The ways we use to find the animals we are looking for are quite varied. In its simplest form, we get “lucky” and just bump into the animal(s) on or along the route we are driving or walking. This is not the most skillful method, but it works just fine. The other ways involve a bit more skill and experience in the bush; you need to be able to read the signs and signals around you to lead you to the things you want to see.
The first one is using the tracks and signs that animals leave behind and follow them to where the animal has gone. These are usually footprints that betray an animal passing by and those can be supplemented by dung/scat, urine, scent-marks and evidence of feeding. Looking at all those things can give you a direction of travel for the animal and give clues as to how long ago the animal came through the area. We then try to follow those tracks and signs to where the animal has ended up and hopefully get a good look at it. Unfortunately it can also lead to nothing as the tracks go into areas we cannot follow or they just “disappear”. Although a bit frustrating it can be an interesting exercise to go through and learn about. Guides will pretty much spend their whole careers improving on this skill.
We can also use cues given to us by other species, like the other day when a herd of about 7 giraffe were standing a bit bunched up and all staring into the same direction, they must have seen something that they do not trust and are keeping an eye on it. As we went to have a look in the direction they were staring at we found two lionesses resting under a Leadwood. Without the giraffes we would have never spotted them. Many herbivores will look intently at a predator if it is spotted, sometimes accompanied by alarm calls and they will even follow them to keep an eye on the threat. In my time here at Beho Beho I have also used the excited calls of the spotted hyenas to find interesting sightings like lions and wild dogs. When there is a kill or a dead animal, eventually there will be birds that will go in to see if they can get a meal out of it, with vultures being the most obvious ones, but the bateleur and tawny eagle will also see if there is something in it for them. Seeing large congregations of different species of vultures and eagles sitting in trees is something to look out for.
So to help us find some of the more elusive species there are various ways we can use to help us find these and a bit of knowledge and experience definitely helps with that.