One of the best things about being on a guided safari is having a guide and tracker at hand to actively search for game. Without them it’s very possible you won’t see much at all. With an average of 12 years of experience each on Mashatu, its no wonder the sightings are so good.
It takes a special skill to drive on off-road conditions, entertain guests, look for animals, as well as look out for fresh tracks and then follow them, all this being done simultaneously.
Tracking an animal is an art. First the guide needs to spot and identify the track as well as age the track. There would be no use following a track that’s more than just a few hours old. Once on a fresh track, the guide must then consider that the animal may have just crossed the road and then chosen to veer off into uncharted territories. This is where tracking gets interesting. Here your guide and tracker will use their extensive knowledge based on observations of animals to interpret what the animal’s next move could be. They may know where a particular leopards favourite place to drink is, or where the lions prefer to rest and they can then follow up in those areas. Trackers will sometimes do as a cheetah does and get to the top of a hill where they can scan their surroundings, or at other times, simply turn off the vehicle’s engine and listen for clues; baboons calling, squirrels alarm calling… these are all clues that help them find those elusive animals.
Tracking involves many different facets with many telltale signs to look out for, such as fresh dung, drag marks and damaged foliage, to name a few. Using this information, an experienced guide will be able to build a picture and narrow down their search. Team work also plays an important role and at times, a few vehicles may work together to track one animal.
Mashatu is known for it’s incredible number of excellent sightings and it’s as much to do about the excellent game as well as our guides and trackers who are masters of this art.
A lion paw leaves a distinctive track, easy to identify but not always easy to follow
The direction and angle of the sun greatly assist in easily finding and following tracks. Viewed from the right angle these elephant tracks can easily be seen.
Text and images by Janet Kleyn