Walking safaris are safaris where you’re walking or hiking rather than riding in a jeep or bus. They may last two hours or two weeks. Either way, they let you get up close to nature. You may get much closer to the animals since they’re not scared away by motor noise. You’ll also hear the birds and other animals whose sounds are drowned out by the roar of an engine. Here are Africa’s top walking safari destinations.
Madagascar’s Lemur Tours
Lemurs are only found in Madagascar. And these animals are best seen on walking tours, because they’re spooked by loud noises like the modern car motor. Groups like NatureTrek can take you on daytime and night time walks through the rain forest, so that you can see the many different species of lemurs found in this corner of the world. A side benefit of going on these tours is that you’re helping to fund local employment and protection of these unique animals.
These hikes also give you the opportunity to see endemic birds and plants found nowhere else on Earth.
South Luangwa, Zambia
The Luangwa River runs through one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries. Animals flock to the river and the surrounding oxbow lakes. The rich area attracts animals during the dry season; that runs from May to November. You will typically stay in fully serviced mobile camps. That allows you to stay in national parks that don’t allow for permanent camps.
Why do people choose to go to Luangwa? Because it has one of the largest leopard populations in the world. Others choose it because it offers the small, intimate safari camps that are what safaris used to be like, before large-scale tourism and motor vehicles became the norm. This is especially true if you opt for North Luangwa National Park over South Luangwa, because there are no permanent lodges in the northern park. And there are very few safari operators allowed to conduct walking safaris. It is truly unique experience, though it will be light on the land and is perfect for environmentalists.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger is one of the most accessible and most affordable of Africa’s game reserves. There are multiple three day trail hikes offered by South Africa’s National Park authority, Sanpark. Expect to cover twenty kilometers or twelve miles in a day. You’ll stay in base camps that have basic beds, showers and flush toilets. Depending on the trail you pick, you could see elephants or Bushman rock paintings. And you will have to walk, because most of it is not accessible to vehicles. Shorter hikes and guided tours are perfect for families. Since Kruger National Park has a number of traditional safari options, as well, you can combine traditional game drives with walking safaris. Enjoy the wilderness at your own pace.
iMfolzi / Umfolozi Wilderness, South Africa
The Umfolozi Wilderness is the better choice if you want to really rough it. That’s the price you pay for getting so close to rhinos. This is where the southern white rhino was saved from extinction. Both black and white rhinos are found here.
Chief’s Island, Okavango, Botswana
The Okavango is a mixture of water, land and swamp. It is a rich inland delta that shelters a diverse array of wildlife. The area is almost impossible for vehicles to navigate, because Chief’s Island is the only large piece of permanently dry land in the area. That’s why walking tours are one of the only ways you can visit it.
Walking is only part of the journey, since you’d also have to travel by boat for much of the way. People typically stay at mobile camps set along the trail, while guides help them walk or take them in dugout canoes through the water.
One benefit of this location is that it hosts a large number of animals year-round. That makes it a good choice if you want to go on safari on your schedule instead of waiting for the dry season. It is also one of the top birding destinations in the world. It is worth including in our list because it is one of the few that may allow you to see cheetahs in the wild. Leopards, lions, and wild dogs are periodically seen in the area, as well.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
The Maasai are famous for their dances and their life on the savannah. They should be better known for their bush walks or walking safaris. Local Maasai warriors will teach you about local wildlife. Depending on the tour, you may learn basic bush survival skills, as well. These safaris typically come with an introduction to authentic Maasai culture, as well.
These walking safaris may or may not take you into Tarangire National Park, since it is located in the heard of Masailand. The attraction of this area is its similarity to the Serengeti. Either way, you’ll want to visit between July and November, when it is dry.
Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Ruaha is the largest national park in Tanzania, though it isn’t as well-known as some of the other parks on our list. Its claim to fame is having the highest concentration of elephants in East Africa. Furthermore, it is one of the last refuges for the African wild dog. If you are into birding, there are almost six hundred species of birds here. Walking safaris are a good way to immerse yourself in this landscape.
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
This game reserve is located in southern Tanzania. It covers 19,000 square miles or 50,000 square kilometers, making it the largest game reserve in the world. Almost every African mammal you’ve heard of is found here, though their numbers vary. It is home to around thirty thousand elephants and more than two hundred buffalo. Wild dogs and black rhinos can be found here, though they’re rare. Walking tours are some of the best ways to see them, because many of these animals flee vehicles.
Walking safaris tend to operate out of base camps, and they’re usually traditional safaris with porters carrying gear rather than stays at luxury permanent camps. You can find operators who will let you go on a longer walk of two to three weeks.