Our Botswana experts top places to see wild dogs in Botswana
06 Jul 2020
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Over the past 5 years in particular Botswana has become one of the best places to see and photograph wild dogs. It is believed their overall population in Africa is sitting somewhere between 3000 and 5000 with over 700 alone found in Botswana, the majority of which are found in the Northern regions.
Although Botswana’s wild dogs can be found throughout Northern Botswana, there are still regions, concessions and camps which are particularly good to visit if you want to give yourself the best chance of seeing these incredible animals.
Firstly, its good to provide an incite into the dogs themselves to make it easier to understand why Botswana is such a strong hold for this species. Often found in large packs, they are incredibly social animals with a strict hierarchal structure lead by an alpha male and alpha female.
Often called the hunting dog or painted wolf their name refers to their irregular mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. Their coats can vary hugely in colour making them easy to identify. Unlike other canines their tracks are easily distinguished from other dogs as they only have 4 toes per foot instead of 5. Their larges ears are also very recognisable and often then first feature picked up when spotting them in the thick bush found throughout Northern Botswana.
Wild dog young are born in dens and cared for by the rest of the pack until they are old enough to follow on hunts, until then adults will return from hunts regurgitating food for the young. The main prey species for wild dogs are antelope such as impala, kudu and lechwe. They work on persistence strategy that their prey will become exhausted with hunts often going on for miles. This results in a hunting success rate of about 90% which is not seen my any other African predators.
Wild dogs tend to have large territories which often cross over with neighbouring farmland, this has resulted in a threat to livestock and dogs often being killed by humans. Combined with a general loss of habitat due to human encroachment and a susceptibility to diseases such as rabies and canine distemper their numbers have decreased throughout Africa to the point where they are reported as endangered into a state of irreversible decline by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Other than maybe Mana Pools in Zimbabwe nowhere else is on the same level when it comes to wild dogs sightings than Northern Botswana, with large areas of protected land with large numbers of pre species and very little human interactions they numbers have been able to thrive. Over the past 20 years I have noticeably seen an increase in sightings personally and also fellow travellers Northern than my years spent guiding in Botswana, I cannot remember a trip where I did not have at least one wild dog sighting.
It’s important to remember that a lot of Northern Botswana provides a good chance of wild dog sightings, however, keep in mind that these are still an incredibly rare species and nothing is guaranteed. The first area that springs to mind the Khwai which is situated on the North Eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve.
Having travelled to this part for the past 25 years, I have had some of my best sightings here and in neighbouring Moremi Game Reserve. Game is plentiful along the Khwai River and the habitat is perfect for wild dogs. Camps such as Khwai Tented Camp, Machaba and Khwai River lodge are all based along this river front exploring similar areas on their game drives. Its important to remember that this area is open to the public and part of the Khwai community trust, this results in vehicle numbers often being higher than seen elsewhere, although the advantage to this is that more eyes on the ground tend to up the hit rate when it comes to wild dog sightings.
If you are self-driving into this area your chances are just as high as if you were staying in one of the camps. It is important to remember that wild dogs are open to attack by other large predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards. Often wild dogs are seen around their den and these dens become well known for guaranteed sightings so vehicle numbers can increase.
The surrounding bush is important for keeping the den hidden from these predators so frequent visits can damage the surrounding bush making the den more visible and increasing the predation risk on the pups.
When viewing these from a game drive vehicles or self-drive its essential to realise the importance of balancing the satisfaction of the sighting with the ethics and conservations of the species, not getting too close and disturbing their natural behaviour of damaging the surrounding bush. This is especially important in the Khwai area where off-roading is permitted unlike in the reserves and national parks.
The second area I would recommend for wild dog sightings is the Kwara Concession. Located to the West of Khwai and North of the Moremi Game Reserve this area is known for its high numbers of predators, this includes high numbers of wild dogs which are often seen daily.
Having visited this concession a number of times I have always been blown away by the frequency of predator sightings, the combination of open plains and addition of one of the deltas main tributaries flowing all year round results in a high concentration of lion, leopard, wild dog, cheetah and hyena. The concession has been run by one operator for over 20 years now and their approach to guiding produces brilliant results.
The new Splash Camp and Kwara Camp are 2 of the few in Botswana which use both guides and trackers, this increases the chance of finding the more elusive species.
it’s also important to mention that slightly further west you will find the Mombo concession which is a private concession in the Northern Part of Chiefs island and actually sits in the Moremi Game Reserve. Like the Kwara concession this area in an extremely predator rich concession and having only one camp it is very quiet.
This famous are one of the highest densities of large carnivores in Africa and the famous Mombo Camp holds one of the highest price tags to go with. If you have the bank balance and the time then I would strongly recommend a visit, you will not be disappointed.
The final area I wanted to mention was the Kwando Linyanti. Having visited this area a number of times I have had a 100% hit rate with wild dog sightings. Much like the Kwara concession, Mombo concession and Khwai areas, the Kwando Linyanti had a pack of dogs which seem to den close to camp every year making this one of the top places to see wild dogs in Africa.
During my last visit in 2019 we were luck enough to stay at Kwando Lagoon Camp and witness 2 brown hyena cubs venturing out of their den in the early evening. Having spent a lot of time with brown hyena in the Makgadikgadi this was a very special and rare sighting and one which will hopefully continue in years to come.
In conclusion Botswana is one of the top destinations to spend time with wild dogs, with a visit to one or two of these camps you give yourself the best chance possible of having a sighting.
Do give myself or one of my colleagues a call and we would be happy to discuss each destination and others in more detail.