What is it that keeps pulling us back into the wilds of Africa? To me it is the feeling of remoteness, a place of pure wilderness to act as your playground and where life moves at a different, more natural speed. Being in a vehicle gives us the ability to cover more ground, therefore increasing the likelihood of crossing off our tick list of wildlife to see (we all have a list). The feeling of safety and the ability to approach big game closely is another major benefit of bouncing around on the Land Cruiser.
There are, however, many places on this beautiful continent where driving is not the game viewing option of choice. These locations place an emphasis on gaining a deeper understanding of how life works in the bush, the “circle of life”. Trees, birds and smaller African species are definitely a highlight. Often overlooked, the adaptations on these species are incredible and interesting – have you ever seen how the Strangler Fig grows over and eventually takes over it’s host tree? Or how and ant lion lays a trap for its unsuspecting victims?
Strapping up your boot laces and heading out early morning gives one the opportunity to enjoy the pure beauty of your surrounds, the sounds of the many birds starting out the day and a chance to explore the many nooks and crannies which you fly past on a vehicle. Dry riverbeds, open plains and riverine forests are all special for their own reasons and who knows what might be lying around the next corner?
One of the biggest highlights of an early morning walk is the opportunity to see your bigger wildlife on foot. Speaking to any good walking guide the ultimate idea is for an “on foot” approach is to track the animal concerned, picking up on ques such as spoor and direction of movement, seeing the animal without being seen yourself, wind direction is hugely important in this regard, getting into a good position to view and finally moving out without disturbing and, preferably, without the animal/s knowing you are even there. We are not here to disturb; the idea is to become part of the natural world for a small portion of time.
For the more adventurous walkers there are lodges and locations in Africa where guests, accompanied by a well experienced and trained guide, can actively track and approach big game such as elephant, buffalo herds and lions. Others where it is possible to sit with painted wolf (wild dog) packs. This is how I would imagine the original explorers doing it however trading in our hunting rifles for cameras and the perfect shot. Zimbabwe and Zambia have good options for these exciting walking safaris and in Namibia clients of certain lodges can track and approach desert rhino on foot. How incredible to spend time with these prehistoric and endangered beasts eye to eye!
Personally, through the years, I have gravitated to this safari activity and have been lucky enough to have some very memorable photos and memories while on foot. I would highly recommend that a combination of a driving and walking safari is considered for your next trip to Africa.