We set up camp at the Kempinski Mokuti Lodge near the eastern entrance of Etosha National Park. We are here at the peak of the rainy season, which means the vegetation is lush and there is an abundance of water. Obviously this is great for the environment and the animals, but not for game spotting…
When water is scarce, the animals are drawn to the waterholes, which means keen photographers like myself can basically just sit down and wait for the great shots to walk onto the scene. During the rainy season, on the other hand, animals can find water anywhere and the waterholes are deserted so photographers need to be a bit more creative. Especially when, like me, they want to shoot a lion – with their camera that is.
I decide to call on Jan Tsumeb, a member of the Haikom tribe of Bushmen, who is a professional tracker.
“When tracking a lion, you can see if the animal knows he is being followed,” Jan says. “If the front paw prints are close together, the lion is standing still. If the footprints are at an angle, it means he is looking behind him and has probably spotted you. And if the footprints are far apart he is speeding up.” Most worryingly though, Jan explains that if the prints suddenly veer left or right, need to start looking behind you… I’m no longer sure whether this lion hunt is a good idea.
Before setting off, I ask Shapaka, the best guide at the lodge, to join us as well.
We’re ready for some serious safari action!
As we drive along we immediately spot a group of zebras and antelopes on the side of the road, as well as a group of oryx on the shore of Etosha Lake. Then Shapaka stops the car and looks at Jan. “Shall we?” We form a single file behind Jan and walk towards the waterhole.
“What are we looking for?” I ask.
“Footprints,” Jan answers as he scans the ground. “See this print?” he says as he squats down. “A male giraffe, large bull, about five metres tall with beautiful, darkbrown-and-white fur.”
We stare at the print in amazement. “You can tell all that just from the print?”
By this time Jan and Shapaka are laughing out loud. “Not exactly,” says Jan. “The giraffe is right behind you!”