Every so often when camp is quiet or there is something exciting to see in close proximity to Tafika, the office staff jump at the opportunity to go on a afternoon staff game drive. After a delicious recharge of tea and cakes, we jumped onto the game drive vehicle and went looking for a pack of fifteen wild dogs that Bryan had seen that morning at Chimbwe lagoon. We have been incredibly fortunate that this year wild dog sightings around Tafika have been plentiful as the Mwasauke pack are denning in close proximity to camp. The game viewing driveway was as usual this year, a sea of elephants. We sat quietly and watched a herd feeding on kasense grass. It is very interesting to see how they use their dextrous trunks to pull clumps of grass ‘roots and all’ out of the ground, bashing the root system on their heads to get rid of the soil, and proceed to eat the moist roots while discarding the rest. The herd slowly moved off and we headed on down towards riverside drive and Chimbwe lagoon. The drive was relatively quiet until I glimpsed a large black-necked spitting cobra coiled with its hood raised as we drove past. As we stopped to have a closer look it disappeared down a hole in among the roots of a fallen ebony tree. As we continued we passed herds of very relaxed looking Puku and Impala, with the evening light accentuating their sleek cream and orange coats.
As we meandered along riverside drive a herd of elephants was having their late afternoon drink and a second herd crossing the river toward them, just such a typical Luangwa panoramic. Elephants can drink up to 200 litres of water a day! Their trunks are able to hold up to 10 litres of water and they use them as a siphon, squirting water into their mouths and all over their bodies, followed by a nice roll in the mud. The mud and sand protects their skin from the sun and biting insects.
As we had hoped, the wild dogs hadn’t moved since that morning when they had flopped down in the shade of some combretum bushes at the back of the now dry Chimbwe lagoon. Our timing was perfect and the entire pack started their ritual greetings, sniffing and stretching as they prepare for an evening hunt. No sooner had we arrived than they set off on their hunt. Due to their speed, following is very difficult, however, we could see antelope scattering and hear alarm calls that gave their whereabouts away. Every now and then we caught a glimpse of a speeding dog filling its position in the well organised pack pursuit. Unfortunately we could not follow the chase over the rough ground and instead watched the dogs disappear into distance with terrified antelope scattering in all directions. Later at the bar we heard from the guests on the second Tafika vehicle how they had had the incredible privilege of witnessing the entire hunt from start to when the pack succeeded in bringing down a large male puku. The excitement did not end there as hyenas proceeded to steal the puku kill from the wild dogs as they often do in this area.
Just as we thought our drive could not get better on the way home we found a young female leopard with a fresh Impala kill. We watched her for half an hour drag the carcass meter by meter to the base of a sausage tree. It was exhausting work and the young male impala proved too heavy to lift up to safety from other scavengers off the ground. We could hear hyenas calling nearby and so we decided to leave her in the hopes that we did not give her position away. What a fantastic end to another spectacular day in the bush.