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Safari-goers resting, overlooking the Momela lakes in Arusha National Park.nzania.
  Walking the bush
A pair of light boots is good for bush walks, to protect and support your feet. Heavier boots are OK, too, if you are used to them. For single light walks, you may use any kind of stout shoes with good soles, or even well fitting sports sandals. Heavy shoes are the best protection from for example acacia thorns, which are strong and sharp enough to penetrate thin soles, fabric and leather.
Protecting head and skin
You should wear some kind of hat while walking, to protect your head from the sun. Use a sun block to protect your skin.
Drinking water
Bring enough water to last for the whole walk. Remember that the inland air is dry, and you may sweat a lot without really noticing.
A pair of binoculars may prove very useful during walks, as the animals are more cautious to people on foot than to vehicles, and make sure to keep a good distance to you.
Keep your daypack light
To enjoy the walk as much as possible, you may want to keep your daypack light. Even if it feels light in the morning, it may feel much heavier after a few hours of walking in the hot climate. If you feel fine with it, you may bring a book on wildlife or birds, some snacks and your camera.
Meeting elephants
The elephant has a good sense of smell, while its hearing and eyesight aren't that good. You may avoid being noticed by staying on the lee-side of the elephant and staying quiet.
Meeting buffalos
Buffalos on their own may be very aggressive. If attacked, you may climb a tree to escape the buffalo, or lie flat on the ground, where the buffalo can't reach you, as it has curved horns and a short neck.
Meeting lions
Lions usually don't hunt humans, but avoid us. If meeting one on foot, don't run. Running may trigger the lion to give chase. Besides, fleeing is quite pointless, as the lion runs twice as fast as you.
If the lion shows some interest in you, and doesn't just move on, you may want to appear as a formidable opponent, too dangerous for the lion to challenge. Move close together with the others in your party, so that you look like one single big shape. Make yourself look big. Become aggressive by shouting, throwing stones etc if the lion doesn't stay away.
Safari glossary
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On safari:
Walking safaris
Doing bush walks is an exciting alternative, or complement, to game drives. On foot in the bush, you will have time enough to notice details in the surrounding landscape, to see spoors from animals, to hear birds and smell the African nature. And when there is a smell of animal around, there is no car window between you and the source of it.

Good walks are done in areas where there are no roads and no safari vehicles, where you can really experience the wilderness. Animals generally avoid humans on foot, though, and you do not get as close to the wildlife as when game driving.

Walking is not allowed in the major parks, such as Masai Mara, Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, but may be done just outside the park borders.

Short walks and day tours
One or two short walks are included in some safari itineraries where the game viewing is otherwise done by game driving. It may be a nice break to get out of the car for half a day, and to have some exercise. Such walks are rarely very hard, but may be hot unless done in the morning or evening. Walks in mountainous areas, such as in the Ngorongoro highlands or around Kilimanjaro or Mount Kenya, usually include walking up- and downhill.

You need to bring some kind of bag to carry water, your camera and binoculars, and (if you are having a picnic lunch during the walk) a lunch pack.

If there are no walks included in the packaged tours available to you, you may turn to a travel companies specialized in Kenya or Tanzania to have a suitable itinerary tailored for you. Many tented camp and lodges arrange different kinds of activities, including walk.

Walking safaris
Safaris by road dominate, but there are also walking safaris, where all or most game viewing is done on foot. You may spend a couple of days or up to a week in the bush, staying in small camps and enjoying the African wilderness at close range. You can't cover the same distances as by car, and will thus not find or see as many animals as when game driving, but you will have an intense wilderness experience.

Footprint from lion in the sand.

Dangerous animals
Few animals in the bush search confrontations, but some may turn dangerous if met, especially if the meeting is handled the wrong way. For safety reasons, all walks in wildlife areas should be escorted. If there are potentially dangerous animals around, the escort should be armed.

If a walk is led by an experienced guide, you may see or meet lions, African buffalos and elephants without anything unpleasant happening. Animals are individuals, though, and are not 100 % predictable.

There may be age limits for bush walks arranged by local tour operators, camps and lodges. On such activities, the ability to act disciplined and follow instructions may be of great importance for safety, and 15 years is often a lower age limit.

Lions avoid humans
Meeting a lion on a walk doesn't mean that the lion gets a free lunch. Lions usually avoid humans. So do most animals, including snakes. You should keep an eye on where you walk, though, as there are snake species that freeze instead of moving away when you approach.

Walks in daytime only
All walks are done in daylight, as night walks are considerably more dangerous. The big predators are much more active at night, and because of the dark, the surrounding terrain can't be overviewed and safety not assessed.

Bush walk in the Lake Ndutu area on the border between Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

Where to walk
You should check up your options for doing bush walks before booking a safari, and make sure the itinerary includes or allows for the walks that you want to do. Walks need to be planned. Time for walking has to be set aside in the itinerary, and you need to visit areas suitable for walks. It is usually pointless to book just any safari and then ask the local tour operator or your driver guide for walks after arriving in Kenya or Tanzania.

No walks in national parks
Good walks can't be done everywhere. They are not allowed at all in most (and the best) national parks and national reserves, such as Masai Mara and Serengeti. (If an itinerary includes walks in such an area, it's done outside the park border, where the park rules don't apply.)

You may only visit these parks to do game drives, i.e. view the wildlife from safari vehicles. There are usually some places in the parks where you can leave the vehicle and stretch your legs, for example observation points or picnic sites.

Walking allowed
There are parks where walking is allowed, though. These are often parks where visitors are fewer (compared to the most popular parks), where there are no roads for vehicles, or where park rules are just less strict, typically in game reserves and private reserves.

A park where good walking may be done is Selous in southern Tanzania. You may also walk in Kenyan Hell's Gate, and in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (except for in the Ngorongoro Crater) in Tanzania. Oliver's Camp has a special permit to do walks inside Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, where walking is otherwise not allowed.

Private reserves
Kenya has private reserves and wildlife conservancies where walks are arranged by the local camps or lodges. Many of these are found on the Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya. Even bush walks at night are offered in some of these reserves.

Walking with the Maasai
Some camps in the Masai Mara region in Kenya arrange bush walks and walking safaris escorted by local Maasai warriors, armed not with guns but with traditional weapons such as spears, knives and clubs. Such walks are done outside the Masai Mara National Reserve, in areas where few or no vehicles are seen. Most kinds of large mammals may be encountered, including lions, leopards, buffalos and elephants.

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Page updated 27 April 2013