Walking safaris are possible across Africa - from Kenya to Zimbabwe, here's a quick look at where and why
There are a lot of good reasons to embark on a walking safari in Africa. If the prospect of stretching your legs in places which are delightfully devoid of any sign of human interference is not enough, then think about how it feels to be out there. We’re talking wall to wall space, 360° skies, and all the freedom that comes with it. As you’re padding softly along a footpath last used by a 5 tonne elephant on its way to the river, the khaki-clad back of your guide moving steadily in front of you, the excitement is akin to any childhood pre-birthday butterflies. What will you find around the next corner? Anyone who has come upon lion lying up in the grass just a few metres away while on foot will assure you how different that is from seeing the same animal while safely surrounded by a trusty Land Cruiser. While in a car, you see Africa, but on foot you see, hear and smell Africa and that remains with you long after you’re back at your desk pondering the grey sky outside your window.
So what’s a walking safari all about?
It’s about seeing a whole layer of the African bush that you don’t see when in a vehicle. Animal tracks that tell the story of the night’s activities read rather like a gossip magazine: who was chasing who, who was sneaking around in the dark with naughty intentions – all that good stuff. There is always the possibility of encountering something big and toothy but that’s not the main aim of the walk, and the guides won’t go out specially to scare the daylights out of you. Walks are more about the little wonders of the wild: really fascinating insects and birds with funky colour-schemes or dodgy habits and tricks that will leave you a whole new appreciation for life on this planet. All these things, when pointed out to you and interpreted by a professional guide, are so worth seeing that it’s almost criminal not to do so.
Where can you do a walking safari?
Well, there’s heaps of different ways you can get out there on your own two pins. Some of our favourite walking happens in the Serengeti and Selous in Tanzania, on Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau and in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley and Zimbabwe's very special Mana Pools. Many camps will offer walks of 3-4 hours in the morning or evening which is a really nice taster if you’re unsure whether you’ll like it, or are a bit nervous. For veteran travellers, or those that prefer not to be cooped up, we really recommend some of the multi-day walking safaris. On the whole, these are not arduous expeditions, and entail walks of 3-4 hours in the morning, a lengthy lunchtime rest and all-important siesta, followed by a couple more hours walking in the evening. Some of our favourite trips move from camp to camp, and sometimes the camp actually moves too...which makes you feel all Ernest Hemingway. Accommodation can vary from simple, comfortable tented camps to the lap of luxury in intimate lodges. You might want to read a bit more about how fit you need to be for a walking safari.
It is possible to enjoy a walking safari with your family. Indeed, we’ve often found that children get way more psyched up about digging up an ant-lion or learning the call of the Scop’s owl and their enthusiasm can be infectious. Some walking trips are with camels so the weary can rest their legs and enjoy a different vantage point.