Safari is the Swahili word for travel. In our case, quite rarely a walking trip. A motorized means of locomotion is indeed most often used; we speak of “game-drive” if it is a car (or equivalent). However, walking safari exists; sometimes it is the only one possible.
The walking safari, well, I’d say you have to have done at least one… A guaranteed atmosphere, with in Tanzania the rigorously armed ranger, the warmth and sweat, the satisfaction of enjoying the sounds of the bush. But don’t expect to get too close to the stakes and piafous that will run away from all legs or wing pull, as the case may be… An experience that it would still be a shame to skip.
First, we have the good conscience to sweat a little (or a lot), to be active instead of being dragged and brinqueballied passively. Then do a hint of a little apprehension. Certainly, one is escorted by an armed ranger, or even by a ranger and an askari (guard) armed with a rifle or a spear if it is a Masai. But if we take so many precautions, it’s because there’s a risk, right? Well, no, no, no. The escort knows his little piece of territory well and also knows the mzungu (whites) and their foolishness (in the sense of weakness, huh? Well, especially…) and will therefore take all the necessary precautions, opening the way, making enough noise to keep snakes and other more or less dangerous pickets away. The walking safari will allow you to spend some time on an infinite number of small things that you will necessarily neglect from the top of a 4×4: footprints, tracks, meal or digestion reliefs, shells and feathers, insects. So we won’t see anything? But yes, and with a strong sense of having earned it. You can see monkeys in trees, colobus or even chimpanzees if you are lucky enough to be in Mahale or Gombe. There are birds, always. A guib that crosses the path like a deer made in our large forests. Walking safaris can be done in the bush, the savannah, but it is almost mandatory by the water points, lakes, and the sea and totally mandatory in the forest, where there is no track for cars. Kitulo, Gombe, Mahale and Udzungwa national parks are thus prohibited for motor vehicles.
The bush plane is mainly used for connections between cities and parks. Helicopter safaris are not common in Tanzania, unlike Botswana and Zimbabwe where flying over the Okavango Delta or Victoria Falls is a must.
This is the usual safari, with its advantages and disadvantages. Different types of vehicles can be used in safari, minibuses, city cars, 4x4s, trucks, pick-ups… And don’t forget the boats! The search for wildlife is done at a slow pace, less than 20 km/h, “game-drive” speed. And the connections between parks and reserves are theoretically made at a maximum speed of 80 km/h, the engines of the agencies’ 4x4s are also restricted so as not to exceed this speed. Despite this, there were so many tremors! The suspensions are tougher than what we are used to and the roads are much worse than ours. And I’m not talking about the tracks…. In addition, on the track, the tires are well inflated to avoid puncturing on the rocks. So be sure to wear a good orthopaedic belt if you have weak backs. And for ladies, a sports bra or bra may be useful.
Some of the advantages of motorized transport are nevertheless obvious; walking valiantly under a sun that is also valiant is not a sinecure, especially loaded with photographic equipment. I still have an emotional memory of the only 3 km or a little more made pedibus cum jambis with case and 600 mm, tripod, in the middle of the afternoon under a blazing sun at Crescent Island (Naivasha, Kenya). In addition, animals have a much shorter escape distance for a car than for a pedestrian. Cheetahs hunt between 4x4s, occasionally use the hood as an observation post. And even more so if affinities…