Guided and self-drive tours of the Kruger National Park certainly have their charms. But if you’re looking for a more immersive experience that will change you in some way, or show you details that are impossible to see from a vehicle, then you should think about exploring the iconic national park and the private game reserves around it on foot.
To lead trails in South Africa, guides have to complete a series of rigorous assessments and renew their advanced rifle-handling certificate every two years.
If you’re planning on visiting the Greater Kruger National Park (the Kruger National Park and associated private reserves) on safari, chances are that you are looking for a way to connect and interact with nature. Kruger walking safaris are a fantastic way to do this.
On organised trails that generally last between three and four days, you’ll be accompanied by highly experienced armed rangers who are trained to keep you safe and interpret the environment that you walk through.
No two trail experiences will be same as the guides lead you through different parts of the Greater Kruger National Park. And chances are, once you’re done, you won’t be the same either – it is, after all, an incredible experience.
There are a range of trails on offer.
Run over three nights and four days, the rustic Mphongolo Trail in Kruger National Park’s largest wilderness area (no tourist roads currently run through this area of the park) is a ‘bare essentials’ experience. You will carry everything that you need with you on your back, and when you’re done walking, you will have left no trace on this pristine patch of wilderness.
You can also do the Lonely Bull Trail, a similar experience that takes you along the Letaba River; or the Olifants Backpack Trail, which is perhaps the most physically demanding of the three backpack trails on offer. Similar experiences are offered through private operators like Sefapane River Lodge, which runs its own trails along the Olifants River.
If this sounds a little too basic, you can up your comfort levels by opting for a less rustic experience. The Kruger National Park’s seven wilderness trails are catered and offer guests a simple, but comfortable, base camp from which to explore parts of the national park that few people get to see.
Private operators like Transfrontiers Wildlife Walking Safaris offer a similar experience in a private nature reserve in the Hoedspruit area, while Wilderness Safaris runs the Pafuri Walking Trail, which takes place in the north of Kruger in the private Makuleke concession.
There are also luxury options. Tanda Tula’s new ‘field camp’ is the five-star version of an immersive bush experience, while the Rhino Walking Safaris Plains Camp is a wonderful base from which to explore on foot. In both instances, you’ll be fuelled by delicious meals and rewarded with comfortable nights spent in luxury tents, offering all the comforts of home.