While in Africa, a safari is an absolute must. You can safari by car, plane, boat, helicopter and even on foot. While each variation of this journey into Africa’s wilderness has it’s own charms and benefits, not all safaris are equal. In this article I’m going to break your heart and give you the truth about why a walking safari is a complete bust.
Coming off 6 days of a game drive safari in Tanzania just weeks prior, we could not be more excited for our walking safari in Zambia. South Luangwa National Park is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the world and the birthplace of the walking safari. We had visions of close encounters with majestic animals. In hindsight we realize how foolish this fantasy was.
We saw plenty of animals, from male lions to to baby hippos…but in a moving vehicle headed to the spot where we would start our walking safari. Once out of the vehicle, there wasn’t much in the way of animal encounters. We should have known better. You see, walking safari was previously just called “hunting”. Our purpose was quite different – the only shooting we wanted to do was with the camera. We absolutely did not want to happen upon a large dangerous animal and force our scout to use his rifle on potentially endangered wildlife. Therein lies the trouble with the walking safari.
The trouble is when you think safari, you think, “I want to see animals. I want to get close to them. I want to see them eating, playing, hunting, etc.” Walking safari doesn’t really allow for that. Because you’re not protected by a vehicle, your guide purposely takes you to areas where there is low chance for animal encounters. Even vehicles aren’t always a good enough barrier, see this tragic account. While safariing on foot, your outing becomes a hunt not for animals, but for their skat…or poop. If it’s fresh, you’ll go the other direction. If it’s not, your guide will dissect it and tell you about how it becomes a vital part of the ecosystem. Albeit interesting information, this is not the exciting, sexy safari of your dreams.
After 2 days of strolling past insects and skat, we finally had a quick close encounter with a couple of giraffes. However, the thrill was nothing compared our game drives. On our drives we spotted predators on the prowl or entire herds of animals migrating. Of course there is a chance that you have an unforgettable animal encounter, but there’s no guarantee. For us, spending hundreds of dollars and 2 days walking around dry brush in the blistering heat was not worth the brief giraffe encounter.
It’s not that a walking safari has no value, it’s just that you should know what you’re getting yourself into. A walking safari is really for you to see the minute things that you miss during a game drive. You dissect skat and inspect tracks. You explore the vegetation. You’ll encounter bones, listen to the call of the birds and observe insects in their natural habitat. Real nature geek stuff. I would only recommend this type of safari as an add on to other safaris. Even then, I would only suggest it to someone who really cares about bugs and, well, shit. I just don’t think a walking safari can offer what most people have in mind when they think safari.
So when in Africa, we highly recommend you take a safari. We hope you take many safaris. We absolutely loved our time in the African wilderness. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was mind blowing. But exploring their natural habitat by foot was down right boring. Don’t have foolish fantasies of walking with wild animals like we did. Opt for a game drive or even just a little time by the pool rather than taking a walking safari.
**Note that the giraffe picture at the top was taken while sitting for free at our lodge’s pool, not during our walking safari.