I was recently lucky enough to join an action packed safari in Tanzania where we ventured from Lake Manyara’s shores, hiked around the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, then travelled through the vast Serengeti through herds of zebra and wildebeest as they processed on their endless migration following the rains.
I recommend this to any safari-goer who wants to get more out of their safari than the traditional 4x4 game drives; this is ideal for active adventurers!
Get up close and smell the red baked earth, fresh dung and wafts of aromatic bush herbs with only the vast blue canopy above. One is alert to every sound – the crackle of dry twigs underfoot and scanning the bushes – one feels alive in every sense of the word.
There is heart-thumping excitement as we peer over a rock to watch a herd of elephant splashing and spraying, taking it in turn to suck gallons of water through their outstretched trunks.
“What is THAT?” We peer down onto the dusty path as a large yellow-grey pincushion scrabbles on tiny legs up a twig. Lifting it gently into the palm of his hand, Zeph our guide identifies it as a well-fed tick, who would luckily not be needing a meal for a good few days.
Walking safaris are about discovering even the tiniest creatures and plants that make up the ecosystem which all interact with one another… fascinating insects emerging from the papery cocoons on passing bushes, brilliant hued birds and towering red termite nests alive with activity in the shaded tunnels. Every step taken passes something wondrous and amazing.
There's always the possibility of encountering something larger though, and the guides are always checking the tracks to spot what has been moving over the area. We are accompanied by a trusty National Park guard up ahead, with guides on either end of our group, so safety is ensured at all times.
The camps we are staying in are a mix of fly tents and lovely established camps all in gorgeous settings. Having cycled the last 20 km through friendly villages to the National Park Gate on our first day, the camp - Manyara Green Camp - looks out over the sandy dry riverbed up against the magnificent Rift Valley wall.
In the morning we rise for breakfast, tea and coffee round the fire and then have home-made muesli served in hand-made pottery bowls, platters of fruit and freshly made pancakes plus eggs bacon and fried tomatoes, all laid out before us.
We set out with our ranger and well-trained guides along the shallow Lake Manyara with flamingo, hippo and plains game aplenty. A herd of galloping zebra shy away from us splashing through the briny water as we reach the sulphurous bubbling hot springs. On our return, the ever smiling camp staff - Hippo, Simba and Polka - are at hand to dispense gin and tonics or a warm bucket shower at any time of day or night.
We journey on up to the Ngorongoro highlands and after a night in comfort with hot water bottles tucked into cosy beds we set off as the sun floods through the bearded lahai trees on our crater rim hike.
This is something totally different to the 4x4 drives that one sees on the crater floor! Instead we hike through dense forested paths with Masai herdsmen leading their cattle to water in the clear cold streams. We eat a picnic lunch overlooking the gorgeous crater views and finally we descend through the forest to the open plains, broken only by Maasai thatched roofs peeping out of the grasses.
After a second day walking along the Crater, we journey into the vast Serengeti to our final walking camp beneath the giant kopjes.
A fabulous walk next morning takes us onto the far-stretching plains. We have a picnic brunch on a kopje with eland grazing nearby and plenty of birds and ngama lizards to watch.
A long line of zebra steadily stream past on their way to meet the larger herds already gathering on the horizons, lured by the scent of rain. Walking at a steady pace we pass through groves and get out onto the plains with hyena skulking in small depressions and giraffe grazing on the acacia and balentis.
The sun gets stronger and we finally spot camp in the distance sheltered beneath the balancing granite rocks behind. Welcome cold drinks greet us on our arrival, and then lunch is served under the shade of the trees, spotting different birds darting above, as delicious spicy hamburgers, chunky chips and a crunchy green salad with roasted vegetables are delivered to the table.
We all take time to catch up on reading and writing in the shade before taking an evening walk to watch the sun lowering in the sky. We see a multitude of animal and bird life on this walk, then scramble up a large granite rock for sundowners to see the cloud formations light up with the last of the setting sun, a spectacular sight.
Hot water for showering is awaiting us when we return back to our camp, then we take dinner under the stars beside the crackling fire and the spine-chilling grunt of a male lion pacing through his territory in the near distance.
Sometimes it is the chance to simply sit, to spend time in contemplation, lying in the heat of the day in the shade of a fig tree that one cherishes most. Have lunch, read and relax while watching life move around you; vultures circling above, the flick of an ear beneath a bush, the whirr of a grasshopper alighting nearby…
As our hosts train all Tanzania’s park rangers, their USP is the special access they have to walk in areas such as black rhino zones in the Serengeti. This is a total privilege and one of life’s great experiences, as is the opportunity to view the incredible Migration whilst on foot.
The aim of the guides is to take guests into remote bush lands on mobile safaris, as well as enabling them to meet local tribes in true cultural interactions.
This is your chance to ditch roar of the engine and walk through pristine land with a local guide, treading in the footprints of a leopard with only the chatter of agitated guinea fowl calling. You know it makes sense!
For more information about walking safaris and journeys to Tanzania, please do feel free to contact me.
Images kindly provided courtesy of Wayo Africa