Your wildest wilderness encounter


Our Collective

Janine Avery


Located in some of the world’s wildest areas, our Wilderness camps offer a unique opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the natural world. A game drive or walk through the bush in these untamed areas will bring you up close and personal with some of the world’s rarest wildlife. Here, where every day is a fight for survival, these encounters can cause your pulse to quicken and give you a rush quite unlike any other as you hang on bated breath to see what will happen next.


But don’t just take my word for it. I recently sat down with a few of our staff to get their first-hand accounts of their craziest safari sightings. And they sure have seen some wild things!



Wilderness Botswana Linyanti Wildlife Vulture



Kudu chaos at the waterhole



“When we arrived at a waterhole near Wilderness Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, we could see a sub-adult kudu in the water up to its belly. On the deep side of the waterhole was a semi-submerged hippo keeping a close eye. And on the other side, a pack of wild dogs. A bit further away, in the shade, were their pups, eagerly watching and learning.







The dogs wouldn’t go into the water and the kudu kept edging away before making a dash for it. However, after kicking at a few snapping dogs, she was forced to return to the water. Where the whole scenario repeated itself. Again. And again.


No less than 14 times, the kudu tried to make a dash but was forced to return by the dogs. Kudu and dogs alike were exhausted and the hippo was beside himself at sharing his water.


Then a large elephant herd arrived. They trumpeted and charged at the dogs, sending them scurrying. The kudu noticed the chaos and summoned up one last attempt. She charged out of the water like a triathlete exiting the swim portion. The kudu made it to the treeline just as the dogs took their attention off of the elephant herd and realised their dinner had gone.


It was exhilarating to see so many attempts, and it was nice to see the kudu live another day, after showing so much tenacity and patience”. – Graham Simmonds, Wilderness Zambezi Camp Operations & Trade Manager.

Face-to-face with a mamba

“My fascination with snakes started long before my most memorable encounter with one, but thanks to this encounter I’m now a fully converted ophiophilist – those weirdos who actually ‘like’ snakes. I was visiting the Garden of Eden, Wilderness Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta, where I was to learn a valuable lesson, as well as enjoy a sighting that changed my misguided perception of snakes.

While walking through the bush I heard the sound of grass rustle in front of me. Instinctively I looked up to see I had inadvertently almost trodden on what is known in some parts of Africa as the Death Kisser, Dendroaspis polylepis for the herpetologists, or more commonly, black mamba, known for its potent venom.


To avoid being trampled, the snake had reared up to warn me of my impending doom. A standing black mamba is an impressive sight: two metres of gunmetal grey, with a third of that off the ground, and holding your gaze in an almost hypnotic trance. My adrenal gland was running on maximum speed while my body remained completely motionless. Staying dead still (operative word being ‘dead’), is always a good strategy when startling any dangerous game while on foot in the bush.


Within seconds, and before I could fully comprehend what had happened, this majestic and beautiful animal had gently dropped down and quietly cruised off to be on its merry way, with zero desire for fussing or fighting. Luckily all evacuative bodily functions had held their ground, but the post-apocalyptic feels were not ones of fear or of having cheated death. More so, I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy from having an intimate encounter with such a seldom-seen species. In a close encounter, I had stood almost face-to-face with one of the most exquisitely designed creatures on Earth. The snake wanted nothing out of the encounter other than to be left alone to go about its business, and I gained a sense of awe, respect and empathy for such a misunderstood and yet beautiful animal”. – Craig Glatthaar, Wilderness Head of Sales: Americas

A buffet for predators



“On a trip to Wilderness King’s Pool in Botswana’s Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, I had an experience I will never forget. I can still remember the sounds and the smells.


Our guide had heard about an elephant that had died of natural causes and had become a hive of activity for predators. We headed off-road through some thick mopane to find the scene, guided by the smell and circling vultures.


When we arrived, there was a procession of sorts, everyone taking a turn to feast and then moving on. Since this had been going on for a few days, no-one felt the need to fight for food.


The hyenas were around, darting in and out of the carcass, taking the softer bits from inside the enormous cavity. Then came the wild dogs, keeping a look out as they heard the approaching lions also moving in for their turn. Vultures were all over – on the ground, in the trees, circling above. It was a noisy, busy scene. You didn’t know where to look.

