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Eschew the 4x4 in favour of a safari on foot to experience South Africa’s nature up close

When you think of going on safari, you probably think of an open-sided 4x4 winding through nature reserves in pursuit of the Big Five, finishing with a roadside sundowner (or two). But take to the trails by foot and you can get even closer to nature. A walking safari is sure to be a highlight of your luxury holiday to South Africa.

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in the continent, and undeniably the most famous in South Africa. Located in the northeast of the country, Kruger showcases the sheer abundance and diversity of African wildlife. All of the Big Five call the reserve home, as well as hundreds of mammal and bird species. For a change of pace from the typical four-wheel game drive, choose a bush walk around Kruger’s grassy plains. Accompany trackers by foot on the trail of wildlife, learning about the flora and fauna of the region as you go. For the intrepid, wilderness trails at Kruger put you in the heart of the untamed veld, giving you an authentic experience camping in the bush and sleeping beneath the stars.

When to go:

The ideal time for a walking safari in Kruger is May and September. This is during the dry season, when thirsty animals gather around waterholes in plain sight. Little rain and milder temperatures make for a more comfortable experience. If you’re a keen bird watcher, however, you may want to book between October and April instead.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Sabi Sands Game Reserve lies adjacent to Kruger National Park and boasts the same diversity of wildlife. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walking safaris here. Follow animal tracks alongside a tracker team for a chance to spot the leopard Sabi Sands is known for. Head out on a bush walk with an armed ranger to get close to the reserve’s game. Learn about the native flora in this region of Mpumalanga during a three-hour nature walk. Once the sun slips behind the hills, you can even glimpse nocturnal wildlife on a night-time safari walk. Sabi Sands features a range of accommodation options, including luxury safari lodges such as Dulini and Savanna.

When to go:

The best time to visit is during the dry season, between May and September. May is particularly good, as it’s low season so less busy, temperatures are mild and there’s little rainfall. Animals gather around waterholes during this time, improving your chance of spotting wildlife on your walking safari.

Marakele National Park

The Marakele National Park is a malaria-free reserve in the midst of the Waterberg Mountains featuring an abundance of trails to wander. Spot game as you wind along the bushveld, over rocky streams and through mountain passes. Birders will be drawn by the 800 pairs of Cape vulture that breed here, as well as the array of other species from bee-eaters and sunbirds to harrier hawks and African eagles. For accommodation geared towards the on-foot explorer, stay at Marataba Trails, a luxury eco-lodge perched on the mountainside. 

When to go:

The summers are hot and humid here, with occasional rain and thunderstorms. Birders willing to brave the muggy weather will be rewarded with sightings of migratory bird species between October and April. Otherwise, the most comfortable time for your walking safari in Marakele is between May and September during the dry season (though pack warm clothing as mornings and evenings can get chilly).



Hermanus is a town in the Western Cape offering coveted access to South Africa’s Marine Big Five: whale, penguin, dolphin, seal and shark. What lives in the bush needn’t be the focus of your walking safari; tour along the shore of Hermanus to spot the southern right whale breeching the sparkling blue waters. The 11km scenic Cliff Path is a particularly good route for land-based whale watching. While here, relax in one of the opulent studio rooms at Birkenhead House for clifftop views of Walker Bay and easy access to the beaches. Alternatively, stay across the bay at Grootbos in Gansbaai, an eco-reserve close to the coast. Take guided walks up fynbos-covered mountains for a panoramic ocean view, or amble through the Milkwood forest to see the flora and fauna of this region. 

When to go:

If you’re keen on spotting the Southern right whale, time your visit to Hermanus and the surrounding area between July and November, during winter and spring. This is when whale come to the coastal waters to breed. Opt for September to attend the Hermanus Whale Festival during your holiday. For a truly atmospheric experience, visit during a full moon to take a moonlit whale watching walk.


Drakensberg is an escarpment that stretches almost 1,000 kilometres between Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. It features spectacular mountain passes and is home to a variety of wildlife. For a change of scenery from the savannah, hike along Drakensberg’s rocky trails, surrounded by dramatic vistas. 40% of non-marine bird species in southern Africa live here, including Cape vulture, lesser kestrel and bald ibis, so bird watchers are in for a treat. Antelope species including eland, klipspringer and reedbuck navigate the mountain slopes, whilst river frog hop around the rocks and streams. At lower altitude, glimpse the white rhino, wildebeest and chacma baboons. Nestled in the Kamberg Valley of Drakensberg, Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse provides an ideal base from which to explore this scenic escarpment. 

When to go:

Winter brings the potential of snow at high altitude in Drakensberg, whilst the summer heat comes with thunderstorms and rain. Spanning the middle of March to April, autumn offers comfortable temperatures with little rainfall – a good time for a hike to experience Drakensberg’s wildlife.