African Animal Tracking Course
This wildlife-tracking programme offers you the ultimate wilderness immersion. Through the ancient art of tracking – possibly the world’s oldest art and science – you will connect with the iconic places and creatures of Africa on foot. The 7 and 14-day courses take place in remote wilderness areas of Botswana and South Africa.
In many parts of Africa, the ancient survival skills of tracking have disappeared at an alarming rate – alarming because without these skills, humanity’s connection to the earth is significantly reduced. The time-worn skills of tracking taught human beings to live consciously with an appreciation and respect for the natural world. With urbanisation and technology, much of this profound ecological intelligence is being lost at a time when it is most important to our long-term survival.
This training course aims to contribute to the preservation of indigenous wilderness skills and the conservation of the Earth’s last wild places. Our instructors are certified trainers.. Participants will get a taste of the knowledge from trackers who have dedicated themselves to mastering the skills of traditional hunter-gatherers.
What is Tracking?
There are two major aspects to tracking – Track and Sign Interpretation and Trailing (following animal trails). The course includes Hunter-gatherer techniques as part of the course. All aspects of tracking take years to master.
Track and Sign Interpretation – this component of tracking looks at the signs left by invertebrates, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. All learning takes place in the field using field-guides, photographs and presentations to supplement practical training.
Trailing – this component involves following tracks to find the animal. Mastering trailing takes years and this aspect of the course requires a relatively high level of fitness and an ability to focus mentally. The course instructors are amongst the best animal trailers in South Africa and we pride ourselves on our ability to teach this complex skill. Students will have the opportunity to practice trailing animals themselves – under the watchful eye of an instructor. Interpreting mammal and bird alarm calls, animal behaviour and assessing the age of tracks form part of the trailing skill set.
Hunter-gatherer techniques – Southern Africa’s indigenous peoples survived off the land for centuries. The course instructors will teach you how to build traps using only natural materials, show you how to find birds nests, water and edible fruits. Through sharing of their experiences growing up in the wilderness, the instructors will immerse students in the wild.
The sleeping arrangements at all our camps consist of two people sharing per tent. Single requests are required to pay double-rates. Women and men do not share tents unless booked as a couple.
Early morning wake-up (tea, coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit and cereals)
Brunch after activity (cooked breakfast and fruit salad)
Afternoon tea (light lunch/ sandwiches)
Dinner (balanced, warm plated meal with meat, vegetables and salad)
The Makuleke Conservancy is a 24000 ha private concession in the north of the Kruger National Park. Located between the Limpopo River in the north and the Luvuvhu River in the south, it has large alluvial flood plains and central African vegetation, but also sandveld and a huge amount of plant and animal species. It is a gathering space for elephants from Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as those that reside in Kruger. There are many hippos and crocs in the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers and as there is thick bush around, leopards happily hunt the nyala and impala near the rivers. Makuleke also hosts eland and grysbok whilst the birdlife is prolific.
Karongwe Private Game Reserve lies east of the Drakensberg Mountains in the Province of Limpopo and is an 8 500 ha area of South African bushveld; an untamed garden of eden – pure wilderness. The ‘Big Five’ flourish here, but there are also many other species such as elephant, rhino, buffalo, wild dog, cheetah, two hyena species, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and many, many antelope along with monkeys and baboons. Birdlife is proficient and the waters contain otters along with the normal hippo and crocodile. Rocky outcrops stand out within the reserve’s undulating terrain.
The Selati Reserve hosts over 50 species of mammals and is known for it’s large numbers of sable antelope. Species biodiversity is enhanced by elephant, black rhino and lion but it also hosts leopard, cheetah and the odd wild dog, amongst many others. Selati has a vibrant bird population due to the varied habitat; there are mopane woodlands and rare cycads in this undulating area. As with most other reserves in the general area there are many species of reptiles from monitor lizards to crocodile and snakes.
Mashutu shares borders with Zimbabwean and South African national parks; there are no fences between the reserves. Mashutu is between the Tuli Safari Area in Botswana and the South African Mapungubwe National Park. It is a rugged savannah landscape, wild and with open plains and riverine forests where large herds of elephant abound. There are also many predators – leopard, cheetah and lion – in this Land of Giants located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers.
Dates & Costs
2020 rate per person [6 nights / 7 days] – To be confirmed
2020 rate per person [13 nights / 14 days] – To be confirmed
- Accommodation (sharing)
- Tea/coffee and cordials
- Instruction and training
- Game walks
- Open vehicle game drives
- Sleep outs/ additional activities
- Transfers/transport to and from the camp, before and after the course
- Any accommodation before and after the course
- Select beverages
- Kruger National Park entrance fee (only applicable if the course is at Makuleke Camp)
- Border crossing fee (only applicable if the course is at Mashatu Camp)
What is the general age and nationality of the other students on the course with me?
The age ranges of students tend to be from 18-65 … We have a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of countries. Be assured that you will meet and study alongside interesting people who are passionate and enthusiastic about conservation, and more specifically about the bush.
How old should I be?
In terms of age restriction we will accept participants from 12 years of age (accompanied by an adult), and 16 years of age unaccompanied. Please understand that our unfenced bush camps are all in dangerous game areas, and it is with the participant’s safety in mind that this restriction is in place. There is no cut-off age to our courses, provided participants are of a reasonable level of fitness.
In order to attempt the FGASA qualifications, participants are required to be 18 years or older and be in possession of a valid driver’s licence.
By when should I book my course?
We book on a first come, first served basis and therefore it is tricky to advise as to when you should book for your course. We can’t guarantee availability at any time, but can suggest that the sooner you book the stronger the likelihood will be that we can offer you a space on a course. Some courses are more popular than others, and certain times of the year are also busier. Our advice is that as soon as you are ready to commit, please make your booking.
We would typically require the registration forms completed and returned within seven days of making your booking, and payment of the deposit within two weeks from then.
How do I get to camp?
Please arrange flights into Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport). From there you are welcome to make use of our own Bush Bus transfer service, which runs between Johannesburg and our four camps in southern Africa.
Alternatively, you can arrange a connecting flight to smaller airports nearer to our camps (Hoedspruit Airport for Karongwe and Selati Camp/Polokwane Airport for Mashatu or Makuleke Camp), with private transfers to the camp meeting point (arrival).
Please bear in mind, though, that these connecting flights and private transfers are quite pricey. We feel the Bush Bus transfer is a far more affordable and practical option, in terms of getting to the camps.
Our logistics department will be able to best advise you on your transfer options to and from the camp. Please make contact on firstname.lastname@example.org, should you require further assistance.
Will I need a visa to join a course?
Usually, international participants can attend our shorter courses on a 90-day general tourist visa. This does depend on your country of origin, and visa requirements can change at any time.
The responsibility remains with the traveller to ensure they are fully aware of the most current immigration laws and visa requirements of the country/countries they intend visiting. EcoTraining cannot assist in this regard. Please contact your preferred travel professional for further advice.
As an international participant for the Professional Field guide course, you will be required to apply for a one-year study permit.
What are FGASA and CATHSSETA?
FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. CATHSSETAis the Culture, Arts, Tourism and Hospitality SETA (Sector Education Training Authority) for the South African government. These bodies are responsible for regulating the standard of guiding in South Africa.
We are a FGASA-endorsed training provider, with our FGASA Level 1 and Trails Guide Back-up qualifications accredited with them. We now have our Field Guide Level 1 qualification directly accredited with CATHSSETA.