When you lock eyes with a Lion on an intrepid walking safari in South Luangwa, you'd better not run. Brave words when your body is trembling and the adrenalin kicks in! It is worth paying attention during the safety briefing at the start of your walk - standing your ground has never been so important!
Walking safaris are not for sissies, but many ordinary people have enjoyed these spine-tingling adventures deep in the Zambian bush. South Luangwa National Park is truly wild and really the home of this superb safari activity. This is not a stroll through tame countryside in the hope of spotting the odd Warthog or antelope, but a strictly guided, soft footed walk in the bush with an armed ranger.
You rely completely on the skills of your ranger and tracker to read the signs left behind by passing wildlife - a broken twig here, a spoor there, clues to what is in the area and where. But don't be surprised if an animal suddenly emerges from the bush or you come upon a herd of Elephant deep in the shadows.
Walking safaris are not for folks who just want a formulaic safari - ticking off each member of the Big Five in a 'been there, done that' way. A true walking safari is a challenge for the senses. No-one can predict what you will encounter, but tracking animals through the wild is thrilling to say the least.
As you crouch behind bushes and peer round trees, your senses will be on high alert, everything is amplified. You are out of your element and very small in a vast wilderness. Sneaking up on wildlife is difficult, if you are downwind you will get away with it for a while until the animal shifts and your scent reaches them in milliseconds.
You'll also discover a kaleidoscope of detail in the bush, incredible plants and termite mounds that are like perfectly air-conditioned homes for all seasons, how everything fits together and how absolutely nothing is wasted in nature. With practice you will be able to identify animal tracks and listen for warning bird calls.
You can embark on spectacular walking safaris from a number of camps in South Luangwa. Lodges offer specially guided walks as part of a range of exciting safari activities on a daily basis. In this way you will come to love the seductive pleasure of true luxury in the wilderness - addictive delights such as deep moonlight baths and cocktails a few feet away from Hippos in the river.
The daily walks can be 3 - 4 hours long and usually set off with refreshments which are carried by a porter in the early morning and late afternoon. Some walks could include camping overnight in the bush. You won't see another person or vehicle and you will come to appreciate the serenity of being miles from anywhere which is major highlight of walking safaris - no lurching around on a bumpy game drive either if you don't want to.
Another option is a longer overnight walking safari where you walk between camps and spend time at each one sleeping in comfort and exploring the area, or you could opt for a mobile walking safari (a form of slack-packing) where the unit staff arrive ahead of you to prepare lunch and then set up camp at various stops en-route for the night.
The main season for walking safaris is between June and October. Many camps actually close down during the rainy season from November to March. You can arrange for a private guided walk or join a group of other like-minded souls. The groups are usually small with around 6 guests at a time which makes for a very personalised safari experience.