No animal sighting excites me more than the Painted Wolf. If you are lucky to come across this magnificent animal while on safari, you should feel, truly blessed.

The Painted Wolf is one of Africa’s most endangered mammals and South Africa’s most endangered carnivore. Within the 20,000 square-kilometre Greater Kruger National Park, which sustains the largest numbers of Wild Dogs in South Africa, it is estimated that there are between 450 – 500 dogs.

This efficient predator is known by several names; Painted Wolf, Painted Hunting Dog, African Hunting Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, African Painted Dog and the African Wild Dog.

The Painted Wolf (African Wild Dog)

The South African bush offers a rich variety of animals that attract millions of tourists every year to their national parks and game reserves. The ‘Big 5’ get the ‘lion share’ of the press, but while on safari there are so many other animals that will make your safari experience game drive so rewarding.

Traversing the African bush by day and night is exciting and magical in so many ways. The rich and varied fauna and flora, the sounds, scents and unpredictability of what could be around the next bend in the road, all adds to the excitement and uniqueness of an African Safari.

South Africa offers an amazing range of national parks and game reserves covering a diverse selection of landscapes. From coastal reserves to desert, to swamps, to plains, to mountainous regions to pristine bushveld. Each region offers a variety of fauna and flora adapted to life within these unique eco-zones.

So, what makes the African Wild Dog so special

Their pack structure is led by an Alpha male and female with the latter having dominance in pack. The Alpha pair are the only dogs that breed in pack while the others help raise the pups. Should another female have a litter the alpha female will either kill or adopt her pups.

The alpha pair bond is very close. They will almost always lie close together and the alpha male will urinate on top of where the alpha female has urinated, almost claiming ownership. A typical pack size would be between 12 to 30 dogs, in Kenya and Tanzania the pack sizes are generally much larger.

The Painted Wolf (African Wild Dog)

Their beautiful individual markings and social behaviour add to the magic of coming across this predator in the wild. Moving expertly through the bush on the hunt, their streamlined body naturally camouflaged against the African bush, they are truly a delightful sight to behold.

When hunting the pack will locate prey (normally impala, their favourite meal), and they will then hunt down the prey overcoming the target through sheer stamina, they will literally outrun their quarry.

They are ruthless when they go in for the kill, furiously attacking the prey and overcoming their quarry by sheer numbers. Wild dogs consume their prey quickly to avoid losing their meal to lions or hyenas, their main enemies.

After returning from a successful hunt, the dogs will be stimulated by the pups, to regurgitate food for them. The entire pack assists in raising the pups. Unlike many other ‘pack’ animals when young females come of age they are dispelled from the pack and go on to join other groups of males to form their own packs. This is believed to stop inbreeding.

Apart from the ‘Big 5’, spotting African Wild Dogs is an additional treat and there are only a few reserves where you can still enjoy these amazing creatures in their natural environment.

South Africa offers five key wildlife reserves where these incredible animals can be found in the wild. Here are my suggestions, in order of priority, where to go if you want to see the Painted Wolves of South Africa.

Wild Dogs in the Greater Kruger National Park

The Greater Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa and home to approximately 450-500 African Wild Dogs. An Awesome base to enjoy an incredible South African Safari in this region is at the Klaserie Sands River Camp.

Where to Stay

Klaserie Sands River Camp

Set in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park this luxury safari lodge offers luxury accommodation to a maximum of eight guests’ in their award-winning camp.

The Klaserie Sands River Camp is located along a dry N’tsiri riverbed, which sets the scene for an incredible safari holiday in this pristine bushveld region.

The Klaserie Sands River Camp

Staying at Klaserie Sands River Camp you will be pampered while being immersed in a truly Awesome African setting. The small intimate camp offers guests’ luxurious facilities, fine cuisine and comfortable well-appointed chalets.

The Klaserie Sands River Camp pool and deck

The pristine bushveld surroundings that this magnificent lodge affords guests, sets the tone for you to enjoy a truly magical African safari holiday.

Relax in the lounge at The Klaserie Sands River Camp

The four guest suites offer private decks overlooking the riverbed or waterhole. Klaserie Sands River Camo is an ideal location for a Honeymoon Holiday.

The Luxurious Klaserie Sands River Camp Suites

The Klaserie Sands River Camp offers you a unique wildlife safari experience. Game drives are led by experienced guides and trackers offering incredible opportunities to enjoy this incredible landscape and the possibility to view the ‘Big 5’ and the chance of sighting the Painted Wolves.

African Wild Dogs

Wild Dogs in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park

This extraordinary wildlife region of South Africa offers you an excellent opportunity to view the ‘Big 5’ (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino), amongst a rich variety of other wildlife, including African Wild Dogs.

