To be back where it all began
To the untrained eye, the tracks on the sand are meaningless doodles of a deranged mind, but for a skilled bushman it’s a matter of life and death, of eating or starving.
Their survival in the Kalahari has been possible because of their knowledge about wildlife and the environment, their skills in identifying the faintest mark on the soil, not only the species of an animal but even the age, the sex, the movements.
They look at the spoor to see if it’s wet or dry, how much it’s defined, if there are other signs of that animal around, like scat or hair or feathers if it’s a bird. Signs left not just by mammals or birds, but by reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates. They can tell us what was happening in that moment, if the animal was following something or if it was in trouble, interpreting the alarm calls.
Moreover these men have an instinct that is not only innate, but is learnt as is reading sheet music and its inherent complexities.
To follow an animal’s spoor is an ancient traditional skill of hunters and gatherers.
At the beginning of my African journey I decided to devote time to learning about this ancient art of animal tracking that connects us to the earth and brings all our senses to life.
Originally and always in the private lodges of South Africa there was a tracking team, and it was their sole responsibility to track the lions, leopards and predators in the area, they are and always will be the crucial pivotal link to the game drives on private game areas. The level of expertise of Bushman and Shangaan trackers is legendary and I personally have seen them track leopards and lions over rocks.
I remember once happening upon a fresh lion spoor and I sat down to listen in the fast fading light to the sound of a lion roaring in a thicket 20 metres from me.
Looking out at the last night with lions calling over a kill made me realize that it’s real and that I’m living my dream.
Interpreting this world is like reading stories in a fascinating book that when you start reading you don’t want to stop and then you realise you are writing your own book of life and adventure.
And it’s possible to experience it in remote parts of South Africa, learning from skilled trackers the magic of following animal spoors.
Keep in touch if you are interested in it.