The Ultimate Guide to Walking Safaris in Africa
Learn more about one of Africa’s most epic safari experiences.
Why Stanley Safaris loves walking safaris…
Anyone who knows a little about Stanley Safaris knows we are BIG fans of the walking safari. We’re firm believers that you haven’t experienced the real Africa until you’ve explored it on foot. Why? You will never connect with the wilderness more than when your feet are planted on the same earth walked by the wildlife you’re searching for.
Walking safaris give you the chance to become one with the wilderness all around. Without the doors of a game vehicle to protect you, your senses become heightened as your body adjusts to the possibility of seeing big game on foot. You’ll feel as though you can see more clearly, hear more sharply and smell more intensely. For us, this adrenaline rush never fades, no matter how many times we put our walking boots on!
Walking safaris allow you to discover all the little details you miss in the car. The other reason we love walking safaris is because they embody the “slow safari” concept we are so fond of. Rather than darting from place to place, crossing off sightings, a walking safari gives the perfect opportunity to really learn about and understand the environment you are a part of. Your guide may point out interesting geology, insects and even unassuming plants that have incredible healing and practical abilities.
The best walking safari locations in Africa…
The walking safari was first conceptualized in Zambia, but happily the idea spread, and now this unique activity is offered across Africa. Here are some of our favourite parks for walking safaris in Africa:
1. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
It comes as no surprise that the South Luangwa is part of our list. This vast, pristine wilderness is where the walking safari first originated, and it’s one of the best places in Africa to set out on foot. The terrain is relatively flat and the grasslands and woodlands are ideal for spotting wildlife.
2. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, Mana Pools National Park is also renowned for its fantastic walking safaris. This national park is remote and wild, and the sparse vegetation allows for great visibility. To add to this, the wildlife here is used to seeing people on foot, which allows for some incredible up-close-and-personal encounters!
Walking in Mana Pools takes place primarily in its expansive floodplains, where the Zambezi River has carved terraces that are now covered with open woodland, making it easy to see animals from a distance and reducing the chance of bumping into dangerous game unexpectedly. The groves of winterthorn, ebony and mahogany also offer shade – something that comes in handy when out on foot!
3. Shinde Concession, Okavango Delta & Linyanti Concession, Botswana
When it comes to walking safaris in Botswana, we love combining the Shinde Concession in the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti just outside Chobe National Park. These two areas have completely different natural environments, meaning travellers get the opportunity to walk through two complimenting wilderness areas.
Staying in rustic, intimate and thoroughly authentic bush camps and walking where possible, you can also experience the magic of discovering the channels of the Okavango on a mokoro and a sleepout under the stars.
4. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
While Tanzania is not usually the first place that comes to mind when thinking of walking safaris, there are still great walking options in this safari mecca. One of our favourites is staying in a mobile camp (set up either in the north or the south of the Serengeti depending on season) and combining your walking safari with the Great Migration. This is a bucket-list experience for sure!
What to pack for your walking safari…
Packing for a walking safari is a big deal. In fact, this step can make your break your entire experience! Here is a list of absolute must-have gear for your walking safari:
A good pair of walking shoes. Unsurprisingly, comfortable footwear must be number one on your packing list! We recommend investing in a good pair of walking boots that will cushion your feet and have solid soles that are as thorn-proof as possible. But depending of the terrain of where you are walking, you might get away with a good pair of trainers – provided they’re not too colourful! Reach out to us when planning your trip and we’ll try to direct you as best we can.
A hat. This underrated garment is important no matter what time of year you are travelling! The African sun can be unforgiving and you wouldn’t want to spoil the rest of your holiday by getting sunstroke or a really bad sunburn.
Comfy walking clothes. Once again, wearing long pants or shorts should be dependent on the terrain you’ll be covering. Generally long pants are better suited to grassland as they will protect you from scratches and insects. Long sleeved shirts or T-shirts are a personal preference, but keep the sun in mind! We find bringing a loose over-shirt for sun protection is always a good idea.
A small backpack. A bag helps you to easily carry your camera, binoculars and a bottle of water – all great things to take with you when you head out on foot.
How fit do you have to be to experience a walking safari?
We get this question regularly and the answer may surprise you. It all depends on the type of walking safari you do. Many of our preferred camps offer a walking safari in the morning in place of a morning game drive. Those choosing to do this will head out early and return to camp before the sun gets too hot. These walks are usually around three hours long and can either start and end in camp or take place deeper in the park after a short game drive, either walking back to camp or on a circular route from the game vehicle. If you can handle a slow walk and being on your feet for an extended period of time, you will be able to do this kind of activity.
A moderate level of fitness is required for individuals embarking on a multiday walking safari though. It’s also possible to arrange multi-day walks with your nights spent in simple fly-camps, under a canopy of stars. The camps are set up for you in preparation for your arrival, with a wonderful campfire ready for sitting around and a team on hand to prepare dinner and treat you to a fabulous, authentic wilderness experience.
If reading this blog has you itching to explore the African wilderness on foot, reach out to us. Did we mention adventurous guests are our favourite ones? We have a selection of suggested walking safari itineraries that can be tailor made to suit you and your family, and are confident we’ll enjoy planning your trip just as much as you will experiencing it!