7 of the best walking safaris in the world

Offset those calorie-laden sundowner sessions while enjoying the opportunity to admire the wildlife without a row of jeeps in the background. Here are a few to put top of your bucket list...

4 mins

One unexpected side effect of lockdown? Many of us might well have realised we quite enjoy steering clear of crowds, making a walking safari the ideal option for your next travel fix.

You can offset those calorie-laden sundowner sessions while enjoying the opportunity to admire the wildlife without a row of jeeps in the background.

Check out the world's best walking safaris for your bucket list...

1. An aboriginal walking safari through Kakadu National Park, Australia

A black-necked stork in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (Shutterstock)

A black-necked stork in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (Shutterstock)

A hike through Australia’s largest national park offers a safari experience a world away from the average African safari. But it’s not just about the wildlife - these one-day walking safaris, led by aboriginal guides, finish with fascinating storytelling sessions.

You could argue that spotting one of the park’s wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) is more exciting than a leopard sighting, and that UNESCO-listed Kakadu’s impossibly cute pig-nosed turtles and northern quolls (tiny, speckled marsupials) are far more photogenic than any of the Big Five.

Best time to go: Dry season, so June, July and August

Learn more about Kakadu NP's walking safari

2. A Maasai-led walking safari through Kenya’s Chyulu Hills

An elephant in the Chyulu Hills, Kenya (Shutterstock)

An elephant in the Chyulu Hills, Kenya (Shutterstock)

It’s a well known fact that a local safari guide is the best kind of safari guide, and for this particular walking safari, you’ll have a Maasai to show you around Campi ya Kanzi’s 283,000-acre reserve.

The camp accommodates just 16 guests, so two-legged creatures are rare. In fact, you’re much more like to spot one of the area’s 63 species of large mammal – the Chyulu Hills are home to lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards, along with hartebeests, wild dogs, gerenuks and oryx. You’ll also learn about the rugged landscape, which is dominated by granite bluffs formed millions of years ago.

Best time to go: June to October

Learn more about Campi ya Kanzi's walking safari

3. Walking safari through Sri Lanka's Hill Country

See spotted deer on a walking safari through Sri Lanka's Hill Country (Shutterstock)

See spotted deer on a walking safari through Sri Lanka's Hill Country (Shutterstock)

The beautiful Ahaspokuna Bush Camp is a fantastic base for Sri Lankan walking safaris. All of the safaris here are done on foot, and there are no jeeps in sight.

The camp’s prime location, in a particularly remote chunk of Sri Lankan Hill Country, increases your chances of spotting one of the locals - whether it’s an anteater, spotted deer, pangolin or elephant. As a bonus, the enormous network of trails nearby, many of which were created naturally by the local wildlife, includes river-skirting routes and dramatic waterfalls, such as the thundering Gan Ella Falls. 

Best time to go: December to March

Learn more about Ahaspokuna Bush Camp

4. Spot tigers in Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India

Tigers in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (Shutterstock)

Tigers in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (Shutterstock)

Exploring Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park on foot isn’t allowed, but you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds by staying at Vanghat, a safari lodge located in an area which acts as a buffer zone between the park and the areas beyond.

Guests at the lodge can sign up for hikes along the trails which fan out from the property, and will be guided by trackers who’ll hep you catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, and provide fascinating insights into each animal. Elephants and big cats are regularly seen, though if you possess a soft spot for more unusual creatures, including sambar deer and Himalayan gorals (a notoriously shy species of antelope), you're in luck.

Best time to go: November to February

Learn more about Vanghat safari lodge

5. Night walking safari through the Kaokoveld Desert, Namibia

A girraffe in Kaokoveld, Namibia (Shutterstock)

A girraffe in Kaokoveld, Namibia (Shutterstock)

Namibia’s Kaokoveld is one of the most underrated spots on the African continent – a remote, wildflower- and wildlife-filled desert largely untouched by tourism. Bar the local Himba tribe, people are few and far between (there’s approximately one person to every two sq km), as are safari jeeps.

The region’s wildlife includes desert-adapted elephants (one of only two populations in Africa), desert lions and black rhinos, along with leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs. The impossibly clear skies make it a magnet for budding astronomers, too, and a nighttime safari tops most visitors’ wish lists. You’ll hike from camp to camp, sleeping on open-air platforms beneath what might just be the starriest sky you’ve ever seen.

Best time to go: April to September

Learn more about Kaokoveld Desert walking safari

6. Camp-to-camp walking safari through Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Linkwasha in Hwange, Zimbabwe (Linkwasha)

Linkwasha in Hwange, Zimbabwe (Linkwasha)

Camp-to-camp walking safaris are the best way to get a feel for a region – the same goes for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, which is home to more animals and a greater variety of species (107, to be precise) than any other park in the country.

The fact that your walking safari (between Davison’s Camp and Linkwasha Camp) takes place in the Linkwasha Concession maximises your chances of spotting the locals. The varied landscape, which includes everything from thick teak forests to palm-dotted plains, is home to an astounding variety of wildlife, whether it’s winged wonders such as the crimson breasted shrike, or the Big Five.

Best time to go: July to October

Learn more about walking safaris in Hwange

7. Spot sloth bears in Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Walking with sloth bears (Satpura NP)

Walking with sloth bears (Satpura NP)

Although sloth bears are the focus of this particular adventure in Satpura National Park (one of the best destinations in India for walking safaris), you’ll see plenty of other species, including wolves, giants squirrels, bison and nilgai (a type of antelope).

The highlight is a hike through the adjacent Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, where residents include approximately 42 tigers, 3,000 wild boar and 1,000 barking deer. But what really makes this India’s top safari destination is the birdlife – explore the reserve on foot and you’ll hear the varied birdsong that a rumbling jeep would drown out. One must-hear tweeter is the Malabar whistling thrush, famous for its warbling, high-pitched call.

Best time to go: October to June

Learn more about Satpura walking safaris

8. Walking safari through Arkaba Conservancy, South Australia

Wilpena Pound (South Australian Tourism Commission)

Wilpena Pound (South Australian Tourism Commission)

Arkaba is 500 million years old. Hike through its fossil-filled landscape and you’ll spot red kangaroos, echidnas, goannas, bearded dragons and shingleback skinks, among others.

One must-visit spot, which practically guarantees a great sighting, is the gum tree-lined Arkaba Creek, where local creatures gather to drink. Here, you’ll also find two weathered headstones, marking the graves of two of Arkaba’s first settlers – a reminder of the area’s rich history.

The one-hour hike to the top of Arkaba Hill is worth doing, too. It offers fantastic views and you will learn about the amazingly resilient wildflowers which somehow take root in the conservancy’s rocky soils.

Best time to go: September, October and November

Learn more about Arkaba Conservancy's walking safari

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