July 27, 2021
The Ultimate Guide to Walking Safaris

As the name suggests, walking safaris take safari travellers on adventures on foot rather than by vehicle. Although walking safaris have become synonymous with African safaris , they aren’t limited to Africa: travellers can walk through Indian villages in the Himalayas or explore the snowy mountains covered with azaleas in China. Game drives are adventurous, but walking safaris give you a very different perspective and allow you to have a closer experience with the wildlife, culture, and people.

What’s the Appeal of Walking Safaris?

George W. Stone, National Geographic Travel’s editor in chief, shares his experience of a walking safari in the birthplace of walking safaris, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. George was accompanied by award-winning photographer Ken Geiger, safari guide Kelvin Zulu, and wildlife authority scout Isiah Mvula. As they came across a termite mound, they saw a paw print resembling a lion’s. While the guide was reading the print to identify it, the bushes rustled. It was a moment fraught with trepidation. Their safari had quite a few moments like this, but it was also an educational journey that rewarded their curiosity.

We have shared this incident not to scare you, but to help you understand that walking safaris aren’t just a ‘walk in a park’. Some of them include tracking the wildlife and learning things about them that you might otherwise have never known.

  • Walking safaris get you up close and personal with the wilderness. They awaken your senses. You’ll feel as if you are part of the environment, turning your safari into something more than just a holiday. On a game drive visitors are more apart from the wildlife to an extent and they are warned not to get out of the closed vehicles. Walking safaris have their own set of rules, and we’ll talk about them later, but one thing remains true, they make some of the most memorable moments on a safari.
  • Compared to walking safaris, game drives can feel more The wildlife you see through the openings of the vehicle remain mostly unbothered by the vehicle’s presence and ignore it. During a walking safari, the animals you encounter may well take notice of your group. It is a primal experience to be noticed and recognised as an animal by the wildlife. Such experiences build excitement which is emotionally heightened and accompanied by smells and sounds close up, creating everlasting memories.
  • Game vehicles cannot reach all places. Walking safaris often give you access to every nook and cranny of the national parks and game reserves. Furthermore, you aren’t restricted by the lack of roads and a knowledgeable safari guide will lead you along animal trails through the wilderness.
  • Having an experienced guide accompany you on a walking safari is of utmost importance and not just for safety. Experience guides have stories to tell, and when information is relayed through stories, it is remembered. Walking safaris will give you a new perspective and respect for nature and its creatures.

Guidelines for a Walking Safari

  • Safety is the first concern of everyone thinking of planning a walking safari. But you can rest assured, you will be accompanied by an accomplished guide armed with rifles (in some places) and perhaps an additional scout who’ll remain by your side throughout the walking safari. It should settle your nerves and help you enjoy the experience.
  • Some walking safaris are short bush walks that take a few hours, while others are multiple days with overnight stays in tents or other accommodation. Whichever you choose, a walking safari requires a certain level of fitness so make sure you’re prepared.
  • Always listen to your safari guide. They’ll never lead you astray. Guides understand the animals, their behaviour and how they react to visitors. Their role is to keep you safe while you experience the wonders of the bush.
  • If you find yourself in a situation, don’t run. It seems obvious, but people can panic and run. Making any sudden movements can alert an animal and scare And if you run, they are likely to charge, worsening the situation.
  • Do not wander off. If something catches your eye and you want to explore it, talk to your safari guide, but in the meantime stay within arm’s reach and walk in a single file.
  • Walking safaris are meant to be experienced, so don’t chatter your way through the safari, and when you do speak, avoid speaking loudly. It will interrupt your commune with nature as well as spook animals. Talk in low voices if you have to ask something important.
  • Bush walks take safari visitors through different terrains, which means you need a decent pair of hiking boots. They’ll keep your feet safe from insect bites and sting as well as thorns and spikes on the rough terrain.
  • When you put your shoes back on again, remember to give them a good shake to ensure that nothing has crawled in while you weren’t looking. Turn them over, shake them, and give them a good tap.

Walking Safaris Around  the World

  • Sri Lanka Village-Wildlife Safari: Africa isn’t the only country known for its walking safaris. This Sri Lankan safari will take you through rural villages where you can meet the friendly locals in the Anamaduwa region as well as explore Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka’s largest game reserve on foot. The reserve is well-known for its healthy populations of Sri Lankan leopards.
  • Ethiopia Bale Mountain Walking Safari: Ethiopia, an east African country, is another superb walking safari destination. The Bale Mountains, one of the highest plateaus on the continent, is home to the Bale Mountain National Park, an excellent walking safari destination where you’ll come across colobus monkeys and impalas. In addition, you can also meet the nomadic herders and learn about their culture.
  • Madagascar Beach Walking Safri: Madagascar is an island country in the Indian ocean with several islands with beautiful sandy beaches. The beach walking safaris are unique and will lead you to a snorkelling destination where you can take in the colourful marine life underwater.
  • Vietnam Nature Walking Safari: Vietnam, located in Southeast Asia, is a country known for its deep-rooted culture and spectacular nature. It also has stunning beaches and hidden caves that can be explored on foot. Visitors can also explore Vietnam’s bustling cities and historical landmarks on walking trails. On this national park walking safari, visitors are likely to come across some of Vietnam’s diverse wildlife, such as flying squirrels, civets, and bats.
  • Dana To Petra Walking Safari: According to National Geographic, Dana to Petra is amongst the top 15 best hikes in the world. The trail takes visitors on an awe-inspiring labyrinth of hills and valleys in Jordan, dropping from the heights of mountain plateaus to the depth of the Araba valley and back again, across diverse ecosystems and climate zones. These natural vistas are combined with what lies at the end of the trek, the city of Petra, considered a Nabatean Masterpiece.

Things to Pack For a Walking Safari

A walking safari requires basic essentials such as a insect repellent, bottled water, sunscreen, and raincoat if the region is prone to rain showers. Your safari operator will send you a list of essential items that you need to pack for the walking safari. You should pack your prescription medication and first aid kit as well (although it’s highly likely that your guide will carry a first aid kit too).

The following is a list of what you need to pack for walking safaris:

  • Pack sunscreen, insect repellent spray, and wide-brimmed hat.
  • Fleece jackets to keep you warm and beanies to cover your ears from chilly mornings and evenings.
  • Pack neutral coloured casual clothes, bush jackets, jerseys, or raincoats. Avoid wearing bright and flashy colours on a walking safari, instead choose neutral tones such as green, brown, and khaki.
  • Bring along hiking shoes for walking safaris and open shoes for a day at the camp.
  • Walking safari doesn’t necessarily mean through the bush. Depending where you’re going be prepared to navigate through different landscapes such as beaches, forests, and plateaus so make sure you have the right clothes and shoes to suit the terrain.
  • Carry a camera and spare batteries to capture the fascinating moments of your walking safari.
  • Binoculars will help you get a closer look at faraway locations as well as animals.

About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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