Digital Safari-Wild dogs, elephants and cheetahs

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We arrived at Savuti Camp, the third camp on our Digital Safari Workshop, to hear that there was an active wild dog den not too far from camp and that the viewing restrictions that are placed on such dens for the first month (in order to avoid disturbing the dogs when the puppies are so young) had just been lifted, so we were able to arrange that one vehicle per game drive visit the den site.  Wild dogs are highly endangered and it is good news when the dogs manage to den and raise pups successfully.

Wild Dog puppies at the den - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Wild Dog puppies at the den – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Upon reaching the den we found a single adult dog, the babysitter, waiting above ground near the den entrance.  After an hour the adult dog called to the pups inside and within an instant, thirteen tiny dark bundles of fur with white-tipped tails came racing out, full of youthful exuberance.

African Wild Dog pup - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

African Wild Dog pup – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

During our stay at the den, the mother returned from hunting and fed the hungry pups, who tussled and tugged at the pieces of meat she regurgitated for them.  The dogs are tied to the den site for roughly seven weeks of the year during the breeding time (until the puppies are big enough to keep up with the normally nomadic pack), which was lucky for our group as it meant we were able to see the dogs every day of our stay.

Photographing elephants from the deck at Savuti - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Photographing elephants from the deck at Savuti – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

There were more powerful sightings to follow at Savuti camp this time we were treated to the spectacle of a herd of approximately twenty-five elephants entering the Savute channel right in front of camp.  Some of the herd just swam across, while some of the young bulls engaged in spectacular play fights in the middle of the channel, with water spraying everywhere.

Elephants playing in the Savute channel - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Elephants playing in the Savute channel – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

The herd took almost twenty minutes to cross the river and by the end of the sighting, all of us who had watched it were left shaking our heads in amazement.  A year ago this time would have seen these same elephants walking on dusty trails in the middle of the old river bed, coming to the pumped waterhole.  Since then the channel, which had been dry since 1982 until very recently, has once again filled with lovely blue water, water-lilies, birds and fish.  Now the elephants played, swam and drank from the deep and clean waters of the Savuti.

The male cheetahs at Savuti - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

The male cheetahs at Savuti – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

There was more still to come as Kane, one of the Savuti guides, tracked down the Selinda lions, who were feeding on a giraffe they had just killed.  Then on our last afternoon we managed to locate the new male cheetah pair that are holding the channel territory.  The two young male cheetah were scent marking and looking for prey as they made their way along the south bank of the channel.  Upon sighting a herd of impala deep in the woodland, they stalked and gave chase, but without success.  We followed them when they emerged into the open grass on the river bank and enjoyed some excellent photo opportunities as they went about their business of scent marking and patrolling their territories.

Impalas watching cheetahs passing - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Impalas watching cheetahs passing – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Male cheetahs often live in coalitions or two or three animals, usually made up of siblings.  This coalition consists of two young male cheetahs and this particular pair arrived into the Savuti game drive area in December 2008.

Cheetah coalition at Savuti Camp - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

Cheetah coalition at Savuti Camp – Copyright © Grant Atkinson

For something a little different, one afternoon we practiced photographing some wildebeests to get motion blur images.

Wildebeest on the run - Copyright © Grant Atkinson

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