Before the modern 4WD safari became so popular – and, in fact, before arrival of cars in general – the only way to experience the African bush was on foot. The most famous African explorers of the 19th Century, the likes of Burton, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, and even Ernest Hemmingway in the early 20th Century, would all have discovered Africa on a walking safari of sorts. Expeditions were typically fraught with drama and danger in equal measure, a far cry from today’s safari experience.
In the 1940s, however, the concept of the modern walking safari was pioneered by Norman Carr in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, who wanted to give people an opportunity to experience wildlife in close proximity.
The Modern Walking Safari
Today, the walking safari is considered one of the most authentic and exhilarating ways to explore Africa’s national parks and reserves, and Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park remains on of the best places to experience it. The concentration of wildlife within the Park is simply awe-inspiring. On the plains zebra and antelope, giraffe and buffalo, wildebeest and puku congregate in vast numbers alongside lion and leopard patrolling for prey, while rivers and tributaries teem with hippo, elephant and crocodile including the famed Changwa Channel, home to one of the largest hippo populations on earth.
Specialist safari operator, Sanctuary Retreats, operates two luxury boutique properties within the park that offer this experience for guests – Sanctuary Chilele Prudential Lodge and Sanctuary Puku Ridge. Says Michael McCall, Sanctuary Retreats’ Director of Sales Australia, NZ & Asia, “Climbing out of a vehicle and stepping down to the same level as lions, elephants and zebra delivers an incredibly intimate insight into the intricacies of the African veldt, not to mention an opportunity to encounter some of country’s most exciting wildlife from a unique – and often thrilling, perspective – and there is nowhere better to experience this than South Luangwa.”
Are Walking Safaris Safe?
Like any interaction with wild animals, walking safaris have their risks. But according to McCall there are several factors that you should consider so as to minimize these.
First up, walking safari safety is obviously the number one priority of any guide, but selecting a reputable safari provider will ensure that you get to experience the African bush with the most knowledgeable and qualified guides. Notes McCall, “Not only will their in-depth knowledge of, and respect, for the bush make your walking safari a truly memorable experience, but their expertise will ensure that you stay out of the path of any potentially dangerous creatures.” His tip? Do your homework first and find out which guides and companies enjoy the best reputation in whichever destination you are heading.
Of course, wild animals are unpredictable, so chance encounters do happen and shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Says McCall, “Good guides will always ensure that guests enjoy these encounters from safe distances by taking careful note of wind direction to mask any scent.” He also adds that to guarantee complete safety and as a last resort only, most safari operators including Sanctuary Retreats require that at least one member of the party will be armed.
Last but not least, says McCall, what you wear is also important. Sanctuary Retreats advises its guests to wear ‘earthy’ colours such as beige, browns and greens, allowing participants to blend into the surrounding landscape. Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and walking boots for safari will also offer protection against the elements.
Zambia – the ideal place to Experience a walking safari
Walking safaris vary across Africa, but they remain the purest form of experiencing a destination. The South Luangwa National Park is said to be the birthplace of walking safaris, offering Africa’s widest choice in terms reliably excellent walking safaris, and you’ll still find some of the continent’s best on-foot experiences here. Virtually every camp has highly experienced walking guides. where you can expect to discover signs of elephant, leopard, pangolin and many more of over 60 species of mammals and 400 birds in the area.
Perched on an escarpment overlooking a floodplain in the South Luangwa National Park, the luxurious Sanctuary Puku Ridge Camp offers stunning vistas with perfect game sighting opportunities. Lying nestled in a remote game-rich area of the park, lion, leopard, elephant and zebra can frequently be seen. The camp has been constructed to blend into the local surroundings and designed to leave the lowest possible carbon footprint.
Or for a truly regal experience stay at the luxuriously appointed Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge. Set on a magnificent hilltop location, the Lodge was once the personal retreat of Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, and provides panoramic views across the game-rich valleys of South Luangwa National Park.
Right now is the perfect time to book your Zambian walking safari with Sanctuary Retreats’ extended stay offer in 2016, where you can enjoy savings of up to 40% at either property.
Stay 8+ nights at Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge from just US$234 per person per night twin share, normally US$390 per night.
Stay 8+ nights at Sanctuary Puku Ridge Camp from just US$270 per person per night twin share, normally US$450