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Join award-winning photographer and guide Nick Dyer in Zimbabwe on an exclusive Painted Wolves Safari

Kate Pirie By Kate Pirie
04 Aug 2021
Zim - wild dog in Mana Pools - LITTLE ATTEN by Nick Dyer.jpg

The painted wolves - also known as wild dogs, are the focus of this exciting small group safari, led by award-winning wildlife photographer and painted wolves expert Nick Dyer. This specialist-led safari takes in key locations within Mana Pools National Park along the banks of the Zambezi River and in Savé Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe.

I am delighted to report that you have the exclusive opportunity to track painted wolves for yourselves in July 2022, led by foremost experts and conservation researchers.

For those safari aficionados wishing for something a bit more focused and meaningful from their African safari, the chance to embark upon an expedition of this level is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Exploring the wilderness with utterly talented and proactive experts that have dedicated their lives to studying and protecting these extraordinary carnivores is nothing short of life-changing!

I have shared the details of this wild dog focussed safari below for your interest, but please do contact me directly for any more information you require!


How can you see painted wolves in Africa, in the company of Nick Dyer?

Explore the offbeat wildernesses of Savé Valley Conservancy and Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe over a nine-night (ten day) safari in July 2022. African wild dogs are one of the most fascinating species for the seasoned safari goer. They are elusive and endangered, so it is a rare privilege to see them on your safari. 

You will be led throughout by award-winning photographer Nick Dyer, a dedicated conservationist that spent eight years in the bush in Mana Pools and Southern Africa observing and photographing painted wolves. In Savé you will also engage with wild dog expert Dr Rosemary Groom. This safari is unique, enriching and life-changing, allowing a deep insight and understanding of painted wolves and their conservation, as well as conservation in Africa as a whole.


Savé Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe

Beginning with a night in Harare, you transfer to an intimate tented camp in Savé for four nights. The camp is owned and run by expert safari guide Ian Batchelor.

Dr Rosemary Groom and her team will take you to observe the local pack of painted wolves in the wild. The wild dogs den in June, so July is the perfect month to find them at the den sites. Ian Batchelor will also guide you on game drives to see all the wonderful safari wildlife in this Park and you will even have the opportunity to track black rhino.

The Savé Valley Conservancy is one of the largest private game reserves in Africa. Located in the South Eastern lowveld of Zimbabwe, bordering on the Savé River on its eastern side, the Conservancy comprises 750,000 acres of diverse wildlife habitat.


Visitors to the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC) have the opportunity to see most all of the Southern African game species, including the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino). The SVC is home to one of Africa’s largest populations of black and white rhino, and to a healthy population of rare African painted dogs. Both of these critically endangered species are carefully monitored and protected within the Conservancy. Over three hundred species of birds can also be found during the year, including many raptors.

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

You will then fly to Nyamatusi Camp, in the far east of Mana Pools National Park - the most remote and wildest part. The Camp is located on the banks of the Zambezi River and offers an authentic feel of untouched Africa within luxurious surroundings! Your guest tent allows uninterrupted views over the tranquil river to the escarpment beyond.


You will explore the region with Nicholas Dyer and his expert team of trackers, watching painted wolf packs interact, hunt and play. Hear about Nick’s years amongst the painted wolf packs and learn about the challenges to their survival.

Mana Pools is one of the most beautiful parks in Zimbabwe and with a backdrop of the great wide Zambezi River and Zambezi escarpment to one side, and acacia and mopane woodlands to the other, it is well deserving of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site of natural beauty.


One can walk in this park as well as do game drives, so I have walked with the wild dogs on several occasions here and watched them resting during the oppressive summer heat. This is where the BBC filmed their wild dog episode of their Dynasties documentary.

Nick Dyer and his team will share their passion for conservation with you, and you will learn what is being done to mitigate the threat of human-wildlife conflict on park borders, such as how collars are being used to alert communities if packs have strayed out of a park into tribal lands so that they can protect their herds.


Your safari will directly contribute to the following conservation causes to help protect these endangered animals for the future:

The Painted Wolf Foundation:

  • Raises awareness about the painted wolf and conservation organisations worldwide,
  • Supports field-based conservation of the painted wolf
  • Encourages sharing of best practices.

The African Wildlife Conservation Fund has been working tirelessly in Savé Valley to address the threats to painted wolves in the area. The population is now stable, and even increasing, due to their efforts!

  • They maintain and protect painted wolves, their habitats and prey species,
  • Provide conservation education to communities who live alongside wild dogs,
  • Safeguard populations by tracking and monitoring packs using traditional and modern tracking techniques,
  • Reduce infection threats by vaccinating the packs against rabies,
  • Support anti-poaching and anti-conflict efforts including snare removal.


