If there is one activity to put on your bucket list when visiting Thornybush Game Lodge or Saseka Tented Camp, it should be adding our newest activity to your experience: an immersive guided trail.
Whether it’s your first time on safari, or if you’re a seasoned safari traveller, mixing up the usual itinerary with a guided walk through Big Five terrain is a unique way to explore the wilderness around you. Try to swap out one of our world-class game drives, and dive a little deeper into the most complimentary experience of your safari stay.
Want to know what a guided walking safari is like with a professional field guide? Read what one of our latest guests had to say about it:
Unlike other walking safaris I have done in the past, this activity at Thornybush is so naturally positioned into your regular itinerary that you don’t even feel like you’re missing out on your morning game drive.
Waking up at the crack of dawn with the morning chorus as your alarm bell, I put on my walking safari outfit; long semi-waterproof pants, a light-weight t-shirt followed by my Veldskoen (the South African walking shoe of the bush) and a peak I bought from the curio shop. I would normally wear shorts on this occasion, but due to the dew and taller grasses from the rain, I didn’t want any creepy crawlies climbing on me. I hauled my camera, binos and water bottle into a light backpack and headed to the coffee station with my husband to meet our guide, Jack.
After a brief coffee, (and filling our pockets with rusks) we set out on foot from the lodge front door to find signs of the big five.
Just before we crossed over the threshold from the lodge property to Big Five territory we got a walking briefing from Jack. As an armed guide, this briefing is extremely important and all ears and pinky-promises to “DO NOT RUN no matter what” we’re given.
As we stepped into the real wild, our adrenaline hit an all-time high, we were on foot, and those lion calls we heard this morning? Yup, they’re out here too. As our feet started walking I suddenly felt a wave of respect that we were just three little humans in an unnatural territory. This wild belonged to wildlife, and with every step, we were going deeper into their world.
When you’re on foot your senses take on a whole new meaning. Every ‘skwark’ from a Go-Away bird or warning ‘squeak’ from a squirrel could be a sign of a predator lurking. Every track is watched to figure out the freshness and every sound of your voice is lowered to a whisper or a tap on the shoulder to ask a question. The silence is filled with tingling senses that are telling your body to awaken its fight or flight response, but knowing you’re in the hands of a professional slowly starts to relax you and allow you to take in the beauty of the big five wilderness.
What we enjoyed most about our time on this walking safari is the opportunity to get close and personal with the signs of the bush. This particular morning our aim was to track a herd of elephants that has just passed through – Jack taught us the signs of fresh elephant to old elephant, and how to read the tracks and whilst dodging Golden Orb Spiders we got a puerperal lesson in insects too.
He showed us rubbing posts of rhinos and occasionally picked up spoor to ask us what we thought had left it there. We heard leopards mating in the distance and our ellies calling nearby – the sounds of the bush were enough to keep you on alert at all times!
We ended our walk, walking in the Monwana river bed – following fresh tracks of lions and leopards. As the sun began to beat down and the bush started to quieten, our 3 hours on foot came to an end… all back where it started at camp.
Even though we didn’t “see” the big five, what we learnt in those 3-hours on foot was more than I have on any game drive. The perspective of the wild is very different on foot, and given the time to inspect, chat and engage about the scenery around you makes going on that next game drive so much more insightful. I will forever be that person looking down, following tracks from our mornings’ lesson. With a full heart and a whole new outlook on wildlife and their environment, it was with a deep breath, that I was finally ready to let my guard down and enjoy a well-deserved meal.
Words and photographs by Jemma Wild, Safari-Travel Content Creator – @styledbyjemmawild
Want to know more about the Immersive Guided Walking Trail at Thornybush? Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you plan it into your next visit:
3 hours at a slow and steady pace – being reasonably fit is a requirement.
Between 4-8 people – to keep it a more intimate experience on foot.
Winter is a great time for walking safaris as the bush is less dense, allowing you to see more. The days are also generally cooler so you don’t end up walking in the heat, as walking safaris generally happen during the morning game drive. However, each season brings with it its own unique sighting opportunities so it’s really up to you.
The rule of thumb for a walking safari is to match your surroundings. In winter opt for clothing colours in browns, beige or cream. In Summer, khaki, green and blues are good. A good pair of comfortable walking shoes and a broad-brimmed hat are always advised, plus a lightweight backpack to carry some water, especially in the summer months.