January 27, 2012


A walk through the famed fever tree forest in the Makuleke concession in the far northern part of the Kruger National Park, and then venturing out onto the open floodplains, is something to be treasured on any given day. Add to that the whisperings of “Pssst, lions!”, and it turns into something magical. The students currently at Makuleke doing a trails guide course (with Bruce as lead instructor) as part of their yearlong course, where just that fortunate. Here’s what some of them wrote in their logbooks:

Sarah: We were walking east around floodplain and then heard “pssst, lions!”  They were about 150 metres away on the flood plain. The sun was to the east and lions were south.  We were downwind but we had bumped into them, so they were completely aware of us and retreated back to a ridge. We moved to some shade and watched them for about 45 minutes.  Both parties had multiple escape routes.  Such a cool sighting!! Lots of awesome birds as well, Carmine Bee-eaters, yeah! 

Allison: We encountered three lions south of our location on floodplain.  We bumped into two sub-adult males and one female at 150 metres.  The group ran to the edge of ridge line where they laid down.  We were in the shade, downwind.  We were able to watch the lions for 45 minutes.  The lions were clearly comfortable with the distance (400m) but not less.  180 degree escape routes for people and lions. What an amazing encounter!  Best walk ever.  Bruce says hopefully we deterred them from going to Zimbabwe.

Louise:  Soon after we were dropped off, we walked next to a floodplain where we saw lions running out.  The sun was in the east with them being in the south and we were downwind from them.  They retreated up into the ridge and watched us from the distance, being just as curious as us.  They were two sub-adult males and a larger female.  They were relaxed lying under a tree on a termite mound.  We watched them for about 45 min before we headed back on our way.  There were more than enough escape routes for us and the lions. This was a very special encounter and everybody was very excited seeing lions on foot for the first time and a jackal running around made it even more special.

A note on the use of the logbooks during a trails guide course: These log books are used as part of training, and students are encouraged to detail specifics about the encounters as a learning tool. It also allows FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) to review and see what type of encounters they had, when verifying for qualifications etc. Items that Bruce requires students to note: cardinal directions, wind direction, sun position, cover/concealment, terrain/vegetation, escape routes (animals and trailists), approach/retreat, animal reactions.
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