November 28, 2013

CAMP REFLECTIONS: It is very clear – Gabriela Brunner

Despite her Swiss passport, Gabriela Brunner regularly ventures way down south to sunny Africa. For her, the call of the wild remains ever strong and for a good part the reason is participating in an EcoTraining course. (She’s done more than one…)

The latest tick on her must do-list was an Animal Tracks and Tracking course at EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in the Karongwe Game Reserve. Here, at the hand of an authentic Shangaan tracker instructor, she and her fellow participants got to understand the traditional art of tracking a little bit better.

Gabriela shares her story:

“On our very first game drive George Nkuna (the instructor) got out of the vehicle and showed us a track which we had to guess what it was. I had never seen something similar before or maybe just hadn’t paid enough attention…

It was neither cat- nor antelope-like, there was actually just nothing I could see or think of. A drag mark? Could it have been a leopard with his prey in the mouth? But once again, there were no catlike tracks!

Finally we discovered something like a paw print, huge! Oh, could that be a croc? Yes it was. And so we started to follow the croc tracks. Actually, George followed the tracks and we followed George… After a few minutes we ended at a dam and saw our crocodile. It was huge. And we were following it on foot! Oops! Very cool first encounter.

The two weeks of the course passed by far too quickly.

I will never forget George's “It’s very clear” for tracks where I could see just nothing. And his “Not” for every wrong answer we gave him. But as time passed we learned to read the 'bush book' and we finally were able to see the differences between an ipala and a bushbuck track, or a wildebeest and a waterbuck track.

We can now also tell the difference between hyena, leopard and lion and even say if it's a front or hind foot, left or right! I still struggle with the mongooses though, is it a white-tailed or slender mongoose? Or is it in the end a Jackal?  Ha ha!

We were laughing a lot when I thought it was a baboon when I saw Graham's footprint (assisting George), or when we realized that we didn't recognize for the 10th time the three very clear markings of the aardvark claws, or when the zebra transformed into a baby giraffe...

I passed the assessment and got my Level 1 Track & Sign certificate, which only made me hungry for attending more tracking courses. I can't wait for the next adventure.  Thank you very much George Nkuna and Graham Cooke!”

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