Walking in the bush: Anything can happen!

Knowledge is key, but situational awareness during a walk in a big game area is even more important. During this walk, the group had three amazing encounters but without the necessary skills the game walk could have gone horribly wrong...


Our instructor, Jan-Hendrik Hanekom, recalls the memory of his walk with learners after a sleep-out in Mashatu, Botswana.

“We woke up after a night of sleeping under the stars in the beautiful Mashatu game reserve. It was early morning when we left the camp site and were walking from Salvador plains to Salvador Hill. In the distance we heard a herd of impala hissing but did not really take notice of them at that stage. Other than the impala it was very quiet, until Yuka (one of the back-ups) spotted a herd of elephant. They quietly approached the herd using the skills they had learned on their Back-up Trails Guide course. As they neared the elephants, the wind direction began to turn. Although the wind was still in their favour, the guides had to make a plan to stay out of sight, very fast.

They came as close as 30 metres from the elephants without the herd noticing them when suddenly Yuko shouted “lion! lion!”.  We could hear in her voice that there was danger ahead. As we turned to our right-hand side, we saw a lioness running parallel to the group, just about 20 metres away.

With all the commotion around the lioness one of the students noticed the herd of elephant moving closer to them and came to a halt also about 20 metres from the group. With the students caught between the herd of elephants and the lioness, adrenalin levels were running high.  Then within a matter of seconds the elephants lost interest and walked away peacefully and the lioness ran off into the bushes. Everyone let out a big sigh of relief and realised the situation could have turned out very differently had it not been for the calm and steady reactions by the guides.

Around mid-morning, they walked down to the amphitheatre for an afternoon nap under a Mashatu tree. As they approached the amphitheatre, two of the students spotted a leopard and another lion. How lucky can one group get?

Anything can happen when you are walking in the unpredictable bush”.

Unfortunately there was no time during either encounter for photos.