There are many ways to travel, but only walking gives you the opportunity to move at the pace of nature. How much more true this is of walking safaris, where chatting disrupts the spirit of the trail and confuses the senses of guides and fellow trailists.
A walking safari demands you throw out all the clutter of urban life and tune into the bush, to its sounds and smells, the textures, temperature and colours.
Offered in both East Africa and Southern Africa, walking safaris can be divided into two main types: short guided bush walks offered by a lodge as an alternative activity to game drives, and multi-day guided walking safaris. The former do not need to be booked in advance and can be built around your safari schedule; the latter require a degree of fitness, the right gear and a willingness to engage with the wilderness. After a short guided walk you simply return to camp; on a multiday walking safari, you are on foot for most of the day, resting each evening in walk-in tents, with sturdy beds and proper bed linen. Hearty cooking, warm showers and cold drinks complete your fly-camping experience. A cook prepares all the meals and a crew erects each new camp before you arrive in the late afternoon.
With much accommodation set in private reserves and conservancies, most lodges in East Africa offer short guided walks around camp in the company of professional guides and in-house naturalists. These include Tanzania’s Serengeti and Tarangire as well as Kenya’s Masai Mara. Many of these bush walks in Kenya and Tanzania are led by local Maasai warriors who will teach you how to make fire, find food and stay out of trouble on the East African savannah.
Longer, multi-day walking safaris in Tanzania and Kenya are also available in some of the East Africa’s wildest destinations such as Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park and Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve. These are not for the faint-hearted but for those who want a genuine adventure. The terrain is rugged but the reward lies in seeing what few travellers ever see: an East Africa that is still as wild as it was a century ago.
And if you want a walking safari with a difference, head for Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains or Uganda’s Kibale Forest for chimpanzee tracking safaris in magisterial rainforests, a great ape experience rivalled only by the famous gorilla treks of Uganda and Rwanda.
Most safari lodges across Southern Africa provide their guests with the chance to head out on foot for a few hours in the company of armed guides. This is a popular activity in Botswana’s Okavango Delta (great for birding) and in South Africa where families can enjoy child-friendly, interactive walks with plenty to discover. The Kruger’s private reserves such as the Sabi Sands plus the reserves of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are especially good for family walking safaris.
But the real deal is to be found in the vast Kruger National Park itself as well as on a Zambia safari, particularly in the South Luangwa National Park. Home to great numbers of animals, these two destinations are well known for their extraordinary dry-season walking safaris. Complete with comfortable camps along the way, multi-day itineraries offer the opportunity to explore these classic wilderness areas to the full: expect heart-in-the-mouth game viewing under the watchful eyes of some of the best guides in Africa.