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In going through some old posts I read that even top Wilderness Safaris lodges do not use guide/tracker system...

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Apr 7th, 2004, 10:55 PM
  #1
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In going through some old posts I read that even top Wilderness Safaris lodges do not use guide/tracker system...

I just read an old post by a Fodorite that had stayed at a few WS lodges in Botswana, including Mombo, and it was said that there was never a tracker present. This really surprises me.

Is the game so prevalent in Botswana that a tracker is not necessary? Kwando prides itself on the guide & tracker system and this may very well contribute to why Kwando is said to have such great game viewing.

I know, for example, while at Matetsi Water Lodge, that on night game drives it is nearly impossible to effectively drive, speak to the guests, aim the spotlight and find game simultaneously. Reminds me of the artist that attempts to play multiple musical instruments at one time!

Past guests of Wilderness Safaris, please comment on this issue. It just seems natural that all top quality lodges would offer the guide & tracker system. Did you feel that the game drives, even the night game drives, were sufficient without a tracker, assuming that was the case?

I am looking for a good third lodge, preferably one of Wilderness Safaris, to help round out my Kwando Kwara and Kwando Lagoon experiences. There are so many out there to choose...Savuti, King's Pool, Duma Tau, Duba Plains, but now the possible lack of tracker has me a bit concerned.
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Apr 7th, 2004, 11:11 PM
  #2
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Just an example:

http://www.star-of-africa.com/gallery/kulefss6.htm

Imagine if that driver had to also track animals and flash around the spotlight. Seems hard enough just to drive at night while keeping the guests aware of what is going on.
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Apr 7th, 2004, 11:44 PM
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Hi there,
interesting question and I don't really have a straight answer for that. One of the reason would certainly be that game is so profilic in Botswana. In Botswana professional guides tend to look down on these private game reserves in SA, they have a lot of 'show effects' for overseas tourists with their trackers, rifles in the cars etc.
In Botswana we have professional guides who are of the opinion that you don't need a rifle if you behave appropriately and if something attacks you, you would never have the chance to actually get it out and even aim at a charging buffalo.
Another reason for the lack of trackers could be that the concessions only have a limited amount of staff. The impact of the camps/lodges has to be kept to a minimum and when a company puts in a tender for a camp in the Delta they have to apply for a certain amount of guests and the corresponding amount of staff has to be kept to a minimum. If you add a tracker to every game drive vehicle that would mean at least another 4 - 5 persons, another 4 - 5 staff houses, more showers, ablutions etc etc etc.

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Apr 7th, 2004, 11:48 PM
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Rocco, when I was at Mombo last year I was surprised to see that they don't use a tracker. So your driver/guide has to drive, look for wildlife and talk at the same time. I found it just wasn't the same as in other Botswana camps where we had both a guide/driver *and* a tracker looking out for game. It also means if anything goes wrong (and we had a flat tire near a leopard), there are two of them, not just one. You also miss the help on night drives where the tracker can operate a small dim light (in the right way, never blinding a buck but moving it slowly over a leopard so we could see him). I also appreciated that - for rare emergencies only - the other camps gave the tracker a rifle in the car. We never wanted it used and it wasn't but I bring it up because going from that to having only one guide (who wasn't in good health) who drives with no tracker and no rifle seemed a little vulnerable. The only reason I can think that WS does not employ trackers is the added cost? Our tracker at Singita one day used his break time in between drives to look for baby lion cubs.
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Apr 7th, 2004, 11:49 PM
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We occasionally did have a tracker but not in Little Mombo and we didn't need it. Our guide/ driver B.K. was incredible and was always able to spot game (both just by seeing it visually and by hearing the sounds of other animals and working out where the big game must be) and was also able to share with us reams of information too.

In Chitabe Trails we did have a tracker.

In Little Vumbura we didn't but we did mostly water activities where it's irrelevant.

We didn't have trackers in Namibia but the lodges there were more about landscape. Our driver/ guide in Damaraland Camp had grown up very locally (we went to meet his family so they could look through the eclipse glasses at the appropriate time) and was very good at spotting things and telling us about everything. And he found us 17 desert eles to see.
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Apr 8th, 2004, 04:33 AM
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dlm
 
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At Little Vumbura we did have a tracker. He was was in training to be a guide and accompanied us on every drive. But we drove by other vehicles from Big Vumbura that, as I recall, did not have a tracker.

