We’re often asked what contributes to the best African safari experience. Among other factors, we always mention the humble but valuable skills of a good game tracker.
Why is a tracker so integral to having the best African safari experience? The answer is simple. If you can’t find game, you can’t see it. And let’s face it, seeing animals is the main point of a Big Five safari. That makes great wildlife tracking so vital for a great safari.
The bush is a foreign landscape for most, a place forgotten by your mind but not by your instinct. The physical fear felt when a lion walks past the vehicle is enough to send your adrenaline levels through the canvas roof. The fight or flight response kicks in and a sense of foolishness is felt by all. All except the guide and the tracker, who is often still perched on the hood of the vehicle throughout.
Their courage and composure is admirable. However, in reality, it’s just another day in the office for someone passionate about wildlife tracking. The skills and bush experience possessed by these under-exposed legends of Africa go far beyond those of most guides. Most guides have not spent a lifetime honing their tracking skills. Sure, as children and teenager’s, most guides visited the bush, however there are very few individuals that actually grew up immersed in it, as almost all trackers have.
Trackers’ talents are not refined in a few short years in the bush but rather over generations, with each father passing a better skill set down to his son. Together they walked the land learning every waterhole, wallow, ravine and view point, and memorising different seasonal grazing spots and which species go where at what times. The list continues. The end result is that most trackers know their stretch of wilderness far better than we know our home towns or neighbourhoods. They are able to understand animal behaviour and have experienced first-hand many of the surprises offered by the African bush.
For this reason there is no one better at finding wildlife. When you are looking for the actual animals, they are looking for what is wrong with the visual picture – shapes, colours, textures that don’t quite fit in. There is very little that goes unnoticed from the throne on the front of a safari vehicle. Should they leave this perch and track on foot, prepare to be blown away. Their magical skills on foot inspire awe. They have a keen eye for detail perfected by infinite practice.
If a tracker is able to find game, it makes the ranger’s job of tending to your every need a lot simpler. This is why guides and trackers are often paired for lengthy periods, helping them build a good rapport. If there is a good relationship between your ranger and tracker, you are just about guaranteed a good experience. However, as with anything in nature, nothing is guaranteed. Even more reason to contribute in any way you can to ensure the best African Safari experience.
On the subject of maximising your Safari adventure, see Ross the Ranger’s safari packing list for tips on the best things to take with you on your African adventure or have a look at our Private vs National Park safari article here.