Walking safaris are a fantastic way to experience the African bush on foot, providing an opportunity to see animals and plants that often go unnoticed while sitting on the back of a game vehicle.
Here are some tips for your next walking safari and a list of some of South Africa's best destinations for this unique kind of safari.
Tips for walking
- No matter what the temperature, it is advisable to wear long (lightweight) pants while walking. There is nothing that will drive you to madness quicker than the itch of the pepper tick bite, and tick bite fever is very unpleasant to say the least. Check yourself for ticks thoroughly after the walk, and if you find one on you, make sure it is removed very carefully (ask your guide how to do so).
- Spray your feet, ankles and legs with mosquito repellant.
- Get a binoculars shoulder harness to allow quick access to it while keeping your hands free and taking the weight off your neck.
- If you are going to bring a camera, make it a small one. Big cameras are not only cumbersome, but distracting from your experience. If the camera is on your phone, make sure it is on silent.
- Comfortable hiking boots that protect you from thorns (and other things) are essential.
- Silence is golden.
- Keep your head up and help your guide look for animals.
- Be alert, but not afraid. Never feel pressured into going on a walk.
Top walking destinations in South Africa
Pafuri Camp, Wilderness Safaris
Pafuri accounts for only 1% of Kruger's landmass, but contains 75% of the park's biodiversity – so from a walking trails point of view, it is hard to beat. It is a birder's paradise, teeming with specials such as Pel's fishing owl, racket-tailed rollers and Bohm's spinetails. In among big forests of fever trees and enormous baobabs, Sharpe's grysbok and eland are occasionally seen, while in the winter months you will easily encounter over a hundred elephant on foot along the Luvuvhu River. The area has a rich anthropological history with rock paintings, pottery chards, walls and engravings that date back 20 000 years. Pafuri has a dedicated trails camp a 20-minute drive from the lodge.
&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp
Ngala boasts fantastic game viewing, and the mostly dry Timbavati River, bordered by forests of giant leadwoods, jackalberries, mahoganies and tambotis, is incredible. The other highlight of Ngala is its exceptionally skilled Shangaan trackers, who are extremely skilled at tracking from spoor. Extended trails can be organised on request.
Phinda Game Reserve is an exceptional destination for birding, with over 400 species recorded. It includes a remarkable seven distinct habitat types: woodland, grassland, wetland and forest interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans. It is also one of the best places in the world to see both black and white rhino, as well as cats such as cheetah. The highlight of a walking safari here is the ancient and incredibly rare sand forest.
Singita Lebombo and Sweni
This Singita concession ranks as one of the most beautiful areas in the country. It is dotted with euphorbias and interspersed with dry watercourses perfect for walking and exploring. This area is known for big prides of lions, and you will have a chance of seeing rare species such as Sable antelope and black rhino.
Africa on Foot
Specialised walking trails are conducted by experienced guides in the Klaserie Private Game Reserve.
Kruger National Park wilderness trails
Kruger has a remarkable one million hectares of land zoned as wilderness, and it is in these areas that the park conducts its seven walking trails, of which the Nyalaland, Olifants and Sweni trails come highly rated. Due to their popularity, you may have to book over a year in advance.
Imfolozi Wilderness Trail
This is the legendary trail started by Dr Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela, and by reputation is a thrilling experience.