I never gave it a thought and would jump at the chance to go to another top Wilderness camp -- tracker or no tracker.
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Apr 8th, 2004, 04:44 AM
  #7
LizFrazier
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Rocco-
I think you hit on the one vulnerable area, and that is night drives. It is most uncomfortable as Clematis pointed out for the driver to "do it all". I've never noticed during the daylight hours for this to be a disadvantage. I think one reason is the camps in Botswana have a smaller leased area to traverse and most of the predators being territorial, you know where they are. I've often wondered about the tracker system and perhaps when I go to Mala Mala, I'll experience it, but not in Botswana, as far as I know. Liz
 
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Apr 8th, 2004, 05:25 AM
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having talked to the people at wlderness, they said that after sept 11th, they had to get rid of trackers to reduce costs. but just like others posted here, we had a trainee with us at duba plains. i will say that the night drives at kwando were better than wilderness bc of the dedicated tracker. there was little if any difference during the daytime.
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Apr 8th, 2004, 05:59 AM
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Roccco, I'm glad you've brought this up, I've been wondering about it myself. I certainly like what I've read about Kwando in this regard (having the tracker, limit of 6 guests to a vehicle, etc). Does anyone know how CCAfrica's camps, like Sandibe and Nxabega, compare on these points?
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Apr 8th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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Well this is interesting, because I haven't been to a WS camp in Botswana since 2001. AT that time they only used a guide during the day, but added a dedicated tracker at night.(xcept at Vumbura, where we had an superb tracker during the day, too.) This was consistent with my experience I was at WS Skeleton Coast in 2002, but no need for a tracker there, since there are no night drives, and desert spotting is easy. With WS lodges so full in Botswana, I'd be surprised if they don't use trackers/spotters at night. Could it be that the post was by someone who stayed at Mombo or other WS camps that do not do night drives, therefore they never saw a dedicated spotter/tracker?
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Apr 8th, 2004, 08:38 AM
  #11
dlm
 
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This is a silly question -- but how do you define a "night drive"? At Little Vumbura, the drive started at 4 and went to 7:00 or thereabouts. So going home to the lodge was after sunset, but it wasn't so dark at this time of year that we even needed a spotlight (that I can recall).

At Singita, we started the drive more like 4:30 and went until about 7:30 -- but it was DARK coming back and the tracker with the spotlight was essential. Maybe it was a different moon?

Is a "night drive" something later -- like 9ish?? Or is it just the end of the afternoon drive?
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Apr 8th, 2004, 06:27 PM
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At the camps I've been at (WS and others) the drives did start about 3:30 or 4 (depending on how hot it was) but we were typically out until about 8pm...sometimes even til 8:30pm. So for the last 1.5 hours or so it was completely dark, and the spotter/tracker scanned with a high-powered light to find the reflections off animals eyes.

For places, like Mombo , that do not permit night drives, this is irrelevant. And I wonder if the high water in the Delta is making it necessary to come back earlier (perhaps there is a greater chance of getting stuck in the dark?)
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Apr 8th, 2004, 08:00 PM
  #13
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dlm,

The different seasons probably have a lot to do with how much of the game drive is spent in total darkness. I would say that in June, the Southern African winter, that half of the 2nd game drives were spent in darkness, and spotlights were essential. While we would leave at about 4:30 PM, by 6PM we were enjoying our sundowners before then heading off for the second part of our game drive, with spotlight shining.

It really is next to impossible to navigate the roads, talk to the guests shine the spotlight and actually spot animals at the same time. Being that I am likely returning again for a third consecutive June safari in 2005, spending 1/4 of the time during game drives in darkness, I really feel as if I need camps that offer the guide & tracker system. Plus, although not everyone agrees, I do think that even in daylight that a tracker helps.
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Apr 8th, 2004, 10:00 PM
  #14
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We never had trackers with us on game drives at any of our camps in Botswana. Besides Mombo the other 2 were Chobe and Kings Pool ( where night drives were allowed ). It didn't seem to impede the quality of our game drives as we saw an abundance of wildlife and even on our night drives, our guide was able to follow and spot animals especially the elusive leopard, all on his own. Maybe we were just lucky or the driver was extremely skilled.

The only time we were accompanied by 2 people was on a walk at Kings Pool. There it was the 2 of us with a guide and another fellow with a gun. I was completely at ease walking around for a few hours and unfortunately we didn't see much wildlife within eyesight range. I did however get a thorough education on animal tracks and many varieties of dung, ha! ha! I must have seen over a dozen different types with each described to me in great detail. It was refreshing to be able to walk around and get some exercise.
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Apr 13th, 2004, 09:01 AM
  #15
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topping for morrika
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Apr 13th, 2004, 10:15 AM
  #16
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Our ranger at Mombo was brilliant at locating spoor, much better than the numerous trackers we've used at 7-8 other camps, and thus tracker services would have been superfluous. Trackers are more useful in some areas than others. Mombo and other Deltas are relatively open. Kruger and Natals tend to be closed, thus trackers provide an extra set of eyes. One may argue it either way actually.
 
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