A couple of years back, I went on holiday to Mana pools with my wife and two close friends. This was during the time that I was still working at Londolozi. After hearing some of the other individual’s stories about Mana Pools, it didn’t take much to persuade us to make the journey to Mana Pools and to experience this magical place for ourselves…
I will be doing a blog in the not to distant future on my whole Mana Pools Experience and why it is simply a must visit for any safari enthusiast.
In this blog I wanted to focus on one specific image that I took during my time in Mana Pools, the events leading up to that image and how it made me feel in the moment as well as the memories it stirs up for me every time I look at the image and reminisce.
Lets start with the actual image...
I remember this afternoon so clearly... We headed out at about 16:30 for our afternoon adventure. Having seen the Wild dogs in the morning but late in the morning when they had already begun to rest and enjoy the comfort of the shade, we decided that we would return in the afternoon and see if we could get them waking up and moving about as the day started to cool down.
On arrival at where the dogs were last seen, we were happy to notice that the dogs had not moved much at all. We parked our vehicle and started our approach to the dogs on foot as they were lying about 250 meters/270 yards away. On our approach towards the dogs, we realized that our timing seemed to be perfect as one of our friends spotted a leopard that was walking through the flood plain and not to far from us or the dogs. Before we knew it the dogs were up and after the leopard but it all happened so fast, I had not time to take pictures let alone understand what I was witnessing. This pack of Wild dogs chased the leopard up a tree where it was safe.
The canopy of leaves was relatively thick and we were quite a distance away(we didn't want disturb the scene) so we could not see the leopard hiding out in the tree very easily.
The dogs soon lost interest and by this time, the temperature had dropping and the dogs started their evening trot. It sure is such an incredible feeling following these animals on foot through these large open flood plains. It is a very difficult experience to explain, for myself, walking in the bush in the Sabi Sands and Kruger National park area, the animals would often run away from you at first sight, where as in Mana Pools, it sounds silly but you almost feel like an animal yourself. Having said that, you still need to be respectful and remember that they are wild animals and you should never put them under unnecessary stress or pressure...
I always wanted to get a low angle shot of a Wild Dog moving towards me but never had the chance before. It's not really something you will do on purpose & by this I mean, go and sit down in front of the animal as it approaches you. I don't like to put myself in the position where I alter an animals natural path or behavior.
Right, back to my story...
We followed the dogs as they hunted a herd of impala, this in itself is very difficult as the speed in which they move and we moved is VERY different. They were unsuccessful and by the time we caught up with them, they were cooling off in a small pool of water on the flood plain. The pack was about 25 individuals strong & so you can imagine the incredible sight we had as they chased each other and splashed around in the water.
As they had finished cooling down and quenching their thirst, they started to slowly move away from the water. Seeing the direction they were moving, we positioned ourselves in a small ditch/outlet of the floodplain.
The dogs were walking parallel to where we were siting and all walking in a single line about 25 meters/30 yards from us when one of the dogs turned and walked straight towards me.
This was an opportunity I could only dream of! I held my finger down on the shutter and started snapping away. The dog came closer and closer, to the point where for some reason, I couldn't focus anymore. As I pulled my camera away from my face, I suddenly realized why I couldn't focus, the Wild dog had walked right up to me within my minimum focal distance. At this point my body filled with adrenaline, there I was, face to face with one of Africas most iconic animals. In the moment, a hundred thoughts went through my head but my body completely froze.
Looking at the dogs behavior, I could see that it was just inquisitive, I must have rolled or rubbed up against something that the dog was interested in (I promise I did shower every day while we were there). My heart beating rapidly and my body frozen, the dog then turned and started to move away, at which point I turned around to some of our other group members who stayed behind and gave them a thumbs up and a big smile. At this point they were all waving hands and pointing back at me, I turned around and the dog was right back in front of me, a mere meter/yard infant of me.
Once again, my body tightened up and my heart rate rocketed once again. This time, I could see the wild dogs nose twitching and I could hear the dog sniffing - thats how close it was!
After a couple of seconds the dog turned around and rejoined the group.
It was such an incredible moment, one that I feel so privileged and lucky to have experienced. Its moments like this that I really appreciate the opportunities I have had and places I have been able to explore. I cannot wait for my next adventure to this incredible destination. It is such a special place and to this day is still one of, if not my favorite safari destination.
Until next time,