Located just a 3-hour drive from Shaka International Airport you can enjoy a memorable South African Safari set amongst 96,000 Hectares of wilderness, rolling hills and magnificent wildlife.

The Hluhluwe Game Reserve is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa and was once the exclusive hunting ground of King Shaka. The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve originally consisted of three separate reserves that were joined under its current title in 1989.

The Hluhluwe Game Reserve is world renowned for its role in Rhino conservation and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Centenary Capture Centre sets a benchmark for animal capture and sustainable utilization throughout Africa.

It was here in the 1960s that Operation Rhino helped to save these animals by breeding and relocating them to other reserves where their numbers were breed up.

Hluhluwe lies to the north and enjoys a mountainous landscape, while iMfolozi to the south, is ideal for game viewing with its more open plains.

White Rhinoceros

Where to Stay

Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

The Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge is situated on the western boundary of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. This luxury lodge is a perfect base from which to enjoy a memorable safari in this Awesome Kwa-Zulu Natal game reserve.

Glorious Views from The Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

Apart from the ‘Big 5’, visitors can see Cheetah and African Wild Dogs and a variety of antelope. This region is particularly rich in birdlife, with more than 300 species having been recorded in the area.

Pool with a view at The Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

The accommodation features air-conditioned standard rooms with private deck, luxury bush suites with open fireplaces and honeymoon villas with private plunge pool.

Plush rooms with magnificent views at the Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

At Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge meals are served in the dining room or weather-permitting on a clear day under starry African sky around the open-air boma and campfire.

The Painted Wolves of the Madikwe Game Reserve

Covering 680 square kilometres the Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa. This Awesome reserve offers the choice of exquisite luxury safari lodges, set in the pristine African bush.

Located in a transition zone between acacia bushveld and Kalahari thornveld, Madikwe offers visitors the opportunity of spotting no less than 66 large mammal species including the ‘Big 5’, African Wild Dogs, Brown Hyena, both Black and White Rhino and Gemsbok. For bird lovers there are approximately 300 resident and migrant bird species to identify. It truly is an amazing game reserve.

The malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve is in the North West Province and lies just three and a half hours drive from Johannesburg. Alternatively catch one of the daily flights with Madikwe Air Charters from Johannesburg’s (OR Tambo International Airport).

Where to Stay

Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

The Motswiri Private Safari Lodge is one of the luxury private camps within the Madikwe Game Reserve. The Awesome five-star game lodge caters to a maximum of ten guests offering a memorable South African safari experience.

Enjoy ‘al fresca’ meals at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

Nestled amongst the indigenous Leadwood trees this lodge offers an exclusive setting in this fabulous reserve. Boasting just five luxury bush villas, an attentive and experienced staff will ensure that your stay is both memorable and rewarding.

The main Motswiri Lodge overlooks a waterhole, which is frequently visited by elephant and other big game. The lodge area offers guests the choice of an indoor and outdoor lounge, a dining room, an open-air boma, and wrap around viewing deck with a rim-flow swimming pool.

Cool off in the pool at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

In the evening retire your spacious air-conditioned luxury villa complete with a beautiful en suite bathroom, outdoor rock showers, gas fireplace and private wrap-around wooden decks.

Luxurious accommodation at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

Each Motswiri Lodge villa features an outside private bathroom, with a shower and a spa bath.

Staying at Motswiri offers you the opportunity to enjoy authentic South African cuisine. Enjoy meals in the dining room, under the Leadwood or around a roaring fire in the boma at night. Lodge tariffs typically include accommodation, two fabulous game drives per day and all meals.

Boma dinner at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge
The dining room at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

Enjoy the thrill of the bush with professional game rangers and trackers offering two game drives a day.  

Enjoy a game drive at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

The Madikwe Game Reserve has become known to offer some the best game viewing in South Africa.

The Painted Wolves of Tswalu Kalahari

Welcome to South Africa’s largest privately-owned game reserve. Tswalu Kalahari in South Africa’s Northern Cape region comprises a staggering 110,000 hectares (424 square miles) of stunning grassland and mountain terrain.

The exclusive lodges on Tswalu Kalahari offering supreme luxury within a setting that is as unique, as it is magical. “Tswalu” means “a new beginning” and at Tswalu Kalahari they are driven by two ambitions: “to create an inspirational experience for its guests, and a conservation vision, to restore the Kalahari to itself”.

Enjoy Panoramic Views at Tswalu Kalahari

This vast reserve is home to a variety of wildlife and that includes the African Wild Dog and two usually very rare mammals to sight; the Aardvark and Pangolin. The other exceptional creatures you may discover in this heavenly reserve include the Black Maned Kalahari Lion, Brown Hyena, Desert Black Rhino, Buffalo, Cheetah and Porcupine.

