A walking safari at Lion Sands isn’t any ordinary walk in nature.
It’s a way of immersing yourself in the African wilderness, and is reminiscent of the way humans used to experience their world millennia ago.
In the bush, we are no longer the dominant species, and have to constantly be alert, and aware of everything around us. Lion Sands has a high concentration of wildlife, many of which have the potential to be dangerous when encountered on foot, so we take every bush walk seriously.
That being said, it is an incredible activity. Bush walks are the time when your field guide focuses on the smaller features of the bush, like invertebrates, geology, tracks, and plants. They are also a great opportunity to get some exercise and stretch your legs.
To me, bush walks are the ultimate way of exploring. There are no predetermined routes or roads. We follow animal paths and get to explore anywhere, even places where vehicles cannot go. Perhaps we pass an area where no one has ever walked before – it’s an exciting thought.
When walking here, your senses are heightened, especially your hearing. Far from the lodge or the vehicle, there are no man-made sounds. We walk in silence. Sounds provide important alerts for us as guides – we listen for breaking branches or ox-pecker birds, which could indicate a large animal, or even the growl of a big cat giving us a warning. We use these cues to stay safe.
I first discovered my passion for walking in nature during my field guide training. I was fortunate to have ample opportunities for walks and clocked in well over 100 hours.
As guides, we are taught to be generalists on many environmental subjects. But everyone within guiding also has their own personal interest – mine is animal tracks and signs.
Tracks tell a story and complete the picture of what happened before getting there. Maybe the animal was marking their territory, or running from something, or hunting. This is the kind of story I love to interpret for guests when on a walk.
One bush walk in particular stands out from the rest. I was walking with guests from Lion Sands River Lodge. We were viewing a breeding herd of elephants who were drinking from the Sabie River.
On the other side of the river, I noticed movement. It was a leopard who was stalking impala. Amazingly, the leopard made the kill and we watched as it pulled the impala up the tree – all while the elephants drank in the foreground.
It’s hard to imagine a more incredible experience.
Words by: Field Guide Quintin Rutherford