Known for their astounding tracking skills, Bushmen are at the centre of three remarkable trails taking place in the Kruger later this year. For the first time since the park was founded, Bushmen will walk the savanna in a trail setting, sharing their deep knowledge of the wilderness with other nature lovers.

According to Clive Thompson from Discovery Trails, one of the organisers of the Return of the Bushmen trail event hosted in the Kruger National Park, only a handful of Bushmen can be said to be accomplished exponents of the art of tracking. “The Ju/’hoansi of Nyae Nyae in northeastern Namibia are the only Bushmen in the whole of Southern Africa still lawfully allowed to hunt using their traditional methods, including poisoned arrows. But even in this community, tracking is a dying art. There are about 30 to 40 individuals who could still be regarded as accomplished trackers. Perhaps five or six of them could be classed as true masters of the ancient art.”

There are only three accredited master trackers in the whole of Namibia. Two of them will be attending the Kruger trails, including the formidable /Ui-G/aqo (pictured above) – regarded by his tracker peers as the best of them all.

In July this year, wilderness hikers will encounter the Kruger’s Makuleke Contractual Park and Nyalaland Wilderness Area like never before. “For guests, the chance to identify tracks and then move into tracking mode, will take the wilderness experience to a new level. The full extent of the masters’ skill will be on show. We will track what we find, from leopard tortoises to leopards, pythons and lions.”

Return of the Bushmen-Discovery Trails-Kruger (3)-min

Clive Thompson and /Ui-G/aqo comparing notes while perched on a baobab tree in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in Namibia. Picture by Simon Sephton

Return of the Bushmen-Discovery Trails-Kruger (2)-min

The Luvuvhu River on its way to joining the Limpopo River, a lifeline for elephant and buffalo herds in winter and home to Pel’s fishing owl. On the left lies Makuleke, and Nyalaland Wilderness Area on the right. Picture courtesy of RETURNAfrica

Extraordinary wilderness walking

How many nature lovers can say they have spent days on the ground with Bushmen master trackers, getting an intimate reading of the savanna? In Makuleke/Pafuri, the trails will be led by Clive and RETURNAfrica’s Calvin de la Rey. The two Nyalaland trails will be conducted by the area’s principal guide, the famed Chris Mthathi. What’s more, archaeologist and San rock art expert Annie Radford will be on hand to share her insights.

“As ever, the trails will allow participants to engage with all aspects of the environment, from rocks to plants to creatures great and small, but now with a special focus on tracks and tracking. Campfire evenings will be opportunities to hear Bushmen stories – of which there is an endless supply,” says Clive.

It is hoped that these pioneering trails will generate ongoing demand for the Bushmen trackers’ unparalleled skills. Not only would trail-goers benefit from an enriched experience, but the Ju/’hoansi trackers and their impoverished communities would receive a real boost.

Return of the Bushmen-Discovery Trails-Kruger (4)-min

In search of wild dog tracks. Clive Thompson, /Ui-G/aqo and /Ui-Kxunta. When examining /Ui-Kxunta’s hunting arrows laced with Diamphidia beetle toxin, Clive asked what would happen if the poison touched an open cut on his hand. /Ui-Kxunta’s response: “You won’t be going home”. There is no antidote… Picture by Simon Sephton

Makuleke Trail

Date: 30 June to 5 July 2018 (six days, five nights)

Price: R16,500 per person (all inclusive)

Nyalaland Trail

First trail: 8-11 July 2018 (four days, three nights)

Second trail: 11-14 July (four days, three nights)

Price: R8,550 per person (all inclusive)

Only four guests can be accommodated one each trail.

Trail prices include contributions to the trackers’ travel expenses and the Ju/’hoansi community.

Book now!

Don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Send an email to [email protected] or visit the Discovery Trails website for more information.

Learn from the masters

Not only will wilderness walkers learn first-hand how the Bushmen make their potent poison, the trackers will also demonstrate exactly how quickly they can rustle up a fire – in elephant dung – with firesticks.

Main picture (/Ui-G/aqo) by Louis Liebenberg