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South Africa’s predator guild… and the Springboks

As the week built up to a Springboks rugby match, Bushwise students were lucky enough to observe two species from South Africa’s predator guild: lions and wild dogs.

This blog was written by Jocene de Kock, who shares her experience as camp manager during one of the most exciting weeks on course so far!

4 min read

Students heading out on a game drive on a cool winter's morning.

The best lodges are often given their titles because of the amazing game that they see or the epic sightings that guests have or perhaps its the exorbitant amount of money that guests pay. But no one stops to appreciate all the effort that goes on behind the scenes.

To run a lodge successfully and to the highest standard, you need to have an amazing team of housekeepers, chefs, front and back of house staff, and very importantly a general/camp manager to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

The start of an incredible week

Bushwise students (the author on the left) enjoy getting out in the field and having hands-on practical experiences.

My week as camp manager did not start off as smoothly as I would’ve hoped with one of my fellow trainees unfortunately losing her phone on drive and our spare kitchen key with it. Even though we tried to retrace our steps to find her phone and the kitchen key, we had no luck. 

So here we sit with four months of our course to go and one working kitchen key to share amongst sixteen people… This might not seem like a dilemma to most people, but when you have a group of serial coffee consumers and cereal munchers, every five minutes someone comes knocking on the door asking for “The kitchen key please!”.

Lions: top of South Africa’s predator guild

A lioness looks back at the camera. At the top of South Africa's predator guild is the lion.

The week took a drastic upturn on Wednesday morning when we had thirteen lions from the Breakaway pride (of the Birmingham pride) on a buffalo kill, all of them fighting over scraps. It was an intense morning with this being one of our first major sightings and naturally it was rather gruesome. 

The lions were extremely vocal causing some of us to vibrate in our seats and the others to pull blankets over their heads. It was absolutely phenomenal to watch as they fed with one of the cubs emerging from within the carcass completely covered in blood.

A lioness sitting at a carcass. It's amazing to see members of South Africa's predator guild in action.

Luckily for us the lions were extremely hungry so we got to visit them in the afternoon as well but with a much more relaxed setting as only a few were feeding. We decided that we had enough feeding action for the afternoon and so we went off and continued on the rest of our game drive. Everyone was so overjoyed with the amazing day that we had and no one could have bargained for how much better it was going to get… 

The most endangered of South Africa’s predator guild: the wild dog

A lone wild dog stops on the road, it's large ears pointing in the direction of some noise. The most endangered member of South Africa's predator guild.

En route to one of the dams, we suddenly got a call that a pack of wild dogs was running across the plains with a spotted hyena fumbling along behind them. We instantly turned around and all that we could see on the horizon were multiple dust clouds from highly mobile game vehicles also heading in the direction of dogs. 

Orders were given to “Put foot!” and best believe the ‘foot’ was ‘put’. We arrived in the nick of time to enjoy an amazing sighting of the dogs running past our car and briefly stopping to stand still and look over the plains at sunset. 

A pack of wild dogs run in front of a game viewer towards the camera. Wild dogs are the most endangered member of South Africa's predator guild.

Most of us returned to camp completely overwhelmed and struggling to comprehend the insane afternoon we had just had. Everyone was bubbling over with delight which lasted for the rest of the week and the energy within the group was amazing. 

Everyone was so excited to carry on the energy into sleep out on Friday night, but while we were writing our test on Friday morning a unanimous decision was made that, instead of a sleep out, a break in the boma seemed like a much better option. After all, our sleep out area was roughly 400m from the fresh buffalo kill and seeing as no one knew where the lions were, we thought it would be best to braai our food from the safety of our boma.

A hopeful ending to the week

A wild dog, part of South Africa's predator guild, looks to the left of the screen. Wild dog ears make them extremely sensitive to sounds, and help them communicate over long distances.

Unfortunately our epic week has to come to an end and all we can do is hope that the rugby this weekend goes well. Because if the Springboks lose against the Aussies then next week’s camp manager is going to have to do some emotional damage control. No one can cope with the highs of lions and wild dogs and the lows of a bad Rugby game all in one week.

Even the Springboks’ loss that week couldn’t put a damper on the amazing sightings these Bushwise students had! Don’t you want to experience some of South Africa’s predator guild in the wild? Apply for a Bushwise course today.

Words and photos by Jocene de Kock


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