Trade the traditional safari vehicle for a walking safari in a remote Southern Africa bush destination, and experience a thrilling adventure that you won’t soon forget.
Rambling on foot through one of the many wilderness areas in Southern Africa is one of the most unique experiences you will have whilst on safari. The long grasses make a rhythmic ‘whooshing’ sound against your legs as you stride out deeper in the bush, accompanied only by the myriad bird calls emanating from the trees, the earthy smell of animals nearby and the knowledgeable bush linguist in front, your tracker.
No walking safari is the same as the one before it. Every destination has its own particularities in terrain, and every sunrise presents the opportunity to encounter different fauna and flora as you venture out into the bush on foot. South Africa, Botswana and Zambia are just some of Southern Africa’s popular walking safari places that are complete with beautiful landscapes, fantastic biodiversity, rich cultural heritage and authentic lodgings.
If you can, we suggest going on a walking safari, and here’s why:
Step into the bush and out of your comfort zone
Taking the road less travelled is always a thrill, particularly when you and your guide make the road as you wind through the wilderness, between bushes and over streams. When you leave the height of the vehicle on a walking safari, you are able to get up close to the intricacies of the bush, which might have passed you by when elevated during a game drive. The inter-connectivity of the ecosystem at a micro-level will reveal itself in amazing ways, for instance, in the mutually beneficial relationship that sunbirds have with wildflowers or the architecture of an anthill.
Inspecting an animal insect during a walk safari on Chief’s Island © Under One Botswana Sky
A walking safari will generally start before sunrise as this is when wildlife is most active and visible, before the heat of the day kicks in. Before you head out, the guide or tracker leading the walking safari will brief the group on, among other things, how to behave when encountering animals on foot to ensure safety for all involved. If you are walking in predator and Big 5 territory, you will have a ranger who is armed as a precaution.
A lioness and her cubs in Moremi Game Reserve © Under One Botswana Sky
On the palm-fringed Ntswi Island bordering the wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Moremi Crossing and Gunn’s are two superb camps from which to explore the legendary Chief’s Island on a guided bush walk. The island is a stronghold of predators, which hunt the dense concentration of prey species like buffalo, leche, zebra and tssebe that thrive on the vast, luscious floodplains.
Become fluent in the language of the bush
A walking safari in one of the game reserves or national parks in Southern Africa treats guests to a hands-on and incredibly interesting learning experience. With some of the most knowledgeable guides in Africa’s safari industry, you will come back from your walk with greater fluency in the language of the bush. Learn to identify animal tracks and droppings, keep those binoculars ready for impressive birdwatching, and discover more about the habitats and ecology of your surrounds.
Sniffing for clues in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve © Garonga
The cultural aspect of a walking safari is a wonderful way to find out how the local community engage with and benefit in sustainable ways from their natural environment. You will get the unique opportunity to learn about basic tracking techniques as well as hear the tales and tips from those that live with the bush and the creatures that reside in it.
Honing in on an interesting animal track in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve © Garonga
At Garonga, a luxury safari camp in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, a walking safari will take you into a private concession in South Africa that is home to all members of the Big 5. A unique option offered by Garonga is a solitude walk, where you walk in silence with your guide pointing out various interesting aspects of the bush along the route without explaining. The quiet allow you to take in the natural sights and sounds of the bush without interruption. The silence is broken at the end of the journey as the guide sits with the guests to discuss and reflect on the points of interest.
Go on a detox, the natural way
Surrounding yourself and connecting with the natural world is undoubtedly good for the soul. Not only will a walking safari help work off those scrumptious meals and snacks that are part of the safari experience, you will shed the stresses and worries that may come with a busy life back at home. Watching a bird preening itself or a spider building its web of complex design will allow you to step outside yourself and into the slow pace of nature.
African fish eagles survey their territory in South Luangwa National Park © Robin Pope Safaris
Zambia is well-known for its walking safaris and in the remote and beautiful South Luangwa National Park, Robin Pope Safaris offers five-day mobile walking safaris. After covering about 10 kilometers in the day, guests enjoy a well-deserved meal before taking a hot shower and climbing into their canvas tent. This is a special, albeit intense, way to become totally immersed in nature and you need a decent level of physical endurance to be able to get through each day comfortably.
Walking past a sausage tree in South Luangwa National Park © Robin Pope Safaris