What is a walking safari?
On a walking safari, you explore the African wilds on foot in the care of professional Nature Guides. There are no set routes to follow, and the emphasis is on quiet, slow appreciation of nature.
The term “walking safari” generally applies to areas where animals such as elephant and lion are present and specialist trails guides are compulsory. There are other walking in nature options, such as Gorilla and Chimpanzee treks and birding tours, but we don’t include them on this site.
Why go on a walking safari?
On a safari vehicle, you are looking at wilderness. On a walking safari you are really in the wilderness. Exploring on foot is the way to discover the African bushveld just as our ancestors did, in the tracks of wild animals. Meeting these animals is a thrilling part of a walking safari but it’s more than that: a genuinely immersive experience, a chance to gain a deeper appreciation for the entire bushveld ecosystem.
Walkers encounter fascinating smaller creatures, seed pods and flowers, fungi and feathers, bones and burrows, middens and nests. They learn the art of tracking, discover fossils, rock art and prehistoric tools. Bush skills, geology, folklore, bushveld cooking, astronomy, stories of lives lived in the wilds – all of these can be part of the walking safari experience.
Above all, taking part in a walking safari is an opportunity to disconnect from the modern world for a while and simply enjoy unspoiled African wilderness and all its sights, scents and sounds.
Are walking safaris safe?
Fear not. Walking safaris are very safe when led by professional guides. Guides are trained in situational awareness skills, and lead guides have years of bush experience and have logged hundreds of encounters with potentially dangerous animals. Their top priorities are ensuring there are no risks to guests or wildlife.
What styles of walking safaris are available?
Guided walks range from easy one hour strolls to intensive multi-day backpacking expeditions. In reserves where walking safaris are offered, visitors to a lodge or rest camp can choose to take a guided walk in place of drive. To make walking the focus of a visit, specialist trails camps are the best option, often referred to as Wilderness Trails. Mobile walking safaris are a style of wilderness trail whereby guests walk to a new camp each day. For the more adventurous, it’s possible to backpack and camp in a tent, or even sleep under the stars on a “Primitive Trail”.
How much do walking safaris cost?
In most cases, if guided walks are offered at a safari lodge, they are included in the price as an activity, just like game drives. Safari lodge prices vary a lot by season and country and the ones we list range from under $150 to $1400 PPSPN (per person sharing per night). A basic Trails Camp is as low as $85 PPSPN, but more typically in the $200-$500 range in Southern Africa, which has the best choice. It’s possible to spend a lot more by booking exclusive use camps, and to spend less if you can avail of local resident offers.
Mobile safaris also come in a wide range of daily costs from under $200 in Southern Africa to over $800 in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley and in remote areas of Northern Kenya. Backpacking trails are confined to Southern Africa, and can be found for less than $70 per night.
Will there be hot showers and flush toilets on my walking safari?
Yes, if you choose from the lodge-based walk style options.
In other styles, SANParks Kruger Wilderness Trails have flush toilets, but that is unusual and most Trails camps and Mobile Walking Safaris have either long-drop type or chemical toilets, both of which are perfectly fine even for the fastidious traveller. Warm showers are also standard, with water heated over a fire and transferred to a suspended bucket. Backpack trails are designed to leave no trace, and toilet waste is buried. It’s often possible to have a river bath, or you can pack a mini shower bag.
How many people can walk in a group?
At high-end lodges and camps, there is usually no minimum group size, but some venues may need a minimum number of bookings – typically 4. Sleep-out trails usually require a minimum of 6, to facilitate a night watch rota.
The maximum group size is generally 8, but may be 6 at high-end venues. Groups of over 8 are best to look for lodge-based walks, where the group can be split for the walks.
Some backpacking trails are sold on a group basis only, and the price is the same for any number up to the maximum (usually 8).
How fit do I need to be for a walking safari?
Typical day walks are accessible to all that do not have impaired mobility, with distances modest and many stops to investigate nature.
Multi-day walking safaris are more enjoyable if you are a regular walker, while backpacking demands a higher ability and preparation.
Can children go on walking safaris?
Yes, as long as they are over the specified age limit. This is usually 12+ or 14+, and generally backpacking style trails are 16+.
When is the best time of year to go on a walking safari?
In South Africa’s Lowveld, the area of the country with the most walking options, the prime walking season is April to October. In the Western and Eastern Cape, the summer months from November to March are best.
In Botswana and Zimbabwe, the top walking season is May-September, when it is dry and cooler.
Zambia’s walking season is May-November and Malawi’s best season is July to November.
The best time for Tanzania is after the “green” season – June to October. Kenya’s equatorial location makes it a year-round walking destination, especially at higher altitudes.
What should I wear for walking in bushveld?
Clothing should be in earth shades of green, brown or khaki. Avoid bright colours, and black or white. Wear light quick-drying synthetics in preference to cotton. Shorts, leggings or trail pants are all suitable. Comfortable footwear is a must – trail shoes or boots, but nothing open-toed.
What should I carry on a walking safari?
Bring a small backpack with room for a fleece, water, snacks and personal items. Although walks nearly always take place in the cooler morning and evening hours, prepare for sun protection and carry a hat, neck-buff, sunscreen and lip balm. Binoculars are also important – especially for spotting birds.
Where can I get more detailed preparation information?
Walking Safaris of South Africa is widely available and has a chapter on pre-travel preparation that applies to all destinations in Africa.
How can I get more information about the walking safaris featured on this website?
Click on the Trip Enquiry link under the trip of interest.
I am a walking safari operator. How can I be included on this site?
If you are the operator of a walking safari, please send us a message from the Contact page to arrange a free listing.