It’s Monday 27th February 2006 and the 11th hour

Well it is the last morning of the “Wild Dog Safari” week.  We were all feeling confident about sightings as over the previous ten days the dogs had been seen regularly.  Everyone in the group is an Africa addict, and only two out of seven have seen dogs – Susan and Antonie from Canada have been with us a few times and have seen dogs before.  Martjin, AnneMarie and Eric from Holland have been on many wild dog searching safaris, all in vain.  And then Fred and Rebecca from the UK – also more than keen for their first dog experience.

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The group gelled extremely well and led by the intrepid and often hilarious Jacob they set off each morning with enthusiasm and hope. By the third day and no dogs, there were some cracks showing in the confidence. Jacob decided that since it was such a glorious day putting in the hours was the way to go and so he radioed through to the camp at nine saying they were going to stay out all day, please boat over the lunch. Everyone came back laughing and in high spirits that evening.They had seen lots and to top it all had been chased by an elephant for quite a distance. But no dogs. Never mind four days to go.

Day four and another long day out in the bush – covering the ground. The drama today was getting very stuck in the mud with the water rising. Everyone stood by having morning tea and cake, while Jacob and the enthusiastic Fred jacked the vehicle out of the mud. Mating lion, but no dogs. We are now getting very anxious behind the scenes.

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Day five and rain stopped play until nine. A successful visit to Chipembere – the education centre. I think a break from the searching was a good thing. The afternoon drive ….and still no dogs.

Day six and last full day. Although the drives have been very productive, and everyone is having fun we are all feeling the strain! Another full day’s drive with the afternoon heat being tackled by sitting in the Katete River. No dogs. Late afternoon the word was out – dogs have been seen near Chichele. There is a “sparkle of hope”.  And with some” very certain feeling” Jacob drives quite a distance to get to the area. But they have gone. Disappointment is drowned by champers by the river. One morning to go.

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Last Day… up and out by five (ouch) – the dogs might still be around. After driving around, hope began to fade. Then Jacob spotted the tracks. Everyone is now on full adrenalin. Back and forth, loosing and then finding the tracks. Nearly an hour of everyone on the edge. Jacob’s frown deepens by the minute. But the tracks are now fresh. Suddenly Fred sees one. Rebecca starts to cry with the emotion. As Martijn said – we were all shaking. After a week of searching, the huge stamina of the long drives and getting up early there had been such a build up and here they were – with the dogs.

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The dogs are a new pack – not recorded before.  Seven males and three females.  They had just killed an impala and were feeding.  The feed did not last long and soon they were playing, chasing vultures, performing the “peeing ceremony” and running around.  Wonderful to watch.

We made it – in the 11th hour.

Champagne was waiting for everyone on their return boat trip – quick lunch and then on to the airport. It was that tight.

Have a great week and don’t forget to pick the daisies.

Jo

PS – I realize that the suspense was slightly lost with the dog’s pictures giving the game away – but anyway these are the pics take by Martijn this morning !!

Link to http://www.awdczambia.org/Read more about African Wild Dogs Conservation Project

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