One of the Eco Training Practical Camps is in the 23 000ha Makuleke concession in the northernmost part of the Kruger Park between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. the following extract is a report back on a recent practical there.
The start to a new course for 2006 in the Pafuri triangle was as exciting as ever, with fascinating new discoveries and hair-raising adventure in store for all concerned.
The air on the subcontinent is cooling substantially with the approach of winter, making the lovely autumn days absolutely perfect for extended activities out in the wilds of this remote and beautiful part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Thus, long forays into the bush were made in search of creatures big and small, day and night. And with much success.
Tracking Cape Buffalo can be an exciting, nerve-wracking, dangerous, time-consuming, tedious but altogether pleasant affair, not to mention hilarious at times too! This seemed to be the 'flavour of the month' during the course with many funny incidents involving tracks, vehicles, buffalo and the hapless student contingent that were searching for them. Whilst driving the vehicle and hot on the trail of buffalo one day, the tracks were getting fresher by the meter ...
âThey must be round the cornerâ said one. âI think I can smell somethingâ, said another. The vehicle is called to a halt and all and sundry are subtly instructed to take stock of the situation and re-evaluate the circumstances use the senses of hearing and smell to maximise your chances of gaining on your intended quarry successfully. The landy slides to a dusty stop and the engine falls deadly silent ... aaaah, the surrounding bush is alive with song and important clues. Alas, no buffalo are heard and it's forward yet again, the buffalo surely not far off now.
Around the next bend, with the 'tracker' on the hot seat, eyes glued to the tracks on the road ahead of the vehicle. âThese tracks are really freshâ, Cornel says, staring intently at the road surface and the spoor of the great lumbering beasts that had just passed moments before. The vehicle again slows to a halt. âIt looks like they've gone this wayâ, Cornel the tracker says, motioning to the one o'clock position but keeping a very keen eye on the buffalo tracks. He looks backward once, and then again, noticing that everyone on the vehicle is smiling wryly at him.
âWhat?â he asks in disdain, shoulders shrugged and palms facing to the heavens.
âOpen your eyes and shop at Makaai's!â says one, the rest of the motley crew starting to bubble up with laughter.
There, right in front of the vehicle at about 15 meters distant, an entire herd of buffalo are looking intently at the intrusion on their peace, necks craning and noses glistening in the morning sunlight. Dust swirls and the mixed scent of buffalo excretement and freshly disturbed Mopane bush envelop ones senses completely.