A walking safari is reminiscent of the origin of safari, the days when it came down to experience, bushcraft and the intuition of guides and trackers to find the wildlife. Safari has evolved a long way since then but many are now wanting to experience the thrill and excitement of exploring the vast land of Africa on foot. It is a more intimate and intricate wildlife interaction and is fast gaining in popularity.
This is a way to connect and tune yourself into the rhythm of Africa. Is it safe? This is frequently asked and a genuine concern but in the company of the world’s best guides, who are expertly trained and on most occasions know the bush better than the back of their hands, the answer is a resounding yes. Like an onion, they peel back the layers of what makes this land unique and expose you to every facet, tickling all of your senses.
On a typical safari walk, you will be able to examine the intricacies of termite mounds, sneak a peek down spiders holes and learn a wealth of knowledge on the medicinal properties of plants and trees.
You will see a few large animals, come as close as possible to the African giants such as the elephant or rhino but they often recognise humans on foot as a threat and are a little wary.
The journey of a walking safari is one of leisure and time, and takes you to the wildest and least developed wildlife areas. Keep in mind that these are not hikes and aren’t in any way about endurance. Distances are quite short and with your camera, binoculars and sunscreen, you will have very little to carry.
These are our top 5 choices of the places in Africa that offer this truly exceptional journey:
The grandest nature reserve on earth, its size covers over 14 different ecosystems; this includes grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, granite outcrops, major rivers and deep ravines. This allows for it to boast the greatest species of diversity of any park as well as having the Big 5, rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo.
With a range like this, it’s the perfect location for a walking safari. Up to 20km of land can be covered on foot in a day. The pace is always kept deliberately slow to enhance this intimate encounter with the wilderness.
The Imfolozi Wilderness Trail is in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, nestled in the hills of northern KwaZulu Natal and the place where the white rhino found refuge from extinction. Walking safari enthusiasts are guaranteed close encounters with this massive beasts and possibly the its smaller cousin, the black rhino. However, the emphasis here is not on the big game, it’s about a raw wilderness experience.
The pronunciation of this word is se-loo and the Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania is twice the size of the Serengeti and offers exceptional walking safaris. The game reserve itself supports an enormous amount of wildlife, approximately 30 000 elephants and 200 000 buffalo. Impressive numbers and increases the chances of coming into close contact with these creatures as well as wild dog and black rhino.
The Selous is known for its extremely pure walking experience. Trips can be arranged that can last from a few nights to a few weeks. It’s a travel journey between camps in the classic style of the earliest safaris.
The South Luangwa is an excellent choice for a walking safari. This vast reserve has remained a little off the radar, this equates to low visitor numbers but with a high concentration of wildlife. Herds of elephant, hippo filled lagoons, prides of lions and plenty of leopards roam free and untamed. South Luangwa is also where walking safaris were pioneered and is one of the best places in Africa to track big game on foot.
The largest inland delta in the world, the Okavango is an awe-inspiring maze of meandering waterways, peaceful lagoons and forested islands. This watery wilderness, remote and vast, is where you can spend days gliding along in a traditional mokoro (dug-out canoe) and then explore the nearby islands on foot tracking the likes of elephant, buffalo, hippo and lion. The Okavango Delta forms part of the northern Kalahari and supports one of the continents greatest and most diverse concentrations of wildlife as well as over 1000 types of plants, that more than any other similar sized park in Africa.
Namibia has been appearing in all sorts of travel lists and top places to visit in Africa. In the north of the country is where you will find the rugged and rocky Damaraland. This is a region of dramatic landscapes, unique wildlife and unsurpassed starry skies. Exploring these desert plains on guided walks is a great way to learn more about the superbly adapted plants, birds and animals that manage to survive and thrive in these harsh conditions.