“ Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
The more time you spend out in the wilderness, the less you feel like an stranger and the more you feel like a guest. Slowly but surely you become cognizant of sights, sounds and smells that you hitherto had been oblivious to. Such a heightened sense of connection invariably parallels a magnified feeling of responsibility – an unwritten ‘duty of care’ with Mother Nature.
Observation: Observe wildlife without disturbing it. If an animal changes its behaviour because of your presence, you are too close. Channel your inner-birdwatcher. It is helpful to have an idea about the behavioural patterns of the fauna you are likely to encounter. Animals can act differently depending on the season, location and their own species-specific life cycle.
Patience: The best times for viewing wildlife are generally first thing in the morning and late afternoon/early evening. You enhance your chances simply by finding a spot, sitting down and waiting. Be patient. The more you move around, the more conspicuous you are. By staying put, in effect you become part of the scenery and subsequently represent less of a threat.
Wind Direction: Animals have a much better sense of smell than we do. Very often they will smell you, before they hear or see you. That being the case, you improve your chances of viewing wildlife by approaching from an upwind direction.
Visual Impact: Minimize your visual impact by wearing neutrally coloured clothing. Same applies for your shelter and pack. The objective is to blend in, rather than standout from your surroundings. The important exception to this point is if you are hiking in an area in which hunters are active. In this case, wearing bright orange or other conspicuously coloured clothing is recommended.
Food: Never feed animals or leave behind food scraps. It doesn’t take long for animals to become habituated to human food. The repercussions are all negative – mice infested shelters; popular campsites frequented by possums, bears and other wildlife and; most importantly, an interruption to the animal’s natural dietary habits. No matter whether you are camping at an established or a pristine site, always safeguard your food. Methods, which will vary according to the conditions, include odour-proof bags, canisters, ursacks, ziplock bags and hanging your food.