I was a little concerned when I got the initial trip information, mentioning a 3-day backpacking walking safari in the Serengeti. I replied to the email asking if this was correct and to explain that although Wild Frontiers clients are adventurous, they are definitely not ‘backpackers’. But I was reassured this was a far cry from the kind of thing you might do on a student gap year and I needed to bring nothing except for a spirit of adventure.
So it was I found myself bumping in our jeep heading off road to the start our walking expedition. With no vehicles allowed within this designated walking zone, this is not for the fainted hearted. We needed to be self-sufficient and carry much of our own kit; a rucksack, a lightweight mosquito net dome tent, a snug sleeping bag, an inflatable floor mat and a camping chair which was given to us on arrival. Thankfully notions of boil in the bag food were quashed as we were accompanied by camp staff who prepared meals for us, and the trip was led by a specialist armed walking guide and a National Park armed ranger - it was clear we were in very safe hands as our guides had well over 20 years of experience between them.
Setting off at sunrise, mornings were spent trail following the confluence of the river on foot. By midday we would set up camp in a shaded spot and siesta was spent snoozing in the shade, taking a dip in the river or on one afternoon, watching a herd of elephants taking a mud bath in the distance. Putting up the tent was quite a challenge on day one but by the end we had it down to five minutes flat. Later there was an afternoon walk from camp, a great chance to stretch your legs and learn more about the smaller things, before we returned to a tasty dinner around the camp fire, star gazing and to bed under the African skies.
Throughout this all we were surrounded by wildlife; there was barely a time on our walk there was not something to see. There were impala, wildebeest and zebra in sight much of the time and we also skirted around old boy buffalo and herds of elephants. We saw prowling hyena, got within 2 metres of baby warthog and even came across a pride of lions who were relaxing on the dry river bed. The cherry on top was seeing two black rhinos from a distance. We followed from a distance before they caught our scent and we hastily retreated into the woodland. It really was a truly special experience and I feel terribly sad that generations to come may not see these extraordinary animals in the wild.
Our walking expedition was three days, however we can organise similar trips for up to a week. Whilst this is not for the faint hearted, neither do you need to be super fit as long as you are game for an adventure and prepared to get fully involved. Shorter one night walks can also be arranged for those who don’t wish to carry a rucksack and are looking for a slightly higher level of comfort.
I urge everyone to spend some time outside of a vehicle during their trip. There is a remarkable freedom which can be found in a walking safari and it doesn’t get more special than to do this on the plains of the Serengeti. We navigated the landscape as participants as though a herd ourselves while encountering other animals on their terms. We experienced the laws of nature first hand: we felt our predatory pulse while stalking an ungulate herd at close range. All of this without any evidence of civilization or other humans. A timeless experience and unforgettable highlight of my extraordinary trip to Tanzania.