To explore Africa’s wilderness areas on foot is tantamount to experiencing the ultimate connection with our remarkable natural spoils. Walking safaris are offered in virtually every major reserve on the continent, and we’ve gathered a round-up of the very best.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Resting on the eastern shores of gorgeous Lake Tanganyika, the Mahale Mountains National Park is a remote gem with no roads, so walking safaris are the order of the day. The dense rainforests of the Mahale Mountains are home to Africa’s largest population of chimpanzees – numbering over a thousand. You’re virtually guaranteed to find the chimps on guided treks, while encountering a variety of other primates, forest birds and possibly lions, giraffe, buffalo and antelope. Greystoke Mahale is the premier accommodation establishment in the park, offering comfortable bandas on the white beaches of Tanganyika.
Footsteps across the Delta – Okavango Delta
The tented, semi-permanent Footsteps across the Delta camp on an eastern finger of the wetlands is one of the few places where you can experience the Okavango Delta on foot. The camp focuses almost exclusively on walking safaris, in an area rich with wildlife including lions, wild dog and plenty of plains game. You’ll be privy to both the wetland scenery and dry land of the delta, led by expert guides with a lifelong knowledge of the bush and all its intricacies. Accommodation at the camp is affordable but comfy, with African-inspired meals included in the rates.
Mana Pools – Zimbabwe
Mana Pools is famous for its walking safaris, particularly in allowing visitors to walk without a guide. However, the exceptional expertise of Zimbabwe’s guides makes the guided safaris a special treat. All Zimbabwean walking guides have to go through a rigorous training process which accounts for their reputation as the most skilled in Africa. Mana Pools itself is a spectacular World Heritage Site with great views of the Zambezi River, flood plains and bushveld, and walkers can get especially close to big game.
Walking safaris aren’t allowed in the Masaai Mara National Park, but are permitted in the conservancies that border the park. Most of the lodges offer safaris led by Maasai guides, resplendent in their traditional red garments. Natural Habitat Adventures boasts an especially good walk through the Nashoiba Conservancy, where you’ll spend three days with the Maasai tribesmen, discovering their unique lifestyle and extraordinary knowledge of the bush.
Bushman Walk – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
With a culture stretching back tens of thousands of years, the San Bushmen’s connection with the wilderness is unparalleled. Although their heritage has been steadily whittled away by the trappings of modern civilisation, there are still several places where their traditional existence remains intact. Spending time in the desert with these expert, barefoot trackers, superhuman foragers and medicinal plant gurus is an experience that goes beyond the fantastic to near-fantasy. Namibia is the place to go to for these walks. Check out www.intu-afrika.com for some good options.