Privileged access to world-renowned experts

Nicholas Dyer is an award-winning photographer and painted wolf conservationist and co-author of Painted Wolves: A Wild dog's Life alongside Peter Blinston. He was born in Kenya and after spending much of his life working in the City of London he returned to Africa in 2012. He spent a year travelling across Africa before finding three packs of wild dogs in Mana Pools. He has spent the last seven years observing and photographing them, documenting their lives and behaviours.

Nick is a founding trustee of the Painted Wolf Foundation which was created to raise awareness and support conservation projects.


Dr Rosemary Groom is the foremost expert in wild dogs and has spent years studying them. She is the Southern Africa Regional Coordinator for the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr Groom is a conservation biologist who has been working in East and Southern Africa since 2001, and focused her work fully on the African wild dog from 2008. She not only studies the wild dogs in the region but also works on carnivore conservation issues and conservation projects including education and community engagement.

It is a privilege to spend time with these experts who know the packs and their histories, people who spend their lives protecting and conserving Africa’s land, wildlife, and communities.


Why are painted wolves so special to see on safari?

African wild dogs (also known as painted wolves, painted dogs and hunting dogs amongst others) are the largest wild canine in Africa and its second-most endangered carnivore, after the Ethiopian wolf. In fact, they are more closely related to wolves than domestic dogs.

I prefer to call them painted wolves or African wild dogs and they have featured throughout my life growing up and working in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe then in Linyanti and Moremi in Botswana. I have always found it a joy to spend time observing them.


Wild dogs are wiry but move elegantly, they are bold, agile and athletic. They have devoted families and hunt efficiently as a pack. Each individual is beautiful with distinctive patterns, and I just love their round disc-shaped ears!

When I worked in safari camp in Botswana there were three packs in the wilderness area that would move through the camp often. I often found the pack resting in the shade on my verandah or even, on occasion, I would find myself ‘stuck’ in my hammock as the pack had decided to rest under the same tree as me! They even once hunted an impala through my camp, killing and devouring it outside a guest tent whilst those very guests were out in the wilderness looking for said dogs. I never did dare tell them what they missed!


Watching the painted dogs hunt is a privilege; several dogs will span out in a line, the white tail tips down unless the pack needs them to keep in contact. Once they sight prey, they will home in, maybe slowly at first but then will give chase. The pack will pursue their prey through using their cursorial ability, striding out gracefully and with speed which they will keep up over a long distance, if necessary, especially across open plains.

Though they lack the strength of a lion to pull down their prey they will catch and tear at it holding it down as best they can. Death comes fairly quickly, unlike with lion who can torment and keep prey alive for longer. With Painted dogs, its fast and efficient, with few scraps left.

African wild dogs are very social and chirp and play when they meet again after a hunt. The pups leave the inner den around three weeks old and are incredibly adorable with large dewy dark eyes keen to explore the outside world. They start eating meat from around five weeks old and are either allowed to eat first or meat is brought back by the adults and regurgitated for the pups, if the kill was far away.


African wild dogs are endangered with an estimated 6000 left in Africa. There is a tiny number in North Africa, pockets in East Africa and the majority in Zimbabwe and Botswana. In Zimbabwe, the painted dogs have been studied for many years in Save Reserve on Sango concession by Dr Rosemary Groom, and also in Hwange National Park and Mana Pools.

As their lifespan is around 10 years, the researchers’ work includes following them through generations, collaring some, photographing them for identikits and watching them denning to produce the next generation. Following them can be extreme, pack ranges have been known to cover 1400 kms! They learn about the challenges to their survival which include habitat fragmentation, human encroachment and transmission of infectious diseases, all of which lead to their high mortality rates.


Where are the best places to see wild dog in Africa?

Some of the best places to see painted wolves include Laikipia in Kenya, South Luangwa in Zambia, Mana Pools, Hwange National Park, Matetsi and Savé Private Reserve in Zimbabwe (the latter of which comprises 750,000 acres of diverse wildlife habitat), and Moremi and Linyanti reserves in Botswana. The numbers in Zimbabwe are around 250-300 individuals. There are packs in Tanzania and South Africa too (the latter has around 400).

If you would like any more information about African wild dogs or their conservation, please do feel free to get in touch. Alternatively if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.


Images courtesy of Nicholas Dyer (wild dog photography), African Bush Camps Nyamatusi Camp, Ian Batchelor and Dr Rosemary Groom.