Kalahari Survival Guide: Tracking and Hunting

November 10, 2016

The Ju/wa(the “/” is a click with the tip of the tongue) hunters introduced me to tracking, in likely the same way how they were taught to track game across the Kalahari. Not through the rigid rote of the Western education systems that I was funneled through. The way they taught me, was relaxed, conversational, through stories by the light of fires, through pranks they played, through casual context of the living moment. The knowledge I was privileged to absorb in Namibia I liked to believe was the way these great men and women became proficient hunter-gatherers. I can only imagine the  distant lineage of  knowledge, grandparent to child, the painful struggles long forgotten, but lessons held dearly to the level of myth and law, before it was given to me.


The Ju/wasi hunters move incredibly fast through the Namibian bushveld. About 3-4mph off trail, barefoot or wearing rawhide sandals. They are able to follow animal spoor(sign) moving this fast. They movie slower at a crouch when they are approaching shooting range.


As they walk they look about 10 yards in front watching for game trails and new spoor to follow. The bushmen walk single file when they are traveling far, but when they are tracking they often walk a line abreast, 10 yards or so apart.


When the kill is made the bushmen dequill the porcupine by hand before throwing it onto the fire to scald off the rest.



The hunter’s spears are simple, wind mill steel bars forced than pitch glued onto the straightish limb of rasin bush. They use the tips of the spears to dig and pry, and because of this the blade is fairly dull. I was surprised with what strength they had to fully drive the weapons through a thick hided creature as an /tum(porcupine).


The bushmen quarter the meat quickly, all the liver, heart, sweet meats, are eaten at the site of the kill. The fatty skin, like chicarrones, are eaten in the field. The quills are collected and brought back for art work and bead making.

The rest of the quarters of lean meat are brought back to the village.img_4078img_4079

This picture always amazes me. This man was born raised and has thrived on a true “paleo diet”(not the fat and red meat diet gyms try to sell). Every muscle in his body is tough rope and is honed to continue to feed himself and his family, in the hunter gatherer style.



There is so much more to tell of what I observed beyond what I can fit into an easy reading blog post. There are more post to come, email me, lets talk about this and more about Namibia.



The book that introduced me to the Bushmen hunting style better than any I’ve found was Louis Lindberg’s The Art of Tracking: The Origin of Science
Linberg is South African biologist, who went to study the hunting and life style of the Namibian and Botswanan Bushmen. He accurately accounts their tracking techniques, methods, tools, and how all of this relates to the modern man. It is a must read to learn about primitive survival in the Kalahari. His book is available for free on the Amazon and elsewhere on the internet.

Naked and Afraid: A Prelude

June 3, 2016


I gasp for breath and jolt awake. It’s midnight in the bushveld, a thorny desert woodland typical of Southern Africa. !Tuka the old grey Bushman hunter was squatting by the fire.  He paid me no mind sitting up in the soft sand. The air was sharp cold but still my skin carried a sheen of sweat. The old man stared into the fire, stoking it brighter, his eyes like coals. He whispered softly in his own tonal language with clicks but his fellow hunters were asleep. In his wiry form was the last of the old ways, of a world I would never know.


My name is Don. I am a tourist and adventurer. Let’s flash back to 8 weeks prior. I am about to get in way over my head on Naked and Afraid.





Naked and Afraid production gave few details about Namibia. All I knew about Namibia was it was a desert country in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. I hoped I would find a Coke bottle out there.


Contracts arrived by email. I breezed over them. “Death, disease, dismemberment, disfigurement.” I signed on the line. 

I Amazoned about 500$ of books, most of the cost being expedited shipping from London and South Africa and I began my research. I crammed all day and night because this was infact was the ultimate test, to be the the hardest of my life. I learned about hippo and cape buffalo behavior and their dangers. I engrossed myself in the plants that the many tribes of the many regions of Namibia utilized for medicine and for food.

File_000 (1)

Was I really going to go to a foreign land and try to live off bugs and plants based on some dusty writings of  long dead professors? Does that even seem at all reasonable?

Between reading I ran outside on the wet snowy sidewalk barefoot desperately trying to gain a few more callouses and quick footing.

I was dropped off in rainy Seattle with a kiss from my beloved Emily and awoke in sunny London. I read in pubs. Napping propped up against my rucksack as travelers from around the world blurred by.

The big 747 took off that night and I watched the lights of London and Paris, and Algiers blot out the night. As the last of the cities disappeared my plane crossed over the lightless Sahara. I dozed off and awoke, the map said we were over the mighty Congo River, but there was still darkness beneath the plane out the window. I made a point to check again as the plane crossed over the Caprivi the place I was to survive in, but again from port and starboard windows was black below our little plane.

africa at night

This was the dark continent that put fear into the bravest European explorers centuries past. In homage of those old imperialist, I dressed in khakis, with tall leather boots, and a well worn felt hat. Like Livingstone and other Western explorers I was going to trespass upon this continent maybe not as intentionally. Through Naked and Afraid I knew I would likely impose my own biases about how Namibia would  be perceived by those back at home just like those early missionaries and colonist did in their time.

Don Nguyen

Africa was dark in another way, not that it was undiscovered or lacking Christianity, What I saw below me was a vast continent lacking in neon cities instead possessing wide open spaces. It made up for the lack of infrastructure with abundant biology, the megafauna survivors of the last ice age.

Africa was never a blank place on a map. Humans came from here, It had always been known and charted in one way or another as long as there were men to do such exploring. It is instead an uncharted space in the imagination of outsiders, such an ancient place where so much had been discovered to be forgotten again into the night which lies beyond the light of the fire.

I was a healthy, middle class, American adventurer, about to go seeking this heart of darkness. To starve and hurt in a land where countless were poor, already starving and hurting. I snapped a selfie for Facebook.


Read more of our favorites

Naked and Afraid:
A Prelude

Mapping Out New
Adventures in 2016

Climbing to New Career Goals

Hunger Games

Camp Blades- A CUT Above the Rest

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