African Safari Tracker - the new wildlife app

African Safari Tracker is a new iOS app purpose-built for African safaris, currently (August 2014) available at $14.99 from the iTunes store. African Safari Tracker is designed to help you track wildlife sightings on your safari, learn about Africa's wild animals and share your notes and photographs or videos with friends and family.

ABSRecord sightings and look up animals even when offline - ABS

Quick Features Overview

  • record animal sightings on the map as you travel and share the map with friends
  • browse hundreds of animals with photos and detailed descriptions for each
  • know which animals are found in which park and in which region of Africa
  • as well as how rare or prolific any given species is
  • identify animals by the sounds they make 
  • tips, travel guides and maps for 11 of Africa's top parks and reserves

The app will work when you're offline too - regardless of whether you're connected to the web - which is a completely necessary feature for many of the places you're likely to visit on safari. 

'Unboxing' the App

When you open the app a welcome screen appears and you are asked to enter your location - this will set the default when you add animal sightings later on. Then you find yourself on the main sightings map of Africa with a choice of three icons below the map: Animals, Sightings and Parks - simple and easy. 

One: Animals (rhino icon)

Touch the captioned animal icon (rhino) at the bottom of the app and you get a display of titled thumbnails for 35 animals (lion, bushbaby etc) and main animal types (like Antelope, Baboon and Rhino). The images used for the thumbnail icons provide excellent visual reference for the animals, in case you aren't 100% sure what the creature is called to begin with.

You can view animals alphabetically by Grid or List view, or search the database by name. In Grid view (the default) titled thumbnail photographs are used as icons and in list view you navigate by the animal names with a small graphic.

Filter Animals by Location

iTunesAnimal icons - iTunesThere is a nifty filter by location feature to reduce the animal listings to those found within the region you are currently in, so you don't have to sift through them all. The location is based on your GPS coordinates, which means you will need a GPS connection to use it). This is also useful for distinguishing between sub-species, for instance if your location is set to South Africa the African Bush Elephant will be shown, but not the Forest Elephant which is found in central Africa.

Easily identify the animals you come across

iTunesAnimal profile - iTunesThere are over 500 images of the various animals. These high quality African wildlife photographs are accompanied by the common names of the huge variety of animals and animal types shown, from Aardvark and Antelopes to Wild Dog and Zebra. For the animal type icons a list will show various sub-species or species of that kind of animal - for example if you select antelope, a long list of antelope species is called up (from Addax and Black Wildebeest to Waterbuck and Yello-backed Duiker).

For each of the over 200 wild animals of Africa, you can access:

  • Beautiful photos (more than one pic for most animals) of the species.
  • Quick facts - more than 500 fun and interesting Did You Know facts about the species (surprise your guide and spice up your knowledge)
  • Details about the species - tabs for Physical Description (dimensions and distinctive features), Habitat, Diet, Predators, Lifestyle (behaviour, social dynamics and lifespan), Family Matters (breeding etc) and Location (distribution in Africa map).
  • Distinct features - over 150 photographs of the animals with interactive hotspots pinpointing a few unique features of the wildlife species (one of my favourite features, although there could be more info/hotspots).
  • Field Notes - a tab for adding additional information about the animal, which is particularly useful when your guide mentions something interesting.
  • General description - an overview of the animal, its most remarkable characteristics and its conservation status. 
  • Stats icon - for accessing information about the animal's dimensions - mass, height, length, speed and a map of its habitats in Africa.
  • Sighted icon - for adding your sightings of the specific animal to the African map with the option of making a note (about the sighting, individual animal or whatever observations you feel are noteworthy). 
  • Badge icon - to see the badges you've already collected on safari (animals sighted)

For the Big Five of Africa (lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo and rhino) there is also a BBC recorded sound clip for each of these iconic animals making their signature noises out in the wild (nice touch!). 

Adding Photographs & Videos of Your Wildlife Sightings

iTunesSharing - iTunesYou can add your own photographs and videos of wildlife sightings captured on your safari! Go to the animal profile page and click on the upload icon (box with an arrow) in the top right-hand corner. An option to take a video or photo using your mobile device (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) will appear and bam you're away. You can also add a note or sighting of the animal using this drop-down menu.

Two: Sightings

When you touch the Sightings icon in Safari Tracker the African map displaying the pins of your wildlife sightings opens up. 

