There is a significant difference between a traditional game drive and bush walking and we don’t just mean that you must get off your bottom and break a bit of a sweat! Here we give you some top tips for a successful bush walk and outline the fine art of ‘tracking’.
When in a vehicle your eyes are fixed upon the landscape that stretches out before you longing to see some form of movement or a silhouette of an animal in the distance and on doing so it prompts great excitement and thrill. However, when you are on your feet (without the comfort blanket of the aluminium frame that once protected you), movement in the bushes normally prompts the desire for a quick retreat to the nearest vehicle for most. When bush walking your range of vision and perspective is completely different, and you are far more vulnerable to mother nature around you, therefore this should only be done with an experienced guide and tracker.
Tracker at Garonga Safari Camp, South Africa
But we don’t want to be putting you off of course. The rewards of bush walking can far outweigh other safari options as you are exposed to different sights and sounds of nature and learn to spot evidence of life and learn about the habits of African wildlife. You are left with a greater sense of understanding and usually a great desire to learn and practice more.
Taking in the moment with trackers from Garonga Safari Camp
The Art of Tracking:
Tracking wildlife is one of those activities (or should we say artform) that looks far simpler than it is. It is easy to assume trackers are simply checking the ground expecting that perfect paw print to lead them towards one of the big five. Although that is always most welcome (and certainly first prize!), to track effectively requires great skill, care, attention to detail, seeking of the un-obvious and of course patience. But above all you need experience.
We caught up with Jaffeth Malapane, a highly experienced guide and tracker working at Garonga Safari Camp a luxury camp set within the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve west of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Jaff has been guiding/tracking most of his life, starting off as a young kid and certainly knows a thing or two.
Jaff, legendary tracker and safari guide at Garonga Safari Camp
Jaff gives us his top tips for your bush walking or tracking experience.
“If you come across tracks in the morning, before following them you will want to know that they are fresh. To do this there are different things you can check for:
- Is the dew on top of the track or underneath it? This is important for ageing the track.
- Is the sand in the track a hard crust or soft? To be fresh it should be soft.
- How crisp is the track? This will be affected by the wind so consider how windy it is now and how it was overnight.
- When is the identified animal usually active? If it is a nocturnal animal (even if the track looks fresh in the middle of the day) it is unlikely to have been made within the last few hours.
- When did someone last drive in the area? Are the tracks on top of or beneath these vehicle tracks?”
However, the most crucial point Jaff makes is that the whole aim of the bush walk is to become immersed in nature. Bush walking is not intended for viewing of big game but rather to be fully exposed to the environment and culture that the guide can share with you. Enjoy some special periods of silence and absorb the wonderful ambience of the bush.
Jaff is now leading a bi-weekly bush walk from Garonga Safari Camp teaching guests the basics of tracking and taking them to some of the most beautiful spots on the reserve focussing around the river. The camp also offers ‘The Solitude Walk’ which is, as the title suggests, a walk in complete silence with a maximum of 6 guests which aims to promote people fully letting go and embracing nature around them. This further endorses the camp’s ‘Safari For The Soul’ motto.
Hear more from Garonga’s guides and trackers here.
Garonga Safari Camp Guides & Trackers
Bush walking is a refreshing addition to any standard safari offering and we would encourage safari-lovers to give this a go on their next trip. Who knows, learning to track might be the best investment of your time ever made, should you ever get stuck out in the bush!