Much of your time on any safari will be spent in a vehicle, often a custom-built, open 4x4 Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser. The nature of viewing wild animals in their natural habitats requires this buffer in order to get close. Yet while vehicles on safari certainly have their place, walking, trekking or hiking without the sound of a puttering engine can be a liberating experience, taking you into areas where a vehicle cannot venture.
Walking on safari is limited to a number of private reserves, conservancies and some areas of national parks, though not many. Typically accompanied by an armed ranger and qualified walking guide, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience viewing evidence of wildlife, smaller creatures, plant life and even large animals from a safe distance. Here are three of Southern Africa's best safari experiences on foot:
1. Marataba Trails, Waterberg Mountains, South Africa
Certainly some of Africa's most scenic and adventurous walks, Marataba Private Reserve offers a variety of trails to explore and a stunning mountainside camp to retreat to in the evenings. Riverine trails follow the river’s course and pass large water holes, where you’ll surely see animals drinking. Gorge trails ascend craggy areas unreachable by vehicle and offer freshwater swims! Trails that traverse the mountains reward walkers with incredible views. Some trails also reveal cave paintings, iron age ruins and other relics.
Best time to go: year-round
Minimum age: 16
Recommended itinerary: Hidden South Africa
2. Desert Rhino Tracking, Palmwag Concession, Namibia
Home to the largest free-roaming population of black rhinoceros in Africa, the 450,000-acre Palmwag Concession is the ideal setting for tracking these this uniquely desert-adapted subspecies. Set out in the morning by vehicle from Desert Rhino Camp, following trackers from Save the Rhino Trust. Due to the sheer size of the concession, finding the rhinos with the researchers is a key first step. Tracking on foot can commence once the rhinos have been located. It’s important to stay downwind from them, as they have poor eyesight, yet a very keen sense of smell. Closer approaches can be made by vehicle as well.
Best time to go: year-round, but October is the hottest month
Minimum age: 13 for walks, 16 for rhino tracking
Recommended itinerary: Classic Namibia
3. The Original Walking Safari, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Known as the original walking safari destination, South Luangwa National Park continues to focus its legacy around safaris on foot, with the option of wildlife drives as well. Choosing two or more camps and walking between them is an ideal arrangement. The flat, open terrain and shallow riverbeds provide excellent vantage points for walks. Oxbow lagoons are inviting spots to sit with your feet in the water and enjoy al fresco lunches. A walk between camps such as Bilimungwe and Chindeni, for example, is a leisurely 2.5-hour soft adventure.
Best time to go: Jun-Oct
Minimum age: 12
Recommended itinerary: Grand Zambia
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