The Sightings Page has Three View Options:

  • Map - the default view with your total number of animal sightings displayed at the top of the map.
  • List - the sightings in list view, with a photo of each animal, the number of sightings, the date last sighted and the IUCN badge with a label and star rating that specifies the conservation status.
  • Badges - lists the colour coded badges of the animals sighted on your trip from most endangered to least (red through to green). Click on a badge and you get the large view telling you the animal's IUCN status, your number of sightings and the date you last spotted the animal.

Each pin consists of the small IUCN badge for the animal, or if you've sighted multiple animals at one location the pin shows the number of animal species sighted. Touch the number pin and the specific animal badges display right there on the map, or zoom in to see the pins at their exact locations - displayed individually. When you keep your finger down you can drag a pin to a new location - the default location will be set according to your GPS coordinates.

In the top right-hand corner (above the map) is an arrow icon for sharing your sightings map via Facebook, Twitter and Email. During my test run I shared the map via email and received a link to the Africa map with all the saved pins on it. 

Maps of African Countries available for Safari Tracker:

iTunesMap - iTunesA broad map of Africa is included in the initial Safari Tracker download, but there are more detailed country maps that you can download for free. In the top left-hand corner is a setting icon for editing the map name and for seeing what other maps are available. 

Maps of the following countries in Africa are currently available on the app: Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique (Malawi and Swaziland), Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Three: Parks

NASA's Marshall Space Flight CenterEtosha - NASA's Marshall Space Flight CenterOverviews of 11 national parks and conservation areas including Chobe National Park (Botswana), Etosha (Namibia), Kruger National Park (South Africa), Masai Mara (Kenya), the Serengeti (Tanzania) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda).

For each featured game reserves you can access: 

  • Stats - the size of the protected area. 
  • Insider tips - quick travel guidelines, such as how to get there, road conditions, rates etc.
  • Park info - includes tabs for Location, When To Go and Animals.

Props to the clever people that made it...

Developed by Canadian entrepreneur, Jason Smith, Safari Tracker is the product of his passion for travel and for African safaris in particular. This is the app that Jason wished he had on safari in Africa and now he's made it a reality.

Jason is well travelled, having explored Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, the Middle East. In 2011 Jason and his family (wife and two daughters) embarked on a 10-month long trip around the world. Jason and his wife resigned from their jobs, rented out their home and off they went on their family adventure that took them to 13 countries, including Croatia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Tanzania, South Africa, Australia, New Caledonia, Peru, Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica. 

During their three months in Africa the family went on safari, which is when Jason came up with the concept of Safari Tracker. 

While on safari, I spent as much time looking for information as I did looking at animals. The guidebooks and apps I tried made it cumbersome to find the correct species and buried me in academic detail. My frustration grew as I tried to recollect the animals we saw each day with pen and paper.

So, he spent hundred of hours developing this wildlife app to help safari-goers easily access information about the wild animals of Africa and navigate through the heaps of data available.

Find out more about Jason and Safari Tracker

See shared wildlife sightings entered onto the Africa map to date (these are communal user submitted sightings) on the Safari Tracker website.

My favourite features of Safari Tracker

It is great that rhino sightings are not shown on the public (shared) maps in order to protect these critically endangered mammals from poaching. Rhino sightings are displayed off the map, so that the location of the rhinos is not revealed. Other features that really stood out:

  • The safari app is responsive and the interface is easy to use.
  • Being able to add your photos and videos to the animal sightings as you go.
  • The prominent inclusion of IUCN data so that you are very aware of each animal's conservation status. 
  • Much of the information is sourced from Wikipedia, but it has been well-edited and augmented.
  • The sharing functions that allow you to post your sightings to Facebook and Twitter.
  • If you have already used the app on your mobile device, it will open on the screen you last visited.
  • Well-organised in-depth and quick reference / overview information that is easy to navigation.
  • The app features suggestion boxes for providing feedback and ideas for improving the app.

iTunesQuick fact - iTunesAll-in-all this is a great safari companion that will add a whole new dimension to your safari experience in Africa, helping you to keep track of the wildlife you encounter and understand these magnificent creatures more fully. 

You can buy it from the app store where it is currently (August 2014) priced at $14.99.

If you've installed the app and used it in the field, we'd love to have your feedback at [email protected].

Banner image by Christopher Michel on Flickr.

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