One of our friends is a safari guide and his company, Dry Seasons Safari’s, among other trips, does guided walks in the Kruger National Park. In order to lead a guided walk in the Kruger Park one has to be highly qualified. This last week our friend Ian had to undergo an assessment in order to be able to be “lead gun” on walking safari’s within the park. He invited us along.
A question that is frequently asked is: “What do we do if we encounter one of the Big 5 while on foot?” It is a reasonable question and likely to come up on any bush walk.
The term “Big Five” was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five African game species which were quite likely to kill you if you made a mistake. They are the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But the Big 5 aren’t the only dangerous animals you can encounter. Hippos are reputedly the most dangerous in Africa killing more people than any other animal – well, besides mosquitoes! Crocodiles are also notorious and swimming in any pool or river in the bush is strongly not advised. Ostriches can deliver a nasty sweeping kick and during the breeding season the males are particularly aggressive to perceived threats.
Of course there is no definitive answer to “what to do” if you encounter a dangerous animal as every situation is different. However, there are a few basic rules to follow.
Unlike hunters, where the end result is the shooting of the animal (or the attack on the hunter!), tourists want the encounter to be non-confrontational. A sighting where the animal doesn’t even realise you are there is paramount.
It is not the best idea to sneak up too close to dangerous game. If they spot you from a distance they will merely keep an eye on you and may even continue with whatever they were doing. If, however, they only become aware of you when you are within their “flight or fight” zone you can rest assured that there will be a sticky situation. Each animal has its own flight radius and it also depends on the circumstances. If you do get too close and the animal is left with no option of flight, it may attack. It is therefore very important that your guide knows how to approach dangerous animals.
It was our aim on this day in the bush to approach as many dangerous animals as possible on foot.
Here Ian is giving us strict instructions on how to behave and respond to his hand signals. It was a stinking hot day so this added to the ambiance :)
Serious discussion and concentration
A elephant, some zebras and impala getting some water under the unrelenting sun. It must have reached 36 degrees Celsius in the shade by this stage.
Kori Bustard – the heaviest living animal capable of flight.
African Wild Dogs – quite a rare sight.
Needless to say, Ian passed with flying colours. His assessor was Sean Pattrick. He is the author of “Game Ranger in your Back Pack” and also a great wildlife photographer. It was super to meet him.
Speaking of great photographers, Ian himself is a brilliant photographer. You can see (and buy) some of his work here.
If you are interested in going on a walking tour in the Kruger National Park it is worth contacting Dry Season Safari’s to find out more. You won’t regret it!
Thanks Ian for a super day!