The best places to see wild dogs in Africa
Best places to see wild dogs in Africa: If you ask safari enthusiasts what they are most looking forward to seeing in the wild, their answers are inevitably very similar. Lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinos and “if we are lucky, the elusive leopard”. Frankly, who can dispute that. It’s like asking someone on their first trip to France what they want to see. It would be downright stupid not to expect the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées and the Sacré Coeur to emerge.
When you ask more experienced safari enthusiasts what they hope to see, the list is often very different. It is true that the words “elusive” and “leopard” go together like “bread” and “butter” in safari circles, however, in the grand scheme of things, leopards are not really that elusive. Although it is always a treat to see leopards in the wild, for many regulars, the last sighting of predators is a pack of wild dogs!
More than any other large predator in Africa, wild dogs need space. Their territories of origin are enormous, generally ranging from 200 to 700 km². As human populations increase, they exert pressure on the ranges of wild dogs, creating conflict and spreading canine diseases from populations of domestic dogs to wild dogs, making it one of the most predatory species most threatened in Africa. With such large areas to patrol and protect, except during development, the packs are always in motion, which makes the view anything but guaranteed.
While nothing is guaranteed, there are certainly places where the chances of seeing dogs are greatly increased. Across southern Africa, these are our favourite options.
Jamala Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
The malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve is just over a four-hour drive from Johannesburg or a short hour’s flight. The reserve is large enough to house an established and healthy pack of wild dogs, yet compact enough to have a very good chance of seeing them.
One of the best places to base yourself is the wonderful Jamala Madikwe, which offers only 5 exquisite villas with private terraces and plunge pools directly overlooking the African bush.
The real action, however, occurs in the main area of the lodge, which has become famous for its “sofa safaris” thanks to the very active water hole directly in front of the lodge. From there, many guests saw wild dogs go down to drink and even saw wild dog hunts!
Kwara Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
The vast open landscape of northern Botswana, fed by the seasonal floodwaters of the Okavango Delta, attracts a large number of animals. Where there are concentrations of animals, predators are never far behind, and this area has become a hot spot for wild dogs.
The magnificent Kwara camp, entirely renovated in September 2019, is an ideal base for exploring both the delta waterways and the surrounding plains rich in-game. While not lounging in the comfort of the camp, the number of safari passengers is limited to only 4 per vehicle, ensuring an intimate experience. The area is home to at least three regular packs of wild dogs (including the Marsh Pack which has 25 dogs) and it is not uncommon for dogs to even chase their prey through the camp!
Nyamatusi Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe
The Mana Pools World Heritage Site is one of the most remote and wild regions of Zimbabwe and is home to a thriving population of wild dogs. In 2018, David Attenborough presented an hour-long program on the “painted wolves” of Mana Pools, making the status of the region a preferred destination for wild dogs.
The recently opened Nyamatusi camp offers visitors a luxury escape amid the spectacular scenery of this remote region. Each of the six luxury tented suites offers large terraces with private pools and breathtaking views of the mighty Zambezi and the great escarpment that rises on the far bank of the Zambian river.
Meetings with wild dogs for Nayamatusi customers are frequent and available not only in a 4 × 4 safari vehicle, but for the lucky ones, the area also offers some of the best chances of meeting dogs during game drives. foot!
Lion Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia
10 classic suites with thatched roofs in wood and canvas in a subtle classic safari style welcome guests to the luxurious Lion Camp. The suites and the main lodge stretch along an Oxbow River, allowing guests to sit on their private deck and watch the action come to them! Two of the suites even have bathtubs on the deck for an ultimate bath with a view!
While it is not unusual for Lion Camp guests to see wild dogs from the camp, heading to the national park offers many opportunities. The Luangwa Valley is home to the largest population of wild dogs in Zambia, currently estimated at over 350 individuals. Camp safaris are both in 4 × 4 safari vehicles and on foot (Zambia is after all the “land of the safari on foot”) and the chances of seeing wild dogs are among the best in southern Africa.
I hope your next safari will give you the chance to see some really “elusive” big African predators, and if so, are you counting very lucky.