Wake up to the chorus of a new day – birds in the Jackalberries, sunset game drives and the sounds of hyena whooping in the dead of night
Our senses become sharper and clearer when immersed in nature. Scientific studies show that time spent in the wilderness actually makes us more intelligent. We are more creative, better at solving problems and have longer attention spans.
There are two integral components to re-awakening your inner adventurer while out in the bush. First is spending time at an authentic safari lodge within one of South Africa’s many reputable game parks. The second is through safari activities such as four-by-four game drives and walking safaris led by an experienced tracker-guide team.
If you can’t find it, you can’t see it
During your time in the bush, a safari guide and tracker will be the difference between a good trip to the bush, and a fully immersive experience, explains Jacques, a ranger at Finfoot Lake Reserve, located in the greater Gauteng area. “If you can’t find game, you can’t see it, and let’s face it, seeing wild animals is a massive drawcard.”
“Besides following scat and spoor, we can identify broken twigs or branches, dew paths in the tall grass early in the morning”
The bush reveals many secrets that can go unnoticed to untrained ears, says Tenika, a fellow tracker at Finfoot. “Besides following scat and spoor, we can identify broken twigs or branches, dew paths in the tall grass early in the morning, even folded over tall grass making a subtle path that just barely shows us that something has passed through.”
Don’t forget about rub marks on trees and scent markings like urine and even secretions from scent and anal glands, adds Janri, who works at Mjejane Bush Camp, set on the banks of the Crocodile River in the Kruger. Mduduzi, a fellow guide who also works at Mjejane, explains that the leopard is the animal people most request to see in the bush.
“Even with the most experienced tracker-guide team, nothing is guaranteed. Of the larger game species, the leopard is the most secretive and difficult to track and find in South Africa. It is a solitary creature that walks alone with its camouflage markings, so even when you have tracked one, you still might not see it. They are expert tree climbers so we not only have to look for them on the ground but in the trees too. Leopards are very light on their feet which makes their spoor that much harder to find.”
Sharing their secrets
Besides being able to track animals hiding in the veld, what makes a wilderness experience with a tracker-guide truly exceptional is their sense of humour, story-telling ability and often complete infatuation with the bush and South Africa as a whole. Their enthusiasm is contagious, infecting all within earshot, and their deep respect for the wildlife and birdlife they track to view every day, encourages others to tread lightly.
“I make an effort to reveal the hidden beauties of the bush that lie beyond the larger game that many guests come here for”
“I make an effort to reveal the hidden beauties of the bush that lie beyond the larger game that many guests come here for,” explains Jacques.
“Here at Finfoot, many guests tell me how ugly the Marabou stork looks. These birds are often found perched near the lake. Their reaction inspires me to explain more about this overlooked creature. Known as the ‘undertaker bird’ due to its morbid appearance – hunched shoulders, bald head and sparse down feathers on its neck – their perceived ugliness makes them totally unique. Seeing this big bird flying in the air shows just how majestic and elegant they actually are.”
Janri adds that the best-kept secret of the bush is the honey badger. “The lion may think he is the king, but in truth, the honey badger is the real legend. Their body is immune to snake venom and relative to their body size, they are not scared of anything. When a predator grabs a badger they can move inside their own skin as if they are wearing a suit, to turn toward the predator’s face and fight back.”
Step into the wild
It’s not all hardship in the bush, mind you. Picture private decks and a crisp sundowner in hand – an unparalleled way to spend your holiday in the South African bush. The expertise of local guides and experienced trackers takes that experience a step further and gives you the chance to appreciate the harmony of nature with all of your senses engaged.
Feel inspired to step away from the outdoor lapa on your next safari getaway, and even your throne on the four-by-four, to move with the pace of nature on a walking safari. A walking safari demands you throw out all the clutter of urban life and tune into the bush, to its sounds and smells, the textures, temperature and colours much like our ancestors did before we invented air conditioning, cars and Wi-Fi.
Embark on specialised morning and evening walking safaris with experienced tracker-guides at Dream Hotel and Resorts’ Mthimkhulu Wilderness Safaris set within a 7,500-hectare private reserve of the Kruger National Park.