The relationship between a track and tracker

Kruger National Park | March 2019

Much like city folk reading their daily newspaper, tracking is reading the ‘Bush Telegraph’ to find out what is happening in the wild world. It is reading the story of life and interpreting intangible clues to give insight into the secret lives of some of Africa’s more elusive animals.

Tracking is so much more that assigning names and species to lifeless depressions in the ground – it is often underestimated how much information can be gleaned from signs left behind by animals. Almost every action performed by a person, animal, bird, insect, weather system or geological force has an impact on the surrounding environment. These actions leave behind clues for those who are aware.

Trackers are natural storytellers. They know the intimate details of the lives of animals, birds, insects and natural cycles. They understand an ancient language of complete awareness and being at one with nature which allows them to make predictions about what they read. They live in harmony with these miraculous natural cycles and all the other beings with whom we share this planet.

When tracking animals, you look at the signs left behind by them. It can include footprints, feathers, kills, scratching posts, drag marks or intrinsic knowledge of animal behaviour. At Singita Kruger National Park, the rocky terrain of the Lebombo Mountains means that tracking by following tracks is not always possible, so our skilled trackers here often track by instinct and by understanding animal behaviour and the environment. The trackers, through years of experience, have gained a detailed understanding of animal behaviour through an interpretation which would otherwise remain unknown. They usually have a preconceived image of a specific animal’s spoor in mind and inherent knowledge of the terrain and animal behaviour, allowing them to save valuable time by predicting the animals’ movement.

When encountering a new sign, trackers study the signs in detail. They sometimes identify with the animal to such an extent, it almost seems as though they become one with the animal, which allows them to visualise and follow an imaginary route which they think the animal would most likely have taken, only stopping to confirm their expectations with occasional signs that would be invisible to most. They are able to visualize how the animal was moving around and place themselves in this position.

Tracking is a mixture of art, science and an intrinsic connection to nature, a skill that our trackers have mastered.

Photos by Brian Rode