Organising a walking safari visit to some of South Africa’s remotest reserves has just become easier, thanks to the arrival of specialist walking safari outfit, Tsala Trails. Formed by a trio of Trails Guides, the company is bringing guests to Madikwe in North West, Welgevonden in Limpopo, Babanango in KwaZulu Natal, and Balule Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger.
Tsala fills a gap in the market, offering specialist walks-centric itineraries through partnerships with comfortable lodges in each reserve. The three friends – Koenraad Pretorius, Brian Bode and Christian Rabie – first met while working at Laluka Safari lodge in Welgevonden, and share a love for the slow safari style inherent in walking.
Koenraad says “We know from having worked in the industry that it is not always easy to do walking safaris at lodges. Even when there is a permanent trails guide available – which is rare – walking safaris always seem to be last on the list of priorities, often scheduled between game drives.” Giving guests a high quality trails experience is the goal for Tsala Trails. “We want to combine the raw walking safari experience with the luxury of South African lodges.”
This desire led to the formation of Tsala Trails and Koenraad and his friends now act as private Trails Guides, offering full airport-to-airport itineraries and guiding their guests in each reserve. While the focus is on morning walks, there’s also time allocated to getting up close to wildlife in a game viewing vehicle, especially during the afternoons.
The itineraries span South Africa’s best walk destinations and feature very comfortable lodges. These include Tomo Safari Lodge in Balule, Rhulani Safari Lodge in Madikwe, Inzalo Safari Lodge in Welgevonden and Madwaleni River Lodge in Babanango. The pricing varies by number of guests, there is no minimum group requirement and the maximum is normally six. Pricing is fully inclusive of transfers from the major airports and game reserve fees, and just excludes the usual items like alcohol and tips. Self-drivers are also welcome of course.
It’s good news that some less-visited walking destinations are covered by Tsala. All are “big game” territory with the opportunity for encounters with elephant, rhino and big cats. We’ve written before here about Madikwe and Babanango, two privately-owned reserves that are models for rewilding and deserve support. Welgevonden is in the Waterberg biosphere, sharing similar bushveld and terrain with the adjacent Marakele National Park, a place covered in Walking Safaris of South Africa.
Current Tsala Trails itineraries range from three to eight nights, and more are in the works. For example, guests will soon be able to combine Babanango with Royal Jozini Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal. And Koenraad, who learned his bush skills during a childhood in the Kalahari, is keen to add his home patch to offerings in 2024.
As all of the itineraries are lodge-based, guests don’t need to bring much kit, and a packing list is provided. A small backpack with water bladder is available for loan to guests who need them.
The lodges operate year-round, so walks with Tsala Trails are also year-round, although the usual advice for South Africa’s savannah biome applies – conditions are at their best in the winter months from April to September.
For Tsala Trails pricing and booking see tsalatrails.com.