‘Safaris are strenuous’ – myths busted
Safaris come in many guises and there is something wonderful in Africa for everyone, however active or peaceful you wish to be. If you plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro it’s useful to have a reasonable level of fitness, likewise if you are planning an eight-day riding safari you need to be fit enough to enjoy it but on neither account do you need to be able tackle the London Marathon or Grand National! We’ve de-bunked some common myths about safaris being arduous:
Myth: Walking safaris are hard work
Fact: Walking safaris range from a gentle hour or so to up to around ten days and are not arduous. Most of the walking safaris we plan tend to be between two and five days and are all taken at a leisurely pace. Join a walking safari with Karisia in northern Kenya and you can hop on a camel if your legs get tired (they’re really for carrying the luggage but are quite happy to accommodate a passenger).
In Zambia, generally accepted as the home of the walking safari, you can walk between remote bush camps, taking your time to experience the little things so often missed from a vehicle. The pace is leisurely and the terrain mostly flat.
There are some fabulous multi-day walks around the Ngorongoro Crater which cover areas few visitors ever get to see. It’s a little hillier and you will cover a little more ground per day, but nothing that general dog walking wouldn’t prepare you for.
If you have set your sights on conquering Africa’s highest mountain, then you’ll enjoy the experience much more if have done a bit of preparatory work. You will have porters to help carry your kit but walking boots you’ve worn in, and a reasonable fitness level, will certainly help.
Gorilla tracking safaris are among the most exhilarating we organise but aren’t just the preserve of the super fit. Park rangers have a good idea of where the various gorilla families are and will do their best to allocate tracking parties accordingly. Porters will give you a helping hand on the steeper sections and if walking is really difficult, we can arrange a sedan chair type arrangement up into the rainforest.
Myth: You’ll be tired from getting up at dawn every day
Fact: This is your holiday and if you want to have a lie in or plan some days of R&R that’s easy to achieve. In fact, we positively encourage honeymooners or those likely to arrive with jet lag to take it easy at the start of their holiday.
Victoria Falls is a perfect spot to ease gently into a safari with a lovely selection of places to stay and plenty of things to do that don’t involve an early wake up call. Cape Town is another wonderful spot with a choice of spending a few days in the city itself or the nearby winelands. If you fancy starting your holiday on the beach then there are numerous coastal options to be had.
Other alternatives include booking a private safari house where the activities are arranged solely around you and your party, so if you want a couple of easy days that’s easy to sort.
Start your safari like this and we can guarantee that even the night owls will come to appreciate the magic of getting up before dawn!
Myth: You have to keep moving to find the wildlife
Fact: A safari in Africa is not a sprint from one place to another but rather a journey of discovery. Too often travellers try and fit too much in, as a result they not only spend all their time in transit but also miss the essence of Africa. Try and spend at least three nights per camp, use one place as a base to explore the area and give yourself time to connect with your surroundings. Slow down, nothing happens fast in Africa.
We love this quote from Chris Haslam, Sunday Times journalist and award winning travel writer – it just sums up the rewards of staying put:
‘The best game drive I’ve ever had was one of the first: an epic day on the Maasai Mara’s Paradise Plains. We’d met a hunting cheetah – hungry and hollow-bellied – shortly after sunrise. We followed her as she locked onto a herd of Thomson’s gazelles, expecting the hunt to be over in minutes. But she wanted to be certain, and she made us wait. All day. Other vehicles whizzed by but we stayed put. Wildebeest wandered past. A hyena sniffed us. Zebras fought and rollers hunted. I watched an agama lizard for way too long while the Thomson’s grazed and the cheetah bided her sweet time. In the late afternoon a lion wandered through, oblivious of the cheetah. Later still, a young bataleur lost a battle over a dead puff adder with a band of mongoose. At last, just before sunset, the cheetah made her move. And totally stuffed it up. We drove back to camp having learned our lesson. That lesson? Stay put, become part of the landscape, and Africa will come to you.’
Myth: You need to be a fit, expert rider to enjoy a riding safari
Fact: You can ride in the African wilderness whatever your capability. Obviously if you want to take a fast-paced riding safari across the Masai Mara, Okavango Delta or Kruger National Park you need to be experienced and capable at all paces. But there are gentler options if you would prefer just an afternoon or morning exploring from horseback.
Tswalu, on the edge of the Kalahari, is a great example with stunning riding through the red dune scenery. A sunset ride across the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana is another wonderful option, or head to the likes of Borana in Kenya and Ant’s Nest in South Africa where the stables are big enough to accommodate a whole range of horses and ponies to suit beginners and children.
We would be delighted to help plan your perfect safari holiday, perhaps including some of these activities. Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean and can offer expert advice. Do get in touch – chatting to people by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.