As I mentioned previously, the experience in Mana Pools was different in terms of animal sightings compared to Botswana. We saw a lot less animals on our game drives. However, two experiences in particular were interesting.
As we were looking for animals to photograph one morning suddenly Nick stopped the truck and said I can see lions in the distance. Guides must be provided with different spotting skills compared to ours. We seem to be adept at only spotting Starbucks locations. We could not see what he was looking at. He instructed us to get off the vehicle and get ready to track the lions. Surely he must be kidding! He cocked his rifle and off he went with us in tow. After walking for a while suddenly we saw a pride of ten lions walking along the edge of a sandy rut. It was amazing he had spotted them from the track. We proceeded into the bush to see if we could get closer. The bush was relatively thick and Nick frequently looked at the tracks in the sand to get a bearing on the lions. He kept pointing out the footprints and clearly describing how many lions and in what direction they were traveling. We kept agreeing with his assessment but for the life of us had no idea what the dirt was trying to tell us. I must admit I did poorly in tracking during my studies in Canada. Unfortunately, after approximately 30 minutes, we decided the lions had given us the slip and we proceeded back to the vehicle. We were not unhappy with this outcome.
On another day, we again drove out from our mobile camp stopped the vehicle and then started to proceed through the bush. Nick was aware of a pack of wild African dogs in the area. These are the rarest African predators and are endangered. We certainly had an experience in Botswana to observe them but with at least eight other vehicles this detracted from the experience. If we saw this pack we alone would be present. We were all very excited. After 15 minutes Nick suddenly stopped as he had spotted the pack. There were approximately 8 dogs leisurely sitting in the sunshine. In order to get closer he instructed us to get as low to the ground as possible. The dogs must have been smiling as six of us slowly creeped towards them on our buttocks through the dirt trying to miss their droppings. This however allowed us to get quite close to the dogs and get some great photographs. This was the den site of this particular pack and apparently there were three puppies present. We did get a chance later to walk close to the den site but it was extremely well protected and camouflaged and we never did see the puppies. What a special experience. It really pays to have a professional guide.
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