Go on a safari in a 4WD and you have the best of best worlds: a safe, secure vantage point from which to spot wildlife, and the mobility to whizz off as soon as the news comes over the radio of where to go for the best action. Go on walking or horse-riding safaris and the pace is much slower, but you are able to follow tracks off-road, catch the scent of animals, hear birdsong more clearly and get a closer connection to the bush. And if you’re lucky, you may just have that once-in-a-lifetime close encounter with an elephant or a lion. Below are our five favourite slow safari experiences.
Go on a horse-riding safari in Kenya
At Borana Lodge, a working ranch with two thousand cattle at the edge of the Samangua Valley in Kenya’s remote Laikipia region, guests can combine the thrill of horse-riding with game viewing. Choose between rides over grassland among giraffes, hartebeest and impala, or explore the forest at the foot of Mount Kenya. You’ll spend between four and seven hours in the saddle every day, camping out overnight in the bush if you wish. The lodge is luxurious yet was built using only local building materials and dead wood from the ranch. Each of the eight cottages has its own veranda and shares the wonderfully well-sited pool that overlooks a watering hole popular with elephants. This is safari tourism made easy.
The ranch caters for all riding abilities and there are a few smaller bush ponies for children. For more information about Borana Lodge see www.borana.co.ke. For prices and bookings of horse-riding trips based at Borana see www.aardvarksafaris.co.uk.
Trek through the roof of the world, Kenya
Follow an ancient game trail on foot up to the Losiolo escarpment to one of the best viewpoints of the Great Rift Valley, then tackle a 3000m descent to a riverside camp in the beautiful Lerachi gorge. And that’s just day one. Donkeys will carry all the equipment as you follow a guide from one of the Ndorobo tribes – accompanied by ten Samburu warriors – among the isolated mountain ranges of Samburu that are home to leopards, hyenas and mountain reedbucks. Choose between a five-day trip or a more strenuous eight-day trek into the Rift Valley, including three days in the private wildlife reserve of Mugie. En route you’ll explore several flat-topped peaks with views of the arid plains below, swim in natural pools and visit traditional Samburu villages in this ancient, volcanic land.
For further details, info about the Samburu region, prices and reservations see www.samburutrails.com.
Walk on the wild side, Tanzania
Watching the annual mass migration of wildebeest and zebra as they move from the Serengeti back to the Maasai Mara is impressive enough on any game drive, but on a walking safari you feel even closer to the action. On this unique trip, walking no more than 15km per day, Maasai guides will lead you to safe vantage points on rocky mounds where you’ll feel the ground tremble as thousands of animals roam across the plains. Each night, you’ll camp out next to waterholes or small tributaries in lightweight fly camps, and you’ll eat dinner around a camp fire wondering if there are as many wildebeest in the Serengeti as there are stars in the African night.
Trips depart January to March. For itineraries, prices and bookings see www.wildernessjourneys.com.
Walk with camels in Kenya
Don’t want to carry your bags on a walking safari? Then let the camels do it. On a tour with Karisia Walking Safaris you’ll follow game tracks with Maasai warriors across the Laikipia Plateau in northern Kenya. Walking itineraries vary from a few days to a seven-night hike along the Ewaso River. En route you’ll camp at various spots along the river, pass a nesting site for a pair of Verreaux eagles, and see elephants and hippos at the water’s edge. The trip ends at Ol Malo, a luxury lodge on the edge of the Laikipia Plateau where you can swim in a pool and enjoy wonderful views of Mount Kenya.
For prices, itineraries and reservations see www.karisia.com.
Set out on foot in the Serengeti, Tanzania
It’s back to basics on this walking safari in the Serengeti National Park. Walking in the mornings only and in small groups of two to eight people, the three-day to five-day treks begin in the Longossa Hills and then follow ancient riverbeds to the Orangi River, where you’re likely to see elephants, buffalo and hyenas. You’ll camp in the bush in canvas-dome tents, before returning on the final day to Serengeti Wilderness Camp, where there are several permanent water sources that attract lots of game. This seasonal camp has eight tents and a large dining area, but no permanent structures (lighting is solar and there are compost toilets) so that it can be transported easily to follow wildlife.
The operators are one of only a few granted a permit to lead treks in the Serengeti. The walking and camp teams have radios, mobile phones and a GPS, and you are accompanied throughout by an armed Tanzania National Parks guide. For dates, prices and reservations see www.rainbowtours.co.uk.