The African wild dog, Painted wolf, Cape hunting dog, Lycaon pictus – they go by many different names but there’s one thing for sure, they are one of Africa’s most captivating carnivores. And with only 6600 individuals left in the wild, they are also one of Africa’s most endangered species.
Famed for their extraordinary hunting abilities and extremely close family ties, African wild dogs are thought to have an 80% hunting success rate (compared to lions’ measly 30%) and the whole pack will work to raise a litter of pups – even letting them feed first on a kill.
We were already obsessed with African wild dogs and after watching the BBC series ‘Dynasties’ and the fantastic footage of the beautiful pack in Zimbabwe we hope they’ve secured their place on your safari bucket list. However, when you’re choosing a safari destination with the hope of seeing an animal which is almost as rare as the black rhino, it’s good to get some insider knowledge to point you in the right direction. So, here are some of our favourite places to go in search of this elusive carnivore…
Kruger National Park
South Africa has been revolutionary in its African wild dog conservation efforts. A hugely successful reintroduction programme was implemented in the late 1990s following the realisation that the only place left in the country with a viable population of the animals was Kruger National Park. A 20-year effort saw African wild dogs reintroduced to multiple game reserves and national parks across South Africa and a tripling of the country’s population of this intriguing species.
Reintroductions continue to date, but sometimes the original is best. Home to the highest population of African wild dogs anywhere in the country, the south of Kruger National Park (and surrounding game reserves such as Thornybush) is still the best place to see African wild dogs in South Africa.
We really don’t think we need to give you another excuse to visit the Okavango Delta, what with its wild, lush landscapes and huge diversity of animals… but this UNESCO world heritage site is home to one of the highest African wild dog populations anywhere in the world and is considered to be the last stronghold of this species. So, taking a safari around Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai or even heading out to Linyanti will give you pretty good odds of sneaking a peak of a pack.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is one of Africa’s last remaining wildernesses, perfect for African wild dogs which need a very large area to roam around in and don’t really like to come into contact with humans all that much. Ruaha is not only home to the third largest population of African wild dogs in the world but it also home to 10% of the global African lion population. So now you have at least two excuses to make it your next safari destination.
Gorongosa National Park
Despite being late to the party, Gorongosa National Park is showing signs of becoming an important outpost for the species. As part of the Carr Foundation’s 20-year plan to bring Gorongosa back to the spectacular wilderness it once was, 14 wild dogs were introduced to this protected area earlier this year and there are a lot of plans afoot for future reintroductions. With all the exciting upcoming plans, you should start planning your trip now before everyone finds out about this incredible spot.
And finally, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. We couldn’t leave this one out as the Dynasties episode was actually filmed here, you might even spot one of the stars of the show! And if you really want to get close to the action, you could stay at Vundu Camp where the BBC team were based during filming. Seeing African wild dogs from a vehicle is one thing, but at Mana Pools you also have the opportunity to trek on foot with some of the best walking guides on the continent, in search of these elusive creatures. If you ever wanted to feel a deep connection to nature, we’re certain you’ll find it here!
So, there you have it, our thoughts on the best places to see African wild dogs in southern and eastern Africa. We really believe that the more people who see these carnivores and support their conservation the better – so next time your safari guide asks you “what would you like to see today?”, maybe skip the Big 5 and put a request in for these beautiful animals instead.