In July 2013 the SACT Tracker Academy conducted its inaugural Lead Tracker course. Recognised by FGASA (Field Guides Associate of Southern Africa), the Lead Tracker qualification is the most advanced level of tracking currently assessed in South Africa. Last week Londolozi held the prize-giving for this course and thankfully Kate managed to get some shots of this momentous occasion!

Experienced tracker, George Nkuna, was enlisted to carry out the daily training, in preparation for the final Lead Tracker assessment. Three weeks in total, seven days per week, the course was broken into two segments – two weeks of training and one week of final assessment.

The incredible proud trainers involved in the Lead Tracker course. From Left: Ian Thomas, George Nkuna, Renias Mhlongo.

The incredibly proud trainers involved in the Lead Tracker course. From Left: Ian Thomas, George Nkuna, Karel Benadie, Renias Mhlongo.

Four of the eight students were top performing Tracker Academy graduates from their respective courses dating back to 2010. The other four students were all highly experienced trackers in their own rights’, with two of them having over 20 years of animal tracking experience.

The Lead Tracker assessment comprises two components; ‘track and sign identification’ and ‘following animal trails’. In each component, students are required to display the highest measurable level of tracking skill in a 100% practically based assessment.

The track and sign assessment requires the most refined analytical skills. It requires a detailed knowledge of local wildlife as well as the ability to interpret animal behavior from signs on the ground. The second component involves the ‘following of animal trails’ which requires the candidate to follow and locate either a lion or a leopard. The candidate must conduct himself in a safe manner without causing disturbance to the animal trailed. The ‘following’ component examines the candidate’s mental focus as well as his/her physical stamina over a sustained period in often-difficult conditions. The ability to anticipate an animal’s movements in areas where tracks are difficult to see requires thousands of hours of practice and experience.

Its all in the details.

Its all in the details.

If a candidate is found competent in both components described above, he/she will receive the full Lead Tracker qualification. Due to exceptionally high level of skill required, very few trackers pass the Lead Tracker assessment on their first attempt. It is intended to be a rigorous test of knowledge and skill, which one takes pride in achieving.

Should a candidate only pass one of the components, he/she is recognised as such and therefore only needs to be assessed on the outstanding skill area.

The following are the results from the Lead Tracker course:

Lead Tracker – full qualification:

  • Richard Mthabine (2011, ex-Tracker Academy)
  • Richard Khoza (25 years’ experience)

Following Assessment – passed:

  • Fannie Mathonsi (20 years’ experience)
  • Robert Hlatshwayo (2010, ex-Tracker Academy)
  • Ruel Ngwenya (10 years’ experience)
  • Sydwell Mgiba (10 years’ experience)

Level 4 Assessment – Passed (achieved results above the level 4 threshold on both components):

  • Innocent Ngwenya (2012, ex-Tracker Academy)
  • Khulekani Ndimande (2012, ex-Tracker Academy)

Well done to Richard Khoza and Richard Mthabine! It must be remembered that Richard Mthabine was the only Tracker Academy student to score 100% in his final year assessment, a record that still stands. He certainly continued the same form into the Lead Tracker course. With only a standard 5 education at a rural school, Richard has excellent analytical skills that seem to come naturally. For the Tracker Academy to lift tracking skills to the next level, we need to find ways to train analytical skills to our students.

The two Richards and Londolozi's, Robert Hlatswayo

The two Richards and Londolozi’s, Robert Hlatswayo

The course was intended to be a pilot intervention designed to create a framework for future Lead Tracker courses. FGASA was very supportive of the initiative, and awarded the Lead Tracker certificates with full recognition. In fact, FGASA suggested that we use the name, Lead Tracker, as it aligns the qualification with their other high-level guiding certificates. The next step will be for the SACT Tracker Academy to propose the Lead Tracker program for accreditation by CATHSSETA, which would be the first officially accredited advanced tracking certificate (program) in South Africa.

I would like to thank the trainer, assessors and external assessor for their invaluable contribution to the training course and assessment. George Nkuna, Ian Thomas, Karel Benadie and Renias Mhlongo formed the core of the initiative. Thank you.

The lead tracker students and trainers.

The lead tracker students and trainers.

For more information on the work of the Tracker Academy watch the video below.

Written by Alex van den Heever

Filed under Life Tracking

About the Author

Alex Van Den Heever


Alex spent his formative years growing up on a cattle farm in the Western Cape, South Africa. After completing his studies in Marketing and Business Management, he joined world-renowned Londolozi game reserve in 1995 as a game ranger. Alex’s greatest fascination during his ...

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on The Lead Tracker Course

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Jacqui Hemphill

Amazing as always Alex and Ren so proud of everything you guys do!!!

Craig Hayman

Very inspiring. You and your team are doing great work Alex. Loved the video.

Trevor & Colleen

All that devotion blossoms into hours and hours of guest excitement and satisfaction.
Congratulations and well done

Evette Hartig

A skill and a people to be admired, the story and video are very inspiring.


Congratulations to all!
Rosemary Wong and I want to know how to get a mini course in tracking the next time we return to Londolozi.

vote ubisi

I really wanna become field guide/tracker i request an emails of application

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