Mana Pool Walking Safari
An up close encounter at Mana Pools. Image by Wild at Heart Journeys

Explore on foot to get intimate with the natural world of Africa

No doubt, safari drives via game vehicle can cover a lot of ground. But for naturalists, as well as the adventure or athletic minded, walking safaris offer the opportunity to engage all the senses and become truly immersed in the ecosystems of wild Africa.


Exploring on foot is a much more intimate perspective. You’ll see many things you would miss in a vehicle: tracks and scat that mark animal pathways through the bush; the smell of tree blossoms and calls of native birds; and introductions to Africa’s lesser known but equally fascinating “little five,’ including the elephant shrew, antlion, leopard tortoise, rhinoceros beetle, and buffalo weaver.

In Zimbabwe, where walking has always been an important mode of safari, guides train for 10+ years to get a their “Pro” guiding permit, and with good reason. On foot, it is possible to get incredibly close to the “big five” and apex predators without scaring them away, providing some of the most thrilling wildlife experiences on the planet.

Selinda Adventure Trail Walking Safari
Buffalo, birds, & lions enjoying the spillway. Image courtesy of Selinda Adventure Trail

A walking safari can take many different forms, making it a suitable option for a wide variety of travelers. Lodge-based walking safaris offer day walks suitable for families or older guests, while camp to camp trips are more adventurous (more hike than stroll). Hard core hikers might opt for a camel or donkey trek with the East African Maasai or Samburu.

A Sampling of Destinations

Selinda Adventure Trail, Botswana - Transported to a remote trailhead by helicopter, travelers camp at pre-arranged sites along the spillway within the renowned Selinda Reserve. The daily hikes walk along the waters and into woodlands where you will encounter buffalo, elephant, roan antelope, and African wild dogs, as well as possible sightings of big cats. Birders will delight in the over 300 avian species which reside within the reserve.

South Luangwa, Zambia - Excitement, vulnerability, respect, and awe are the hallmarks of this camp to camp walking safari along the waterways of the Luangwa River. Led by the finest local guides, expect to see giraffe, elephants, hippopotamus, and more at breathtakingly close range.

Lodging Maasai Trails Marataba Trails Lodge Walking Safari
A variety of lodging options. Left: Maasai Trails mobile tent camp; Right: Marataba Trails Lodge

Maasai Trails, Kenya - Walking along the ancient trails of the the semi-nomadic Maasai is an experience of a lifetime, emphasizing cultural history and a deeply ceremonial relationship with the land. Departing from a base camp in the Loita Hills and embarking on walks of various lengths across the Mara ecosystem, a donkey train will move the camp head each day and set up in advance of your arrival. Delicious home-cooked, hearty meals are served each evening around the campfire while listening your Maasai guides share the lore of the bush.

Marataba Walking Trails Lodge, South Africa - Based at a beautiful lodge situated on the hillside at the bottom of remote Waterfall Valley, daily walks venture into the savannah grasslands in the valley below, the broadleaved sour veld habitat of the hills above, and the riverine forest habitats of nearby gorges. Each night, you’ll return to an elegantly lit, delicious dinner and warm fireplace while overlooking some of the most beautiful scenery in all of South Africa.

Marataba Trails Lodge Walking Safari
Image courtesy of Marataba Trails Lodge

Tok Tokkie Trails, Namibia - This red-sanded, oldest living desert in the world reveals some of its best kept secrets to those travelling on foot, including fog-basking Tok Tokkie beetles, barking geckos, dancing spiders, bat-eared foxes, dune larks, oryx, springbox, ostrich, and more. Guides will explain how these desert dwellers have adapted to survive here without ready access to water. Walkers carry nothing but a day pack and return each evening to sundowners, three course meals, and well-earned sleep under a blanket of a billion stars.

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe - Focused on the Mana shoreline of the Zambezi river and Mana Pools National Park, travelers have the option to either walk camp to camp or be stationed at camp and experience game drives, canoeing, and walking. Mana is famous for its bull elephants, but the diverse ecology of the area also offers a range of animals, insects, and flora that will suit birders, photographers, and botanists.

Tok Tokkie Trails Walking Safari
Image courtesy of Tok Tokkie Trails

Get out and walk

Many of our favorite walking safaris traverse areas where the arid terrain meets waterways that are integral to plant and animal life and thus their season depends on location. If you would like to experience the magic of Africa in this very intimate and immersive way, contact us to learn more about the perfect walking safari itinerary for travelers of any age and fitness level.

Robin Francis of WAHJ has been providing African travel services for over 10 years and travels frequently to the continent to meet with partners and experience their lodging, amenities, and activities first hand. Partners regard her as one of the most knowledgeable African travel consultants in the US, who has also invested in giving back to the communities she works with. Robin and WAHJ are available for complete travel booking throughout Africa or consulting on bookings made through other providers.