Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
It is a hobby that has developed since mid 2000, when the international degrading of global positioning signals received by civilians ended, making home owned GPS devices more accurate. Almost immediately, geocaching sprang up as a high-tech treasure hunt among a few enthusiasts in search of not-very-valuable trinkets and more precious bragging rights. It’s initial introduction into South Africa was when Garmin first hit our stores. With most smart phones sporting a built-in location unit, the activity has become even more favourable.
At its simplest level, geocaching requires one to register for a free basic membership at geocaching.com and visiting the Hide & Seek a Cache page to search for nearby geocaches in one’s area by using the postal code. Once you’ve decided which geocache to go for, enter the coordinates into your GPS device and happy trails to you. The GPS does not mark the exact spot of where the container is but often those who hid the treasure will post a clue online which will aid you in finding it. Once you’ve found the geocache you sign the logbook, put it back and mark it as found on the website. To give you an example of how popular this pastime is, in Randburg alone there are over 40 geochaces waiting to be discovered.
But snooping around looking for hidden caches may seem like suspicious activity to the unknowing public and in the past this has lead to everything from the police and bomb squads being called to people getting lost in the wilderness. The hosts of geocaching websites often send out warnings to inform users to always stay alert and aware of their surroundings.
The placement of geocaches has occasional critics among the public at large who consider it littering. Some geocachers act to curb this idea by picking up litter while they search for their treasures, a practice referred to in the community as “cache in trash out”. Events and caches are often organised revolving around this practice, with many areas seeing significant clean-up that would otherwise not take place, or would instead require federal, state or local funds to accomplish. Geocachers are also encouraged to clean up after themselves by retrieving old containers once a cache has been removed from play.
By Shawn Greyling