Animals and birds can hear even the quietest of 4x4 vehicles approaching. They sound different, they smell different. So if you want to really get close to wildlife in Africa’s national parks, to refrain from disturbing it at all, you have to travel another way. Walking safaris are one of our favourite options - you see everything in incredible details, and it is completely environmentally friendly - but you might struggle to cover distances of any length in the heat.
The Masai Mara takes its name from the Maasai tribe, whose tall, elegant physique and traditional bright red attire has captured the heart and attention of photographers from National Geographic to the BBC. Their ancestral savannah lands straddle the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. It’s an incredibly rich ecosystem of rain-fed grasslands, rivers, and trees, where millions of animals come to graze.
Namibia’s is a landscape made for walking. Yes, there are great expanses of desert, but even that is never empty, never dull. The world’s highest sand dunes give way to salt pans, and then to dry mountain vistas. Along the western shore, the blue of the Atlantic Ocean meet the fine golden coloured sand of the Skeleton Coast. On foot you are able to appreciate even the subtlest changes in nature’s colour scheme, in the undulation of the terrain, and to feel the breezes on your face. It’s also one of the best ways to appreciate the plants and wildlife; without the noise of an engine, you can often get remarkably close.
The Kalahari Desert covers most of Botswana. Seen from the air, this vast area of semi-arid savanna seems majestic in its emptiness, but once on the ground you realise your eyes have been playing tricks on you. This land is not empty at all. Salt pans give way to river beds, and when the rains do come, the life-giving water soon creates excellent grazing lands. Acacia trees, herbs, and grasses add colour to the landscape and provide sustenance for herbivores, who in turn become dinner for the carnivores.
Asked to identify Kenya, Tanzania, or South Africa on a map, most of us do okay. But if we have to move inland and start correctly naming the smaller states of Southern Africa, the geography becomes rather more challenging. If there’s one place where you ought to put a bucket list pin in the map, however, it should be Zambia.