A decision on my “Lead Trails”

12th July 2014
James Bailey pictured in Makuleke after a walking safari

© Horst Kalcher

Thursday 10th July 2014

This morning was cold, less than five degrees. Luckily I had four guests that braved it and came out on my “Lead Trails Guide” assessment walk. It started well with leopard tracks on the outer firebreak. So pleased I didn’t miss these! I also pointed out the guinea fowl alarming to our north west, stating that they were really upset by something. Rather than following up with a direct approach I chose to see if we could spot the offender from the ridge. Perhaps if it wasn’t my assessment I would have been a little more direct with my investigation. I wish I had. It turned out to be the leopard. When the students went back out this afternoon to do field observation tests they saw the leopard had walked over our tracks.

The walk wasn’t as eventful as my last one and I’d learnt from my mistakes. There were a couple of times that I had to back track to avoid thick bush but on the whole I picked safe routes. There was the odd occasion when the path I chose got a bit prickly with thorns, not ideal but not a deal breaker. We had a nice sighting of an African fish eagle eating breakfast on the limb of a sycamore fig (Ficus sycamorous).

I did have one dangerous game encounter, this was pleasing as I didn’t want to have to do the assessment all over again. This may have been the case if I didn’t get the encounter. Whilst it was with an elephant breeding herd it wasn’t too onerous. They were on the Sporobolus plains, the closest one to us was 100m. I chose to avoid them, standard procedure when it comes to an elephant breeding herd.

Alan didn’t let on how it went and I wasn’t sure. I don’t think I missed anything, then I wouldn’t know if I did. I certainly knew of a few areas I could easily improve on and there were a few stupid mistakes. I may have got some scat wrong, I said it was leopard when it may have been lion but to my credit I said that it was a very big leopard.

There was no news from Alan throughout the afternoon so I figured we’d have our debrief tomorrow. But luckily I didn’t have to sweat on the decision any longer. As Alan was making the usual announcements after dinner such as “The end of the course is nearly here, so drinks bills need to be paid, that includes Lead Trails Guides like James”. I breathed a sigh of relief and of course thanked Alan.

Since qualifying as Back-up at the end of January I’ve completed 98 walks covering 453 km in 271 hours I’ve had 87 encounters and an inordinate amount of enjoyment.