How to survive a walking safari

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Before the modern 4WD safari became so popular – and, in fact, before arrival of cars in general – the only way to experience the flora and fauna of the African bush was on foot. Early African explorers such as David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley and even Ernest Hemmingway would have discovered Africa on a walking safari of sorts.

Travelling cross-country, these walking safaris would have been fraught with danger, disease and drama, not something for the modern safari-goer to enjoy. However, in the 1940s the concept of the walking safari was revolutionised by Norman Carr, who wanted to give people the chance of meeting wildlife up close in Luangwa Valley.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safar South Luangwa

The Modern Walking Safari

Today, the walking safari is one of the most authentic and mesmerising forms of exploring Africa’s national parks and reserves. Getting out of the vehicle and down to the same level of lions, elephants and zebra is a thrilling experience and gives guests insight into the intricacies of eco-systems, with the chance of happening across some of Africa’s most exciting wildlife.

One of the most exciting – and nerve-racking – aspects of any walking safari is having the chance to see the bush through the eyes of Africa’s wildlife. Participants can expect to meet anything from giraffe to millipedes, with the focus of each walking safari being to gain a different, more intimate perspective of the wilderness. When you find yourself wandering through the home of leopard, hippo and buffalo, it isn’t surprising that many people have reservations about taking part in walking safaris.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Lions

Are Walking Safaris Safe?

As with any interaction with wild animals, walking safaris have their risks. In order to minimise these risks, there are several factors to consider.

Walking safari safety is the number one priority of any guide, but selecting reputable safari provider can ensure that you get to experience the African bush with the most knowledgeable and qualified guides. Not only will their reverence and respect for the wild be highly contagious, making it a truly memorable experience as they share their in-depth knowledge of the bush, their expertise will ensure that you stay out of the path of any potentially dangerous creatures.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Okavango Delta

Of course, wild animals are unpredictable so chance encounters do happen and shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Taking careful note of the wind to mask any scent, guides can guarantee that guests enjoy these encounters from safe distances. To guarantee complete safety and as a last resort only, at least one member of the party will be armed.

Finally a very simple, yet necessary step is to wear ‘earthy’ colours such as beige, browns and greens, allowing participants to effortlessly blend into the surrounding landscape. Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and walking boots for safari also offer protection against the elements.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Zambia

Where To Experience A Walking Safari:

Walking safaris vary across Africa but they remain the purest form of experiencing a destination:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda: In addition to the gorillas, Bwindi is also home to rare forest elephants, giant forest hogs, 11 kinds of primates, as well as antelope and 200 species of butterflies.

Livingstone, Zambia: With very few predators in this region, guests can meet a wide range of antelope, elephants and possibly even the rare rhino.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Rhino

Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa: Follow the footsteps of the animals that make this area home and discover the sights, sounds and smells that are easily missed from a vehicle.

Masai Mara, Kenya: Walk with a naturalist and learn about plants, trees and insects and their use in the daily lives of the Masai tribe, as well as the animals that make up the eco-system.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Masai Mara

Okavango Delta, Botswana: Experience the Delta from a different perspective and discover signs of lion, leopard, elephants, genet and even millipedes.

South Luangwa, Zambia: Home of the walking safari, you can expect to discover signs of elephant, leopard, pangolin and many more of the 60 mammals and 400 birds in the area.

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania: Explore the secluded areas of the park where you may encounter zebra, waterbuck, impala, ostrich, elephant as well as a number of birds.

Walking Safaris Safe Sanctuary Retreats Walking Safari Bwindi


Sanctuary Retreats offers a variety of walking safari experiences in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Africa. To find out more about these experiences, please contact our reservations teams.