How to Track Lions at a Game Reserve
No trip to South Africa is complete without a trip to a Game Reserve. During a stay at the Ivory Tree Game Lodge in Pilanesberg Game Reserve I had one of the most spectacular Lion Spottings ever. Take a look (fast forward to 1:09 to where the action really begins)
After multiple trips and game drives in South Africa, I can say that this, by far, was the best experience I’ve ever had. So how can you have a similar one experience? Here are some tips…
Find the Right Guide
Our guide Jaco, was one of the best in South Africa. I can assure you of that. Your entire experience is dependent on the quality of your guide. Jaco was trained “old school” and could spot insects at night! He studied the surrounding bush to look for clues animals left behind, inspected dung and spotted animal tracks.
Jaco knew the animal’s preferred territories and habits. It took us 3 days of searching, but the payoff was worth it. If your guide is inexperienced or not passionate about animals (and the people he/she is driving), your experience will just be average.
Even Jaco said that this was one of his best encounters after decades of game spotting!
Animals don’t come out on a schedule. Just because you see their tracks, doesn’t mean that they are nearby. We traveled up and down paths at hours on end with no luck. On the morning of Day 3 we hit the jackpot. Sure everyone wants to go home spotting the carnivores, but take a moment to appreciate the smaller animals that come across your way on your search for the big ones.
Bring the Right Equipment
If you are fortunate enough to encounter those lions, you don’t want to be ill-equipped. See my earlier post on What to Park for a Game Drive.
It would be a shame if your camera ran out of batteries or if you were too cold to fully enjoy the moment.
Sometimes it’s About the Chase
If it’s your first game drive, you’ll want to focus on quantity not quality. You’ll want to see as many animals as you can and move on to the next herd, group, etc. But if you’ve already been on a drive or two, use your next trip to track animals. Sure you may miss out on seeing other African Animals, but the adrenaline rush of following those animal tracks, listening for animal noises and smelling their scent(s) in the air makes for an exhilirating experience.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about animal behavior when you study the clues that they leave behind. Even when we came up empty-handed on Days 1 & 2, we felt like it was a fantastic drive.
Enjoy the Moment
If you’re fortunate enough to have a close encounter with a lion or two stop taking photos (you can view some of mine on my Facebook Fan Page) and just observe nature at it’s finest. While all of the other groups were busy with Giraffes and Zebras, we had a private moment with just these two male lions; Father and son taking a drink after battling other lions over territory just a few minutes prior.
Jaco was able to track their paw prints so closely that he knew where they would emerge from the bush, what path they would follow and where they would go (the dam for a drink of water). We watched them walk, no further than 6 feet from the jeep along the road. Just us and two lions, bellies full from a kill (them – not us).
Let your encounter sink into your memory and last forever.
So with the right guide, the right attitude and a little bit of luck, you’re as close as you can be to having a spectacular lion spotting. But I’d like to know, What Tips Do You Have for Game Spotting in South Africa? Share by Commenting.
Don’t forget when you return home at night to Check Your Room for Snakes, Spiders and Scorpions.
I’ll see you out there…! Roar