Tracking in Lockdown

Sabi Sand | August 2020

During the last few months of lockdown, we as the guides have really been able to practice and develop new skill sets, and it has been a great opportunity for all of us to learn and gain knowledge from one another. Something that I have particularly enjoyed is the tracking aspect and learning more about the art of tracking. Due to not having the skill set of our world-class trackers on site, it has been left to the guides to track and locate the various animals.

One track in particular that I really enjoyed was with another guide, Mark Eschenlohr. We set out before sunrise so we could be out as the bush was starting to wake up to a new day. We stopped at an elevated point for a few minutes to see if we could hear any lions roaring as this was our target species for the morning. In the far distance we could hear the faint iconic sound of Africa, the lions’ roar. We agreed on a general direction to where we thought the vocalization was coming from. We set off on our mission and headed to the northern section of the property. As we got closer to the area we again heard the lions roaring. This helped to pinpoint an area for us to find the tracks of a pride. Once we had found the tracks and saw how almost immediately they went off the road. They headed into the direction of some thick vegetation so we decided to park the vehicle in a shaded spot so we could get our walking boots on and get tracking.

The two of us set out and followed the tracks together. Tracking is made a lot easier when there is more than one of you and we quickly realized this would be the case on this particular track. As we got deeper into the thickets we lost the tracks and this is where the teamwork really started. We would separate and check the surrounding area for any signs of the lions and look at the surrounding sandy patches. Once one of us would find a track and get a general direction, we would follow once again. This happened on a number of occasions and we both noticed the different signs as to where the lions had walked. We then lost the tracks and struggled for about 15 minutes to find them again, but something that we did notice was some tracks of a herd of zebra that had been running.

We knew this formed part of the puzzle as the lion tracks were then seen to be all over. We knew they had attempted to hunt the zebra but to no avail. So, we continued walking and following. The day was starting to warm up and we both believed that the lions would now be settled up in a shaded spot somewhere so we couldn’t be too far behind the pride. After about two hours we ended up close to the Sand River, our excitement levels got higher and higher as we approached the river both thinking they will be lying in the nice cool sand. As we were getting closer to the river, it was very important that we kept a watchful eye, not only for the lions but for other animals that would be making their way for a mid-morning drink.

As we followed the tracks, they led us down a game path and straight to a channel of flowing water. We walked into the river and peered around a rock to find the lions relaxing and sleeping under a large shaded patch of sand. We both stood in silence as we appreciated the sighting and then made our way to a high point for a better visual. It is a feeling that cannot be described as we had put a lot of time and effort into the track only to be successful a few hours later.

This was a great learning curve for the two of us and it really was awe-inspiring being able to learn from each other and share what we have to offer. It was an exciting track from the get go as well as a great challenge, but through persistence and teamwork we did it. I am very fortunate to be working at Singita and being able to continuously learn from my peers and this for this I will always be grateful.