Wild Dog with pups at Tswalu Kalahari

Amazingly, no more than 30 guests will be sharing this vast malaria-free landscape at one time, making an experience at Tswalu truly private and exceptional. Game drives at Tswalu are tailored to your personal preferences with a maximum of ten private vehicles traversing the reserve; with no set times or routes, its truly yours to enjoy.

At Tswalu guided bush walks are informative and offer the opportunity to inspect and get in touch with the smaller fauna and flora on display in this Awesome reserve. Tswalu supports an astonishing array of smaller animals, birds and plants. Currently the reserve is home to over 77 species of mammals, 240 species of birds, 42 species of reptiles and 4 species of amphibians.

Traversing the bush on horseback affords the opportunity to view the surroundings from an advantageous position. From high up, get up close and personal to Tswalu’s wildlife led by their expert rangers.

Where to Stay

The Motse

With the Korannaberg mountains as a backdrop and vistas stretching out westwards over the Kalahari grasslands, Motse makes for such a very special South African Safari.

Motse means “village” in Tswana, and the village consists of just nine spacious and secluded “legae” (Tswana for “little house”). The Motse accommodates no more than 24 guests at any one time to make for a truly intimate Kalahari experience.

Enjoy luxurious accommodation at Tswalu Kalahari

The exclusive Motse consists of just six traditionally thatched legaes and three family legaes. Each family legae can accommodate up to four people (2 adults and 2 children) in two separate bedrooms.

The legaes are built of desert sand, local stone, rich red clay and traditional Kalahari thatch. Each comprises a spacious bedroom with an open fireplace, an en-suite bathroom with both an indoor and outdoor shower, together with a large study area.

Enjoy wildlife spotting from your deck as animals come to drink at the Motse waterhole. The main house offers guests elevated decks and elegant lounges. An infinity pool offers an endless view over the Kalahari plains.

Words cannot adequately describe the beauty of this pristine landscape. Get to Tswalu Kalahari and visit the Painted Wolves while making Awesome memories that will last forever. Tswalu is a Safari holiday of a lifetime and an ideal destination to include in a truly memorable Honeymoon Holiday.

Scheduled flights to Tswalu Kalahari are available from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Exploring the Northern Cape of South Africa  

Awesome Coffee Table Books

If you are keen to learn more about the Painted Wolves or you would like a centre piece for your coffee table, here are two Awesome Coffee Table Books which will afford you great reading and stunning photography.

Underdogs: The Fight to Save South Africa’s Wild Dogs

Author: Neil Aldridge

The award-winning wildlife photographer and author Neil Aldridge has compiled a masterpiece highlighting the endangered African wild dog.

BBC Wildlife Magazine reviewed Underdogs in February 2012 as:

“This is a book with heart. Photojournalist Neil Aldridge’s love of wild dogs shines through his beautiful images and passionate prose. Majoring on the species’ fight to survive–as poignantly illustrated by alpha female Stellar and her pack–this timely book highlights current conservation efforts, and offers a glimmer of hope for the future.”

This Awesome Coffee Table Book celebrates what is special about the endangered African wild dog and includes 140 stunning wildlife photographs. 

African wild dogs: On the front line

Author: Brendan Whittington-Jones

Brendan spent seven years studying Wild Dogs in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. His book covers his story on the front line in a battle to ensure that this magnificent animal endures.

Our Wildlife Safari Checklist

  • Binoculars
  • Good walking boots (I prefer boots that cover my ankle) and good comfortable socks.
  • Wear light coloured clothing (khaki) which is best to deter mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours like blue and black. Not only will they help deter the mosquitoes, but they will also help you feel cooler by reflecting sunlight.
  • Insect repellent (I would suggest buying insect repellent locally in South Africa, Tabard is best)
  • Sunglasses
  • Warm clothing (jersey / jacket for evenings and early mornings)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Guide books (birding and mammal guide books will make your safari more rewarding, and help you to identify and learn about the surrounding fauna)
  • Camera and lenses
  • Patience, luck and perseverance

In Closing

Shamefully, the Painted Wolf now only occur in six of the thirty-four countries that they once roamed. I would encourage you to include a wildlife region that supports the Painted Wolf as sighting these magnificent creatures in the wild is truly magical.

Good Luck in your quest to see one of Africa’s truly Awesome carnivores, The Painted Wolf.

Read my Blog post ‘Planning a Safari to South Africa’ to get more tips, facts and information when planning your African Safari holiday. I advise on the best time to go to South Africa, where to go in South Africa, the advantages, and disadvantages of self-drive or guided safaris.