The Luangwa Valley will do these things to you: take you round a corner and plunge you instantly into a world of impossible splendour. Round the corner we came, and there ahead of us was a pack of 27 wild dogs, doing their wildest and doggiest things and waving their wild feathery tails as they did them.
Wild dogs have been making a comeback in the Luangwa Valley over the last couple of decades, and South Luangwa National Park is now the best place in the world for seeing them. Not that you can ever guarantee such a thing of course. It’s not as if they’re tame dogs with tame tails.
But there they were, as relaxed as dogs ever get, which is not all that relaxed, not when your numbers include 11 puppies. When a pride of lions lies out to rest they rest, backs on the ground and paws in the air. But dogs are not cats and even their resting time is full of action. The puppies played together, tussling, fighting, and biting: occasionally going into their classic chest-to-chest wrestle, when two dogs make an A-frame of themselves and shove.
The adults mostly snoozed, looking up at the pups with toothy doggy grins that showed a yard of tongue red-flapping in the sun. Every now and then one joined in; every now and then one turned away with a sigh, so that I seemed to be hearing my mother’s voice echoing across the ages: “Children! The noise, the noise!”
The line at the top is from Psalm 22, by the way, and it came into my mind as I reflected that dogs are the most effective hunters in Africa, with a success-rate that is not far from 100 percent, because they are so many and gifted with such endurance.
The following day Chris and I would be back at Mfuwe Airport to collect our clients for the Ultimate Luangwa safari. I hoped we would find dogs for them.
I was co-leading the Ultimate Luangwa safari for www.wildlifeworldwide.com. Next year I will be co-leading https://www.wildlifeworldwide.com/group-tours/sacred-combe-safari and I will also be participating in https://www.wildlifeworldwide.com/group-tours/festival-of-wildlife-zambia