Pack of young African Hunting Dogs at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya taken on Olympus digital camera image and copyright Steve Holroyd 2016.

A pack of curious African Hunting Dog pups at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya, taken on an Olympus digital camera, image and copyright Steve Holroyd, 2016. Known variously also as African Wild Dogs, Wild Hunting Dogs and Painted Dogs, Lycaon pictus is a highly social and well-adapted hunter and scavenger of the African bush, a magnificent endangered species that encapsulates the wild spirit of the African Savannah. Sadly there are thought to be less than 7,000 individuals left in a very diminished area of their former range.

Report by Steve Holroyd

Lying flat on the ground gazing into the eyes of an adult African Wild Dog staring curiously down at you from a distance of less than 3 metres away is an unforgettable experience!

Repeating that daily over a seven day stay whilst watching eleven pups grow and develop under the watchful care of eight adults is a very rare privilege indeed. Steve and Annabelle Carey who run Laikipia Wilderness Camp ensure their guests are able to experience Africa in the raw.

The comfortable well-run camp is in a private game conservancy in ranch country on Kenya’s Laikipia plateau. Wildlife is plentiful here and the area is a stronghold for Wild Dogs. Some of the adult dogs are collared so they can be tracked when they are within range. When the pups are old enough the packs cover vast distances, but watching them flush the plentiful DikDik from thick cover demonstrates how this habitat suits them when the pups are young and learning how to hunt. Following one pack hunting, we saw 6 of these small antelopes caught and devoured in less than an hour! Not for the faint-hearted!

Game thrives in the thick bush, thanks to the river and other plentiful supplies of water and the area is home to Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx and Klipspringer. Evening game drives generally finish after dark and we also saw Striped Hyena and other creatures of the night including lions which are more shy here by day. Leopards often called nearby and are seen regularly.

Elephants were also plentiful and generally relaxed even with young. They only really lost their temper when they crossed paths with the Wild Dogs so we couldn’t be out of the vehicle then, until the heavyweights had passed. At other times we left the vehicle to photograph elephants at water. The guiding was excellent.  Other vehicles? None.

Birdlife was fantastic too from the ubiquitous and dazzling Vulturine Guineafowl to the numerous raptors including Verreaux, Martial, Bateleur and Afrian Hawk eagles, Pygmy and other falcons, assorted owls, and many smaller gems such the spectacular Golden Pipit, Red-headed Weaver, Golden Breasted Starlings, and various sparkling sunbirds and barbets.

As well as getting up close and personal with the dogs, guests can experience long bush walks, river swimming, shooting rapids in inflatables and a variety of other “wild experiences”. Steve and Annabelle are keen to tailor activities to meet their guests’ preferences and Steve is a great explorer.  Expeditions away from their permanent camp twice included sleeping out on bedrolls in remote locations under a magical canopy of stars after superb campfire dinners – once at Ngai Suisui pinnacle rock and once at Lake Bogoria with flamingos flying by night.

Catering both in camp and out and about for numerous bush meals – whether breakfast lunch or dinner – was always excellent and the food varied, delicious and plentiful. Hot water for showers is provided by wood-fuelled boilers to each of the six spacious and comfortable tents with bathroom areas open to the stars. I shared my bathroom with a pair of nesting laughing doves!

 

The whole experience – even for a regular safari addict – was exhilarating and very special!

 

For the wider photo selection please visit Steve Holroyd’s Laikipia Gallery on Klikr at  http://www.klikr.co.uk/laikipia_on_klikr.html

For other fine travel and wildlife stock photography by Steve Holroyd from Asia, Central and South America, Africa and Europe, please visit www.klikr.co.uk or peruse his Galleries page as a starting point.

Wildopeneye would like to thank Steve Holroyd for his excellent account and picture.

Charles Paxton was not paid for this article, but is Steve Holroyd’s professional website designer.