifeGorongosa National ParkiSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

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