Written by: Chloe Cooper
We rise with the birds, when the first orange segment of the sun peeps over the horizon, and dew drops shimmer on quivering spider webs. Our feet are the first on the ground, adding rubber-soled imprints to the network of heart-shaped impala tracks, and the careful tread of the leopard.
Our eyes scan the bush for signs of life, while the chirping melody of the morning is sung all around us. The smell of wild sage permeates the air as khaki-clad limbs brush against its leaves, and the fresh scent of elephant dung reminds us that we are in Africa’s wild territory.
A safari on foot is an experience beyond a game drive, where the comforting confines of a vehicle dull your finer-tuned senses and eliminate a host of details too small to see from your seat. To walk in the untamed Kruger National Park is to see your surroundings in a multi-dimensional form, where all your human senses play a part in your safari experience.
A walking safari is about tracking, birding, discovering, admiring, and remembering the bush in its entirety. The Greater Kruger Park is one of the most remarkable wild places on the planet, and visitors flock from all over the world to see the animals that dwell there. The biodiversity is astonishing, with plantlife ranging from sturdy hardwood trees with crocodile-skin bark, to vibrant yellow petals of the wild hibiscus, and tall, dancing guinea grass that glows in the sunlight.
On foot, we find the tell-tale signs of the Kruger’s wild existence; what goes on deep in the African bush where birds build their nests and hyenas hide their cubs. We identify which termite mounds are still alive with busy mite activity, and which ones have been excavated by the mysterious ant-eating aardvark, so rarely seen. Stories of the aboriginal people from the area are told in the ancient pieces of pottery we find half-buried in the clay soil, imagining what it must have been like to live among lions.
The Kruger is one of the last remaining strongholds for the rhino, and on foot, we see them as the prehistoric giants they are. Unnoticed, we track their three-toed footprints, following their paths, past their territorial middens, and into an open clearing where they graze contently. Their iconic horns stand proudly on their faces, and their hyper-alert ears twitch attentively as they feed. Great gusts of breath blow clouds of dust from under their nostrils, and their molars grind noisily on the mouthfuls of grass. We see it all from our hiding place on the ground, and we know we will remember this moment for as long as we live.
A Kruger walking safari is the opportunity to see the world through untainted eyes, and to hear it, smell it, touch it, and taste it as if for the first time. The exhilaration of watching big game on foot is perfectly countered by the sense of calm established when you realise you are with Mother Nature. A world of discovery awaits, and now is the time to dive in.