The first, the original way to go on safari, with a history dating back to the earliest days of mankind. Ok so that’s a bit melodramatic however you get the picture. It is what we do though, we walk, and be it a walking safari or hiking, there is nothing more grounding and no more intimate way to enjoy the wilderness.
Having been among the first guides to qualify for Botswana’s inaugural walking guides license almost thirty years ago, I have led walking safaris in both the Okavango Delta and the Selous game reserve. If game drives set the scene and introduce the characters then being on foot turns us from viewers to participants. We have every right to walk in the wilderness and connecting to the land reminds us who we truly are.
Tracking lion or wild dog in the South Luangwa valley, afternoons with the elephant bulls of Gonarezhou, exploring the far reaches of the Ruaha or walking silently across the Laikipia plateau in search of rhino, days on foot are days of discovery.
In a continent this big there are of course fantastic hiking opportunities as well as the option to interact at a slower pace and a more natural rhythm. Time spent walking with the Hadza or San people and hiking in the Drakensberg or Bale mountains are moments that show us the soul of a place and often reveal stories that last forever.
I cannot stress enough the importance of experience in these environments. Whether it is an afternoon stroll out of camp, a morning’s tracking, a multi-day expedition or sitting at a waterhole, the safety of any walking safari in big game country hinges on the experience of the guide leading it.
Moving through a landscape on foot is not only the most traditional way, it is the most immersive. Seeing wildlife and not being seen may be the pinnacle of a non-intrusive wildlife safari. These are journeys that remind us to trust our instincts and to engage with our surroundings in the most honest way possible; slowly, quietly and respectfully.