Beyond the game drive: exciting alternative safaris

By Ashworth Africa, March 24, 2019

When you think of a safari, you probably imagine being in a game vehicle – but this is just one way to explore the bush. There are many other modes of transport when it comes to safari, ever increasing as travellers become more active and more adventurous. Here are some top alternative safaris.

Walking safari
Walking in South Luangwa, Zambia. Credit: Tena Tena, Robin Pope.

Walking

Not so much an alternative: walking was actually the original safari when the purpose was hunting back in the 1920s. Walking safaris were first commercialised in 1950s in Zambia by Norman Carr and later Robin Pope – both companies still run walking safaris and have camps in Zambia and Malawi.

Zambia is still one of the best places for a walking safari – a multi-day adventure that sees you walking from camp to camp. If that sounds a bit much, you can keep a walk to a couple of hours – most luxury camps and lodges offer bush walks as a morning activity.

Walking safaris are excellent ways in which to see the little things you would miss on a game drive: dung beetles, ants, birds that don’t startle with the engine noise. You can learn about the whole ecosystem, from termite mounds to trees. It’s also possible to track big animals too – don’t worry, these guides are highly experienced and being on ‘eye level’ with animals is a thrilling experience.

Walking safari
Walking safari from Somalisa Acacia, Zimbabwe. Credit: African Bush Camps.

Mokoro

Morokos are traditional dug-out canoes that are used in areas like the Okavango Delta of Botswana to navigate the waterways. Most of the camps in the delta offer a mokoro ride as an activity, which is a peaceful way to spend a morning.

You’ll be punted down the delta’s narrow tributaries, past waterlilies and reeds in which you might spot little frogs or birds. Keep your eyes peeled for elephants on the bank or the odd hippo in the shallows (though most mokoro journeys now avoid known hippo spots). Take advantage of the lack of engine noise and the gentle rocking of the mokoro, lean back – and relax.

Mokoro
Mokoro activities from Kwara Camp, Botswana.

Hot air balloons

Possibly the most romantic way to start the day is by sailing over the savannah in a hot air balloon as the sun rises. The most popular places to do this are Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia.

Depending on your destination, you might spot herds of wildebeest streaming across the plains or glide across smooth dunes as the desert changes colour with the light. Upon landing, you might be treated to a lavish champagne breakfast in the wilderness – the perfect way to come back down to earth.

Hot air balloon
Hot air ballooning over Sossusvlei. Credit: Gavin Lautenbach from Kulala Desert Lodge, Namibia.

Cycling

One of the newest safari activities, mountain biking or fat biking is fast becoming a popular way to experience the bush. Ideal for those who love to keep active, there are multi-day biking trips where fly camps are set up each night, or half-day activities from a camp or lodge.

Some destinations that have introduced cycling include Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya; Mashatu Reserve in Botswana; and various reserves throughout South Africa and Namibia.

Cycling safari
Cycling at Bushmans Kloof, South Africa.

Horse riding

For keen horse riders, there’s nothing like being out in the wild on horseback. There are many places that specialise in horse riding safaris, such as Ol Donyo Lodge or Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and Ant’s Hill or Tswalu in South Africa.

To go out into the bush, you must be a very experienced rider, as you may come across animals such as lions and will need to control the horse. But there are other experiences – such as those at Ol Pejeta – where you can ride as a complete beginner in a large compound without predators, but with rhinos who have become used to the horses and vice versa.

Horse riding
Horse riding in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

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