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Written by: Juan Proll on 17 May 2023

Should I go on a walking safari in Tanzania? Is it worth it?

Walking Safari Tarangire Olivers Camp

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 a walking safari 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 is a dream destination for trekking, safari, beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts because of its magnificent mountain scenery, captivating wildlife, and tropical beaches. Those who come here for hiking choose either Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru. The Serengeti National Park is close to both of them. This makes it possible to combine mountain climbing tours with game drives. But if you want to combine nature walks with a safari in the wildlife parks on foot, you can opt for a walking safari. Today you will learn everything you need to know.

Is a walking safari worth it? – First impressions from my own experience

Facing us with his back, the ranger loads his gun. The weapon is real, the munition sharp. Then he turns around, gives us a briefing, and we are ready to go. We move farther and farther away from the safety of the lodge, one after the other. We are moving deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Our surroundings are not only home to timid antelopes, unpredictable buffaloes, or imposing elephants, but also to merciless predators such as hyenas, leopards, and lions. I can feel a sensation in my belly, out here, without the protection of a car amongst the wild animals..

In front, our guide leads the group. The wildebeest herd, that we can see from a small hill in the open bush land finds safety in numbers, if at all. The view of the savannah is truly breathtaking. I feel free and one with nature, but also vulnerable and like an easy target. I am startled by the sudden fluttering of birds. The smell of fresh elephant dung sharpens my attention. We carefully follow interesting tracks, moving along the animal trails, hoping to see lions or get close to elephants.

Our guide repeatedly soothes our adventurous nerves. We stop, observe fresh tracks, listen to explanations, continue walking, identify trees and shrubs and learn how they contribute to the ecosystem. But most importantly, we are confronted with the fascinating African animal world: zebras, giraffes, and even elephants in the far distance. Will we also get to see lions?

Do you want to learn more about going on safari in Tanzania? We are happy to advise.

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Walking safaris in Tanzania – An overview

From concession areas to game reserves and national parks, Tanzania classifies its wildlife areas in a variety of ways. Therefore, they hold a different protection status with different rules. That also leads to different standards and implementation practices for walking safaris. For example, walking safaris must be accompanied by professional and armed guides/rangers, as required by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA). They must stay on designated routes and should not be accompanied by more than four guests, all of whom must be at least 12 years old.

Generally, those rules should not only be followed in national parks. However, TANAPA’s influence in ‘lower’ protected areas, such as concessions or game reserves, is limited. Privately owned reserves and camps may have their own rules. This does not mean that they are less safe. For example, a group of eight people is the standard for professional walking safaris in South Africa. So, it can be okay to have more than four people joining a walking safari in a game reserve in Tanzania. Lodges cannot afford any “accidents” when it comes to safety standards. Of course, there is always the possibility that something could happen, but in general our partners in Tanzania take supervision and duty of care very seriously. That is good to know.

Paw print in sand
Your guide will help you read animal tracks in the sand.

Is a walking safari in Tanzania worth it? What can I expect?

The following points are important in answering the question of what to expect from a walking safari in Tanzania:

  • Generally, you can expect a unique wildlife experience: you are in the habitat of African icons such as zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, gazelle, buffalo, elephant, cheetah, lion, hippo, rhino and so on. You are no longer an observer from a safari vehicle, but a participant in the wilderness – which means you have to be aware with all your senses to not only enjoy but also survive..
  • You will be guided by professionals on short or long walking safaris of 2 to 4 hours or more. They know their environment, its dangers and what to do in case of an emergency. In most cases, the guides are more familiar with the behaviour of the animals than that of the guests. They can only rely on you to follow their instructions wholeheartedly.
  • There can be a significant difference in the composition of groups of participants. You should not withhold important information such as allergies from your guide. Combined with the first impressions of the group, such as age and fitness, this gives the guides a feel for their guests and allows them to adapt the walking safari to suit the group.
  • Although there is a good chance, there is no guarantee that you will see big game. Also, the opportunity to observe wildlife behaviour may be limited. The chance of seeing wildlife is part of the adventure. The other part is the experience itself, immersing yourself in the special circumstances and experiences that cannot be had from a vehicle.
Walking Safari Arusha National Park

What should I bring for a walking safari in Tanzania? – My recommendations

It is safe to assume that you should not wear a suit or Sunday best on a walking safari. Here are some more tips to help you get the most out of a walking safari:

  • Dress comfortably and in neutral colours. Long sleeves and trousers will protect you from the sun as well as thorns and bushes which may scratch your skin. Walking shoes are ideal as you will be walking over hill and dale. Ideally, they should reach over the ankles for more stability and protection from snakes.
  • 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 treat your clothing with permethrin or another insect repellent.
  • Make sure you protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen or a hat for shade.
  • Do not forget your binoculars.
  • Remember to charge your phone and camera batteries 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 you are given a short briefing by your guide, make sure you understand everything and remember the signs and non-verbal communication that have been agreed.
  • On the road, keep a cool head when the going gets tough and a lion might appear right in front of you. But it also helps to see more and enjoy it more.
  • Be curious. Let your imagination run wild. If there is something along the way that interests you and the guide hasn’t thought of it, stop and ask. As a guest on one of these walking safaris, I have met so many guides who did not become talkative until I, or someone else, asked them a specific question. No false shyness. It is amazing how much you can learn about nature just by asking.

Doing a walking safari in Tanzania is an amazing experience but it needs careful planning. These types of activities are only offered by a limited number of accommodations in certain areas. If you would like to go on a walking safari, please make sure to mention this during the booking process. Get in touch to start planning your trip!

Author: Juan Proll

Traveling has always been Juan Proll's great passion: three years in Latin America, two years in Southeast Asia and Oceania as well as short trips of up to nine months in Europe, Central America, and North Africa. In 2010, he decided to quit his job in Germany as an adult education teacher and head of department for migration issues and to become a ranger in South Africa. Juan has been traveling across Africa since 2011, traveling to southern and eastern Africa and also climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Beforehand, he completed his nature guide training in South Africa and worked in a Big Five game reserve. With further training and intensive self-study to become a cultural guide, Juan has since expanded his field of activity beyond the natural world to include the countries, cultures, and its people. In mid-2013 he joined Africa-Experience and has been guiding travelers through Africa as a safari guide ever since. Juan is a member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa.

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