Although to some it may sound like it will take you out of your comfort zone, a walking safari with an experienced guide is a completely different experience than a game-drive in a safari vehicle. In general you can get close to many of the interesting small species on foot, while a game drive is better for seeing the larger animals. Nearly all animals have an instinctive fear of humans, and while they are used to seeing people in safari vehicles which experience has taught them to regard as safe, they are still nervous about how dangerous people on foot can be.
The guides on walking safaris are usually locals who live in the surrounding area. They therefore have a thorough knowledge of how to use the vegetation that goes far beyond the level of “using wood as a building material and reeds for thatching”. Many plants species are used as natural medicines and have pain-killing or digestive effects. Some bushes with tough fibres can make excellent tooth brushes. Other plants can be used as an effective insect repellent, just flicking a small leafy branch of one of these plants over your shoulder and around your scalp, will keep away flies and mosquitos for a considerable period.
The guides can tell you exciting tales about some of the very small animals that live here that are just as important part of the local nature as the larger animals. Many places offer walking safaris that focus on local plantlife or, for example, the “Little Five”, or animals tracks and droppings. The latter are important themes for the relatively few places that have specialised in tracking some of the larger animals. Fresh signs and tracks are important signposts for finding a pride of lions or a rhinoceros
In some places, together with a very experienced guide, you can actually track lions and rhinos, and get close to other large animals such as elephants, buffalo, hippos, giraffes and hyenas. Leopards and cheetahs are rarely seen on foot, as they are very shy of people, and you can be sure that if they catch sight of anybody on foot, they will disappear in a flash. The guides are very familiar with the behaviour patterns of the different animals, and can read their moods, knowing when it is possible to approach closely, and when you should keep away from them. Often a walking safari will be joined by an armed guard, especially in areas where there are many large and potentially dangerous animals. It is very rare that they will need to fire their weapon, and in just about all the times this occurs, shooting a round or two into the air will be enough to avoid a dangerous confrontation.
In some national parks you can go on multi-day walks, accompanied by a team of helpers carrying tents and supplies, for example in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and in Selous in Tanzania.