How to track animals during a wildlife-watching trip

Zebras at the Olpejeta Conservancy. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Many travellers are passionate about wildlife and will travel long distances for game drives, take hikes, and visit marine parks, for purposes of enjoying wildlife, birdwatching, and marine animals.

Such travellers will spend a lot of money to catch the thrill of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. 

Here are some tips to help you navigate the jungle to increase your chances of spotting that animal you have set out to see.

Research: Before you set out on your wildlife watch adventure, research to find out more about the host species found at your destination. Also read about the habits of the animals, where they sleep, feed and breed, how the seasons affect them (the great migration, migratory birds, etc.), and how they interact with one another. This valuable and enriching information is practical, especially when searching for an elusive creature. A little insight into the lives of the wildlife you are set out to see gives you a basis for making a smart decision that could prove the difference between a sighting, and a “no show”. 

Tracking wildlife: Before you take the trip, find out about animal clues such as those they leave behind. For example, large mammals create pathways through undergrowth over time, while other animals leave more subtle signs of their presence on the ground, on or near trees, or by rivers or watering holes edge. A basic grasp of how to interpret marks left in sand or mud can be informative. 

Right time, right place: Most of us are discordant with the rhythm of the natural world, whereas, in the animal world, activity levels peak at dawn and dusk. 

Behaviour: Your behaviour while watching wildlife counts. Rule number one is for you to make sure that your behaviour towards wildlife does not harm them. Things to remember include not littering the environment, keeping to designated paths, do not feed wild animals.

Keep your distance: Do not interfere with their natural behaviour at all times. Adhere to the principles of “leave no trace”.