Wild animal encounters

The ground was muddied by the blood and maggots that were pouring out of the carcass. The wild dogs would roll in it and then shake off, nearly spraying us with the smelly mess. Not for the faint-hearted, but certainly something I’ll never forget”. – Mary-Anne van der Byl, Wilderness Branding & Design
01 / 03

A grumpy gorilla in the rain

Gorilla trekking is always a thrilling experience as you are afforded the opportunity to get close up to one of the most endangered animals on Earth. My most memorable encounter occurred close to Wilderness Sabyinyo in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

We had hiked to a gorilla family group and were enjoying spending time with these magnificent creatures, the young ones playing all around us, when suddenly there was an intense cloudburst.


The gorillas came to sit right next to us under the trees, almost shoulder to shoulder. We dared not move. Then, a sudden lightning bolt almost struck the silverback. He flew out from the trees and glared at us from just a few feet away as we sheltered from the rain, as if blaming us for the weather”. – Caroline​ Culbert, Wilderness Visual Media Administrator

A mischievous mob of mongooses

“There is a group of banded mongooses at Wilderness Jao known to staff as the ‘Jao Mafia’. They have made Jao Island their home for at least 18 years. They are known to make use of a person walking to get cover from birds of prey – making one feel like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.


One of my very first experiences with Jao’s wildlife was with this group. The mongooses would terrorise me around the kitchen area in the early evenings. One time I was sitting doing paperwork and I heard the tell-tale squeak of the mongooses coming through to the kitchen.

The next thing I knew, I had the entire mob in the kitchen and while some distracted me near my desk, others raided the rubbish bins. I grabbed a grass broom and tried to chase them out. As I was brushing the last one out the door, I looked up into what I took a few seconds to realise was an elephant knee. And there in between the four elephant knees were all the mongooses. I swear that they were all laughing at me”. – Cindy Swart, Wilderness Jao Food Experience Manager.


Read more close encounters from Jao here.

1 buffalo vs 10 lions



“We were following a group of lions at Wilderness Qorokwe in Botswana. They were a very unusual group of 10 lions all aged between two and three years old, with no adult lions accompanying them.


Suddenly one lion spotted a lone buffalo bull. The lions moved in formation toward the buffalo but it got wind of the lions and took off with 10 lions in pursuit, trying to jump on the buffalo’s back. One young male caught up and managed to make the leap onto its back.


But with a rodeo kick the buffalo sent the lion crashing. Twenty metres further on the lions surrounded the buffalo but none managed to remain on the prey. The buffalo then took the initiative. He pursued the lions, chasing them around, the young cats learning valuable lessons about making their first buffalo kill. However, it was not to be that day.

Lion and buffalo clash of the titans

The young lions did not even manage to break the skin of the buffalo – there was not a drop of blood visible on him. He was bruised, but not as much as the pride’s egos.” – Dr Christiaan Winterbach, Ecologist at Wilderness Qorokwe.
Read the full account of this sighting here
01 / 05

Tug-of-war in the bush



“On a safari to Wilderness Chikwenya in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, we were about 10 minutes from the camp when we spotted the fluffy white tails of a pack of painted dogs. As the dogs came into full view of our vehicle, we saw a cloud of dust and heard a loud yelp followed by excited squeals. The pack had come across the remains of an impala that they must have killed earlier, and having regrouped, were now fending off some hungry hyenas.


A lone hyena snuck in behind the ravenous pack of three dogs, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. Once again, dust billowed and a noisy commotion broke out – the hyena yanking at the leftover impala while the wild dogs, having strength in numbers, tugged back. While this was happening, an African fish-eagle swooped in from the right, eyeing out the remains and making off with a decent-sized piece. It was extraordinary to watch.







The tug of war continued until the hyena broke off, taking the carrion with him and loping into the distance as fast he could go. But the wild dogs managed to snatch back the carcass and came bounding back to the tree where they’d first made the kill, all furiously digging into the last bit of impala.


But the African fish-eagle was the real prize-winner. The fearless bird swooped down once again to find whatever it could, exerting the least effort and coming away with the greatest reward”. – Kate MacWilliam, Wilderness Head of Brand and Content.


Watch a video from this encounter here.

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.