There’s nothing like knowing how to track an animal to stimulate the natural impulses like barbecue – err, “braaing.” And, like braaing, it’s something that everyone can do, including (dare I say it) a foreigner. All you have to do is be willing to try tracking. Here are some tracking tips.
Wake up early
When temperatures are colder, animals are more likely to be active during sunrise and dusk. This is because they seek refuge in the shade under a tree or in their burrows during the hotter parts of the day. You’ll surely see game during the day, but an early morning drive gives you the chance to see nocturnal species as well. Predators like lions, hyenas, and leopards are frequently seen around this time of day.
When travelling on gravel roads early in the morning, keep an eye out for animal tracks. These traces can aid in determining which animals are present in the region.
You can’t compel Mother Nature to provide you with a wonderful sighting since animals have their own timetables. More sightings will be rewarded to those who are more patient. Remember, you’re on safari to get away from your hectic existence. There’s no need to rush, so take it easy and enjoy the scenery. One of the advantages of a self-drive safari is the freedom and flexibility to proceed at your own leisure.
Seeing a cheetah is exciting in and of itself, but it’s easy to become bored when the animals are sedentary or obscured by dense foliage. That’s when most folks decide to walk on in pursuit of a better sighting. However if you move on you could miss an incredible sighting such as a cheetah hunt and kill. Something that hardly many tourists get to witness in their lives.
Look up and down
Sightings aren’t always at eye level; a leopard, African wildcat, or owls may be seen high in the woods. Snakes, meerkats, mice, tortoises, and honey badgers, to mention a few, can be found on the ground.
Don’t limit yourself to viewing the Big 5; look for the smaller creatures as well. These encounters can be just as amazing.
Listen to the noises around you by opening your window. The baboon alarms might indicate the presence of a leopard nearby. An elephant debarking a tree might be the source of a noise in the bush. Safaris aren’t only about viewing animals; in fact, if you don’t hear the noises of the African bush, your safari will be incomplete. On your safari, you could hear the call of a black-backed jackal, the grunt of a hippo, or just the sound of a nightjar.
Watering holes and hides
Follow the water, travel the routes nearest to rivers, and stop at the waterholes and hides on a regular basis. Rather than travelling numerous routes, some individuals choose to go to a waterhole and stay there all day.
Check the sighting boards
People can pin the animals they’ve seen that day on sighting boards, which are displayed at campgrounds. Pins are mainly limited to sightings of the Big Five, Cheetah, and Wild Dog. It’s a terrific method to determine if a certain route has a lot of traffic, and you can use it to schedule your morning or afternoon journeys accordingly.
Don’t miss the small things
Take a close look at an insect’s traces if you notice one going across the walkway. When you’re next in the jungle, drop to one knee and begin telling how an armor ground cricket walked here, it’ll be rather stunning.
It’s difficult to explain the age of a particular track. This comes with time and experience. Fresh tracks appear to be fresh. They have a sharpness to them, and where the sand has been compressed, they might even have a shimmer. Wind and gravity both contribute to the ridges losing their sharpness over time.
Get toilet trained
Dung, scat, faeces, poo — whatever you want to call it, it’s critical when reading the bush. It can tell you who was there, when they were there, and why they were there. I’m sure you never dreamed you’d be captivated with faeces before coming to Africa.
Act on what you see
Don’t only believe in your gut feelings; act on them. You’d see elephant footprints and think to yourself, “ooh, those seem fresh,” only to turn a corner and see an elephant standing there. This is true when being evaluated. Always provide the first response that comes to mind when asked to identify a track; changing your mind is typically a mistake.
Wildlife tracking on foot
Walking safaris in Africa are less about seeing the Big Five and more about discovering the tiny species, plants, and ecosystems that are just as intriguing and that tourists tend to overlook when riding in a vehicle. You won’t be able to go too close to the larger animals since, while they’re used to cars, they’ll stay a safe distance from pedestrians – which is perhaps for the best! Another important aspect is that you will almost always be accompanied by local tribespeople, which means that you will have a fantastic opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of a region as well as its biodiversity from a friendly and knowledgeable guide, in addition to providing income and employment for nearby communities.
A respectable level of fitness is required because you’ll be walking on mostly flat, easy-going (though occasionally uneven) terrain, and treks will typically be only a few hours long, avoiding the warmest portion of the day. Depending on your agenda, you’ll probably need to get up early. Because you’re strolling in the region of elephants and other large animals, some treks have a minimum age requirement, and your guides will almost always be armed.
— Bronwyn Reynolds, Fizzin