IT’S ALL GONE TO THE DOGS
Last time we were in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, as we put the finishing design touches to the new Jahazi Suite at Mara Plains, we came across 26 cheetahs over five days, all within easy driving distance from our small cluster of camps (Mara Plains, Mara Toto, Mara Expedition and Mara Nyika).
The private conservancies, Olare Motorogi Conservancy and Naboisho have started hosting cheetahs more and more as tourism pressures increase inside the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. As people’s behaviour around these endangered and fragile animals goes back to that old normal again, I rail against something we should all object to. Backing up to a cheetah on a tree or mount so she can leap up onto the vehicle is really not right. My call is to name and shame guides who do this.
While Kenya’s private Mara conservancies are becoming so good for cheetah, now fewer than 7,000 in the world in total, by the way, there is another species that seems to be making headline news across at our Botswana camps. The enigmatic Painted Dog of Africa.
Tagging along with these dogs comes a fascinating set of guests and safari-goers. I liken them to aficionados – those who specialize in knowing everything about their subject, and this goes beyond enthusiasm, fans or even addicts.
Our growing Painted Dog guests arrange their safaris according to the most potential coverage across our portfolio of safari camps for these wild dog sightings. They follow the denning dog news in social media, plan long-lead safaris and leap on a plane a few weeks out to get to a new den, and in Botswana…it is happening!
The Zarafa pack is quite well known, once producing 16 pups at once and ultimately growing into a pack of 29. For the one female to suckle, this was physically exhausting!
The Selinda pack is often smaller but also very productive. Overall, in our Selinda Reserve, there are probably six different packs. We will be using the Great Plains Expeditions – Botswana safaris to identify dogs, and I suspect we will find some new packs.
At Duba Explorers, our guests have a very high chance of seeing dogs but the real surprise this year was the arrival of a pack at Duba Plains and their immediate den making and subsequent litter of 9 pups. Last night, lions raided the den, but at least seven pups escaped to their new den, which our guides found a few hours ago.
In Tembo Plains Camp in Zimbabwe, as we were laying out the camp, a pack of six charged through chasing buffalo!
But as I think about all this and connect what it is that makes so many guests travel to Great Plains, specifically when searching for these Painted Dogs; it is most likely the excitement they provide and the freedom they represent. For me, it is that sheer joy the dogs display when meeting up again that speaks to that social bond that we all resonate with.
I often speak to our teams about Painted Dogs and how they do not always move at the slowest pace, yet they always circle back and make sure lost, injured, or slower pack members are found, brought back and nurtured. It’s the way we as Great Plains operate as well.
This week we can share the trailer to a film we are working on. I also want to point out Emma and Jeremy’s wine label, Painted Wolf Wines, not just a great wine that we make a point of stocking in our camps, but some that have had my brother’s art adorn their labels. They donate so much to Painted Dog conservation, so support them if you can.
We look forward to welcoming you as a Painted Dog Aficionado with Great Plains.