All about Walking Safaris
When thinking of a wildlife safari, the first thing that comes to mind is sitting inside a rugged 4×4 vehicle dashing across the open landscapes of the savannah for the memorable encounter of the big five. That sounds so cool, doesn’t it?
But if you are looking for a total immersion into the wilds of Africa, then a walking safari is indeed the ultimate experience that will provide you with a deeper holistic understanding of the whole environment. It’s not only about spotting animals; it’s more about entirely tuning into the bush with its smells, its sounds, its colours, its laws and its threats.
Before you go and book that flight to Africa though, I recommend that you first consult an expert travel agent that can craft a personalised Africa Travel adventure to fit your preferences and requirements. This way you can truly maximise your experience and enjoy all that a walking safari has to offer.
What is a walking safari?
A walking safari is a fully sensorial experience that makes you appreciate the most beautiful details of the bush like no other type of safari can do. Moreover, the thrill and excitement of getting up close to a zebra, a giraffe or an impala, to name a few, is an experience that creates long-lasting memories.
Are walking safaris safe?
As adventurous as it may sound, walking safaris are safe. Of course, there are risks involved, but a trained safari guide and a tracker who knows the bush very well will go through all necessary safety instructions with you and your trip companions before setting off.
What type of walking safaris is right for you?
There are many options to suit everyone. And you don’t have to be a pro-hiker to enjoy a walking safari. A shorter walk of 2-3 hours, as an alternative activity to game drives, will give you a taste of the bush. Whereas if you are more adventurous and willing to go on a higher-energy experience, overnight-walks will be best suited. In that case, a camp-to-camp or fly-camping may be your choice. The best would be to consult with an expert to find out what type of safari is right for you.
Benefits of going on walking safaris
As walking is the best way to move at “nature’s pace”, a safari has the benefit of catapulting you into the bush to make you feel at one with the wild. A walking safari allows you to immerse in your surroundings, by learning about all the fine details; what guides call tracking. You will learn when and why an animal was there, by identifying its pathways, reading its footprints and its poo. It will also teach you how to track your instincts and act on them. You will stop to listen to birds, to spot monkeys on trees and insects crawling into the grass, and see camouflaged wildlife that you will miss from a vehicle.
How to prepare for a walking safari
There are a few things that are crucial when preparing for a safari adventure. These tips will help you get ready for this exhilarating experience and enhance your comfort on foot.
1. Get physical training to adjust your body to your walking safari trip
Start with daily gentle walking to build up duration and help adjust yourself to longer walks, to ensure you feel comfortable during the safari. Learn to walk in the heat and stay hydrated; long walks will drain energy, so you need to exercise that part. Train to get up early too, as walking will start early in the morning when the animals are more active.
2. Pack the right clothes for a safari
Pack neutral colours that help you blend with the natural environment, and avoid white and bright colours which stand out to animals. Beige, brown or khaki are best. Long sleeves and pants are a good idea if you are sensitive to the sunshine.
What to pack for a walking safari
- A layer is good to keep you warm for early morning and late evening walks when the sun sets as it gets chilly in the desert.
- A good pair of hiking boots is critical for long walks in the wilderness. Choose ones that best fit your walking style and walk in them a month before going on the safari, for maximum comfort.
- Be sure to be prepped with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to combat the African heat.
- Mosquito repellent is a must too, or for higher protection, you can get a mesh jacket infused with mosquito repellent.
- A camera and binoculars and a reusable bottle of water are all useful safari gear.
What to do during a walking safari
Either on a short walk or a multi-day safari, you will always be accompanied by a park ranger or a guide and a tracker. The latter will make sure that you get familiar with all the alerts sounds. They will tell you what you can and cannot do to attract and spook animals. The tracker will be armed, but he will use the gun in case of a rare emergency, only.
Here are a few simple rules to follow when walking in the bush in Africa.
Walk in a file
The guide and the tracker will be at the lead, and you will be following them in a single file. This way you will be seen as a unit and not as a heard that can split.
Walk in Silence
Chatting is a no-no during the walks for the simple reason that noise confuses the senses of guides and the trailers and disrupts the spirit of the safari. Silence is vital for hearing possible dangers that may be up ahead but also for allowing animals encounters.
No matter what you do or what happens, never run, even if you are scared. Running is the worst thing that someone can do during a safari. There is no chance to outrun a lion or a wild animal. Staying still in any circumstances is imperative.
The best time and places for a safari
The best time to go on a safari is to avoid the rainy seasons. Depending on which area of Africa you want to go, for South Africa, the best time is between April and October with spring and autumn being the best months. The Makutsi Safari Springs is a privately-owned game reserve which offers soft thermal-mineral water that comes from the earth at 34°C. Only one hour away from the Kruger, which is well known for being a top managed game park in Africa. More safari hot spots are in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Conclusion about going on safari trips
No matter what the reason for you to go on a walking safari trip is, as long as you are prepared to unplug and detox from digital life, immerse yourself in nature and learn how animals survive, this is going to be a life-changing, memorable experience that will stay with your forever.
Pin these photos for later
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Bench Africa, a leading tour operator for safaris in Africa’s wilds.
Photo no. 4 walking safari in South Luangwa N.P., Zambia via Shuttershock