– Last Updated on: 30th May 2023
Should I go on a walking safari in Tanzania? What you should know before you book!
Walking safaris in Tanzania combine hiking in the wilderness with African wildlife encounters. But since every holiday has its budget, you might be wondering: Should I go on a walking safari? Is it actually worth it? I’ll share with you what to expect when going on a safari on foot and what you should look out for before making a decision.
Tanzania’s unique mountain panoramas, its fascinating wildlife and pristine beaches on the Indian Ocean make the country a dream destination for trekking enthusiasts, safari fans and those who love sandy beaches. Those who come here to hike usually choose Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru. Both are also close to the famous Serengeti National Park and therefore allow to combine trekking tours on foot and safari drives in the Land Cruiser. However, if you want to combine hiking in nature and a safari in the country’s animal-rich parks and you want to experience both on foot, choose a walking safari. What you should know about it in general, you can find out here today.
Should I go on a walking safari? – First impressions from my own experience
With his back to us, the ranger loads his rifle. The gun is real, the bullets are live. Then he turns around, briefs us and off we go. Walking in single file, we move further and further away from the security of the lodge. It goes deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Around us not only well-behaved antelopes, unpredictable buffaloes, or imposing elephants, but also ruthless predators: hyenas, leopards, lions. It’s tingling, out here amongst the wildlife, without the protection of a car body around us.
In front, our guide leads the small group. Safety in numbers enjoys the wildebeest herd if at all, which we see from a small hill in the open bushland. The views of the savannah are breathtaking. I feel free and one with nature, but also vulnerable and open to attack. Sudden fluttering of birds startles me. The smell of fresh elephant dung sharpens my awareness. Cautiously we follow interesting tracks, move along the paths of the animals, hoping to see the lions or to stand close to the elephants.
Again and again our guide relaxes the adventurous tension. We stop, look for fresh tracks, listen to explanations, walk on, stop in front of bushes and trees, hear details about their importance for the ecosystem. Above all, we encounter fascinating African wildlife: zebras, giraffes and even elephants in the distance. Will we see the lions too?
Safaris on foot in Tanzania – An overview
Tanzania classifies wildlife areas in different ways: from concession area to game reserve and national park. This means, they also have different protection statuses following different sets of rules. With this come different standards and operational practices for walking safaris. For example, the Tanzanian National Park Authority (TANAPA) stipulates that professional and armed guides/rangers accompany the walking safari. They must follow prescribed walking routes and they should not take more than four guests aged 12 and over.
In principle, these rules should not only apply in the national parks. But the TANAPA impact on the “lower” protected areas such as concessions or game reserves is limited. Privately run sanctuaries and camps may well have their own rules. This does not automatically mean less security. In South Africa, for example, the standard for professionally guided walking safaris is a group size of eight. So, more participants than just four in a game reserve in Tanzania can be okay. When it comes to safety standards, no lodge can afford any “accidents”. It is clear that something can happen, but our partners in Tanzania generally take the duty of supervision and care towards guests very seriously. That’s reassuring.
Should I book a walking safari in Tanzania? What can I expect?
When asked what you can expect from a walking safari in Tanzania, the following points are particularly important:
- Basically you can expect a unique experience in nature among wild animals: just you, walking in the middle of habitats of the African icons, the zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, buffaloes, elephants, cheetahs, lions, hippos, rhinos and more. You are no longer an observer from a safari vehicle, but a participant in a wilderness that needs all your senses to be alert to both enjoy and survive.
- Well-trained professional guides will lead you on short or long walking safaris, between 2 to 4 hours or more. They know their surroundings, know about the dangers, and know how to behave correctly in an emergency. As a rule, however, the guides know the behavior of the animals better than that of their guests. They can only trust that you follow their instructions strictly.
- The groups of participants can be composed very differently. You should not withhold important information, such as allergies to wasp stings. Together with the impressions of a group, for example with regard to age and fitness, the guides get a feeling for their guests and adapt the walking safari to the group’s conditions if necessary.
- Encounters with big game cannot be guaranteed. The opportunities for observing the behavior of wild animals are also often limited. Having the chance to experience them is part of the adventure. The other part is experiencing yourself and surrendering to experiences you simply cannot have sitting in a safari vehicle.
What should I bring for a walking safari in Tanzania? – My recommendations
If you think you shouldn’t wear a suit or a Sunday dress on a walking safari, you are correct. I’ll give you more tips here to enjoy the walking safari even better:
- Wear comfortable, neutral clothing. Long sleeves and long pants provide good protection from the sun, but also from scratches caused by thorns and bushes. If you are going to be on a longer walk, you should also have a warm sweater and a rain jacket with you. Hiking shoes are ideal because you can walk over hill and dale. Preferably ankle-high for more stability and greater protection from biting snakes. “Waterproof” also makes you more independent of the season and the track conditions.
- The best time of year for walking safaris across the country, despite regional differences, is during the dry season between June and October.
- If you are very sensitive to insect bites or know that you will be walking in an insect-dense area, you can impregnate your clothing with permethrin or another insect repellent.
- Ensure adequate sun protection with sunscreen on the skin and a shady hat on the head.
- Be sure to bring binoculars.
- Remember to charge the batteries of your mobile phone or camera the night before. And those who go on multi-day walking safaris should have several fully charged batteries with them. Charging on the go is usually difficult to impossible.
- When it comes to the short briefing by the guide before the walking safari starts, make sure that you understand everything correctly and that you can also remember the agreed hand signals for communication.
- Always stay cool on the go in case things get a little too exciting and a lion might appear right in front of you afterall. Staying relaxed also helps you to see more and enjoy it more.
- Let your curiosity run wild. If something interests you along the way and the guide doesn’t bring it up on his or her own, stop him or her and ask. As a guest on such walking safaris, I have met so many guides who only became talkative once I or others asked them specific questions. Don’t be shy! It is incredibly enriching what you can learn about nature just by asking.
A walking safari offers a very different perspective on life in the African wilderness. Without the protection of the body of a car, you are even more involved in the action. The experience of encountering the local wildlife without “walls of metal” leads to an even more intensive personal experience than from the Landcruiser. You can find offers for walking safaris in the activity descriptions of the lodges. You are also welcome to ask us about the possibilities if you are planning a trip to Tanzania. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about “walking safaris in Tanzania” and to provide support with the organization and booking of your trip to Tanzania. Here on site we are always well informed about the current situation. So, get in touch with us!