A stay in a private concession in the greater Serengeti allows you the opportunity to explore the wilderness on foot. As well as seeing some of the details often missed from a game-drive vehicle, a Serengeti walking safari gives you a chance to appreciate the scale, and experience the freedom of the savannah.
Planning our safari trip taught us a great deal, including the benefits of staying at Tanzanian safari lodges in private concessions. As only a limited number of guests can stay in these exclusive establishments, more activities are possible, including sensitive off-road driving, night drives and walking safaris.
We’d heard that the difference between a game drive and a walking safari is rather like the difference between watching the movie, and reading the book. On foot, you can really appreciate the vast scale of the Serengeti landscape. It was a great privilege to be able to enjoy an activity that so few other people get to do – we felt as though we had the Serengeti to ourselves.
The name ‘Serengeti’ derives from a Maasai word meaning ‘endless plains’ and as we strode across a small portion of them, we felt as though we could see – and walk – forever. The fresh air, gentle breeze and connection with the earth was incredibly invigorating – plus we weren’t sorry to be able to burn off some of the fabulous food we’d been enjoying!
Our guide Jackson joked with us that it’s impossible to tell the front and the back of a Serengeti map apart, as there are so few features. He was exaggerating, of course – standing on one spot, and slowly turning around, we could see that the plains were punctuated by flat-topped acacia trees. Our eyes were also drawn to a nearby kopje – one of the distinctive small rocky outcrops that appear like islands in this sea of grass.
We’d read that these are the preferred haunts of leopards, and Jackson told us that many other species find shelter (and water) in their caves and crevices. We resolved to walk towards the kopje and climb it to enjoy the view – as long as the leopard wasn’t at home, of course!
Glancing down, we tried to interpret the jumbled maze of tracks in the earth. This was what Jackson called his ‘morning newspaper’, but it seemed that the previous night had been a quiet one, and there were no dramatic headlines.
Strolling towards the kopje on our Serengeti walking safari, our spotter Colin demonstrated his amazing vision once more, by pointing out the tiny dot of a vulture high up in the sky. They soar on thermals to conserve energy, using their own superb eyesight to look for possible meals before wheeling down to contest the remains of kills with hyena and jackal.
Jackson led the way up the kopje. It was a relatively easy climb – we only had to scramble in a few places. The view from the summit was astonishing – rolling plains stretching away in every direction. We spotted a herd of elephant pushing through the grass, and further away, a thin skein of smoke rising from a Maasai manyata.
Although the morning was still relatively cool, we sat down under a gnarled fig tree to enjoy the coffee and chocolate-chip cookies (baked fresh that morning in the lodge’s kitchen) that Colin miraculously produced from his backpack. It was one of those perfect safari moments that Africa seems to deliver so effortlessly, and that we knew would last long in our memories.