Relaxed and smiling now, after our walk, but when they are leading foot safaris in the bush, Brian and Chantal are focused!
Brian points out the leopard tracks at our feet. He kicks over a fresh pile of dung on our path where a buffalo has just passed. And, with a keen ear he listens intently to the trumpeting of a young elephant somewhere in the trees around us. “This is a Jurassic Park we’re walking through!” he exclaims in an excited whisper.
We had heard elephants trumpeting around us so we walked to the top
of this rise and could be more relaxed seeing that we were separated from
the herd by a large lagoon.
We signed up for a jaunt on foot through the bush in the Linyanti concession on our Botswana safari with expert trackers and bush guides, Brian Rode and Chantal Venter. On a walking safari I feel invigorated. All my senses come alive when I'm on foot in the African bush. For me, it’s the ultimate safari experience to get out of the vehicle and feel Africa on foot.
This is the real thing. No electric fences. No designated trails. Just us bipeds hoofing it through the bush with the most confident and competent walking safari guides in the likes of Brian and Chantal. They have made a life for themselves as wilderness safari guides providing intrepid safari travelers a closer look at the ecosystems of southern Africa. Here Brian sets forth his 5 rules of a walking safari:
Although I feel a deft sense of vulnerability, I'm not exactly on equal terms with the wildlife because between me and a wild beast are the keen eyes, ears and nose of Chantal, and the sharp aim of Brian with a 376 rifle in hand. Although in over 20 years of guiding walking safaris neither one of them have ever had to use their rifle to harm an animal protecting a guest; they are equally concerned for the protection and comfort of the game as they are for the safety of their trekkers.
Brian points out leopard prints in the sand while Chantal keeps a keen eye out in all directions.
They manage the animal and human interaction primarily using their keen understanding of animal behavior taking all matter of precautions not the least of which is to maintain a comfortable distance between animals and people. In fact, they always work as a pair and I noticed that while Brian was pointing out details about the flora and fauna, Chantal was always on the lookout for game that might be wandering by, ready to move us out of the way--which never happened on our 2 hour walk.
There are so many details about the bush that one discovers walking instead of riding in a vehicle. Brian found a dung beetle working over a huge elephant dropping. Throughout Africa dung beetles play an amazing role in fertilizing the bushveld. By utilizing animal feces for sustenance and egg development they spread it around and subsequently fertilize the ecosystem. Some dung beetles burrow and nest 'in situ' when fresh dung is discovered. Others tunnel under the soil surface and deposit dung balls they craft and roll in underground tunnels for their consumption and reproduction.
Dung beetles play a vital role in breaking down animal feces, keeping the flies down and fertilizing the habitat.
At this brief stop looking down at minutia on the ground Brian summons the forces of the universe above to inform us of the amazing fact that dung beetles are currently the only animal, other than humans, known to navigate and orient themselves using the Milky Way!
Another thing I learned on this walking safari is that mud pans are created by elephants coming here to bathe and roll in the mud, then they walk over to nearby trees to scratch their backs depositing layers of dirt nearby.
Pan form in the bushveld when elephants congregate for a mud bath and carry it away.
(Notice Chantal in the background never stops looking out for game in the vicinity.)
Trees get covered in dried soil where elephants got a good scratch after their mud bath. Over years and years, and one elephant after another rolling in the mud and then walking away carry more mud on their backs the pans get formed and become larger and larger in the process.
A good scratching tree smoothed by rough elephant skin is covered in mud .