We rose before the sun did. From the ground level of our treehouse came a game ranger’s friendly wake-up call for the early morning walking safari with Africa on Foot. After a cup of hot coffee and a brief safety chat from our rangers (Francois and Enoch) we set off on an expedition into nature, on foot.
The journey begins…
With rifles by their sides as a safety precaution, Francois and Enoch lead us into our first stretch of wildlife tracking. The untrained eye would find it difficult to point out and identify various wildlife tracks in the day’s first light, but not our guides. Both of them were on a mission to get us a glimpse of the elephants that were recently here. Freshly snapped tree branches, flattened grass and footprints gave away their presence. Enoch was confident they were nearby.
The sun was a minute away from peeping its head out on the horizon – a sight I was itching to catch with my camera. Suddenly, I noticed Francois stop, and in silence held up his right hand in a fist. This sign meant we were to stop walking. Then, he pointed. On the left a large elephant wrapped its trunk around a branch and stripped it from a tree with ease. On the right a mommy-elephant and her baby huddled close, their wrinkly bums facing us. They were too far away for me to get a decent photograph. Keeping your distance from wildlife while on foot is very important – especially elephants, so I wasn’t complaining. Soaking up the sight, enjoying the moment without the sound of a 4×4’s engine I’d completely forgotten about the sunrise.
By now the sun illuminated everything within reach. Taking a better look around in the golden morning light I noticed the brown, Rice-Krispies-like earth beneath my feet. We were on a dirt path that seemed to be some kind of wildlife highway by night, with only footprints and droppings left to tell the tale of their journey.
Learning as we go
We continued our walking safari in a different direction to leave the elephants in peace. As we walked, Francois and Enoch stopped regularly to shed light on the little wonders nature has created. Francois pointed out everything from which tree is best used to create a toothbrush if stranded, to how elephants manage to kill trees by eating too much of its cambium layer, beneath the bark.
Forty-five minutes into the walking safari, and we all felt like wildlife-footprint-identification experts. Thanks to the trusty rangers, I confidently identified the tread of at least seven creatures all on my own. These tracks included those of giraffe, wildebeest, honey badger, leopard, hyena, impala and hippo.
Throughout the walk, Enoch made a conscious effort to stop at each set of droppings and identify them to us. Eventually it turned into a game to see who could correctly match the creature with the dung.
The final walking safari activity definitely roused a few giggles. Each of us were handed an impala dropping – which is about the size of a chocolate peanut, only it’s made up completely of grass. It was time for a bokdrol spitting contest. Enoch drew a line in the sand about 2 metres away, over which we all had to try to spit the antelope dropping. I must say – I’m no bokdrol spitting champion, but I sure had a lot of fun.
Elated and enlightened we headed back to camp after a successful walking safari with Africa on Foot. Time for breakfast…