To most, a safari holiday is a once-in-a-lifetime splurge – the opportunity to lace up your boots and immerse yourself in soul-stirring landscapes, encountering wildlife you've never laid eyes on before.
Although typically underpinned by a guided viewing from the comfort of a vehicle, walking safaris are perfect for those who crave an immersion into the untamed wild. Switching up the confines of an oversized 4x4 for ten toes (and the help of an expert guide) facilitates mindful encounters with some of the world's most fascinating animals. Plus, without an engine's hum, you're far more likely to encounter the dinky, shy critters that would otherwise flee in fear.
We've picked out four captivating walking safaris to try – covering both classic safari terrain in South Africa and Zimbabwe, alongside less thought-of locations like Canada and Nepal. Whether you wish to encounter elephants on the Ngamo Plains, come face-to-face with the Arctic's apex predators on the Hudson Bay or ascend the Himalayas to track down Bengal tigers, these walking safaris offer unbridled views of earth's wonders.
Four bucket list walking safaris to try in 2024
Want your walking safari served up with a hearty side of eco credentials? Lepogo Lodges is one of the most ethically ambitious safari lodges in southern Africa. Just a three-hour drive north of Johannesburg (hey, at least you don’t have to jump in a Cessna), Lepogo Lodges’ Noka Camp is set on 55,000 hectares of the Lapalala reserve and offers guided walking safaris tailored to each guest’s desires. So, if you want to mosey about on an educational stroll you’ll be looked after, but if you want to push yourself a little and blow off steam, energetic hikes are also very much encouraged. The not-for-profit camp is 100% energy self-sufficient with its own solar walkway, and carbon from each guest’s journey (from the moment you leave your home) will be entirely offset. Guests are also invited to choose from one of three conservation projects to support: a community stove outreach programme; a biodiversity enhancement project; and the Stand For Trees reforestation initiative. As they say, it takes all walks.
From £685 per person; lepogolodges.com
In most people’s minds, walking safaris are synonymous with the African plains. But if you want to get up close and personal with a remarkable landscape, set your coordinates for the rarefied air of Nepal, where luxury safari outfitters andBeyond take guests for a walk on the wild side through high-altitude rainforest. Chitwan, where the camp is located, means ‘the heart of the jungle’ and that’s exactly where these guided tours will deliver you, with the opportunity to spot rare beasts like the royal Bengal tiger, one-horned rhinos, sloth bears, gaur bison, gharial crocodile and even river dolphins. Professional guides will escort travellers along the way, explaining the complex ecosystems through which the pathways wind, as well as introducing guests to the indigenous local people, the Tharus. Welcome to the jungle.
From £3,100 per person; andbeyond.com
Wilderness Linkwasha Camp
Remember to look out of the window when flying over Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Not only will you spot plenty of big mammals, you’ll also get a bird’s eye view of the pathways that they take from waterhole to waterhole, which resemble the synapses of a nervous system. Wilderness’s Linkwasha Camp safari lodge is one of the best places in the park to experience the interconnectivity of nature and wander those same game trails. Ditching the game viewer vehicle and striking out on foot will open up a whole new world of exploration, offering you the opportunity to clock smaller animals such as mongoose and monkeys as well as larger ones like eland, waterbuck, nyala and kudu. Pitching up in the heart of Ngamo Plains, Linkwasha camp offers nine expansive tent suites in which you will be lulled to sleep by the sounds of baboons, zebras, lions and leopards. A sparkling swimming pool and terraced deck sweeps down toward the watering hole, which is brimming year-round, meaning that no matter which season you decide to vist, expect a life-changing encounter to be downloaded into the old memory bank.
From £460 per person; wildernessdestinations.com
Walking with Polar Bears
Who said safaris have to be hot? For this one, we’re heading straight to the heart of polar bear country (also known as Churchill, Canada) for a six-day walking safari between July and August. Under the guidance of some of Canada’s finest naturalists, you’ll hit the trails to scout out predators including polar bears and grizzlies, while catching a glimpse of arctic foxes, moose and wolves along the way. When not walking, guests can kayak Arctic waters alongside beluga, snap pics of wildlife on photography excursions, and tuck into some of the most remote picnics imaginable. The Seal River Lodge will be your home throughout the expedition, accessible only by air and strategically located on the shores of the Hudson Bay. With a fenced-off viewing area at the rear of the property, a week at the Seal River Lodge promises the chance of up-close encounters with powerhouse animals, not to mention panoramic views of the tundra, sea and Northern Lights. Pretty cool - right?
From £10,205 per person; steppestravel.com