New Walking Safaris in South Africa

It’s wonderful to see new guided walking safari options in South African reserves, as walk operators respond to the demand for more active “experiential” travel. When researching Walking Safaris of South Africa, it was a challenge to keep up with new trails, as every few months saw another launched. Then the pandemic resulted in a big pause, and reserves and operators entered survival mode.

April is when the peak walking season comes to the Lowveld, which is where the great majority of walking safaris operate. Happily, almost all have weathered the crisis and operators are reporting good bookings from domestic visitors.

In today’s Sunday Times (paywall), Hlengiwe has a double page feature that covers new trails in six reserves in every corner of the country. There’s also a mention for the rebuilt Bushmans Wilderness Trail camp in Kruger National Park, which is due to reopen before the end of May 2021.

Walking Safari 2021 Specials for SA Residents

Mashatu Game Reserve

As summer heats and rains abate in April, the peak walking season begins in the Lowveld. It promises to be a good one, as the prolific precipitation has given us brimming pans and dams. While the denser vegetation can make walks in some areas more challenging, guides know where to steer to more open terrain.

Autumn is also a lovely time for walks away from the Lowveld, including in Cape reserves. There, multi-day walks will run until the end of May, but day walks from lodges will continue through the winter months.

Part of the visitor influx to private walk operators is driven by attractive special rates this year for South African residents, with some offering over 50% off previous season prices.

Here’s a round up of some good deals, with the page number from Walking Safaris of South Africa indicated. We will keep this post updated as new offers come to market in 2021.

Walk OperatorPageSA Resident Special Offer
Rhino Ridge6340% off: from R4680 until 30 November 2021, walk included. Min 2 night stay.
Jocks111R4525 including walks
EcoTraining113EcoQuest course at R12,190 until end 2021
Pafuri Walking Safaris115R2440 until 30 September 2021. Min 2 night stay.
Pungwe125R1990 until 30 June 2021
Tanda Tula128R25500 for 6 adults, exclusive use Field Camp
Africa on Foot135R2500 for both Klaserie Camp and Wilderness Trails
Mtomeni137R700 (walks extra)
Legacy Hotels153From R2225 (walks extra)
!Xaus Lodge155R2500
Sanbona160Trails camp will reopen in October
Gondwana162Pioneer trail R8950 for 3 nights (September-May)
Shamwari172Explorer camp R3850 per night. Min 2 night stay.
Hlane177E790 for double cottages & walks included free (usually E120)
Mkhaya178From E1923 (min 6 in group), walks E415 pp
Mashatu180No SADC specials. $365 this season, $395 in 2022
All prices are Per Person Sharing Per Night except where noted.
Some offers are open to SADC area residents – enquire with operator.

Mashatu Yellow Season is here

It’s been a good summer for rainfall in Southern Africa, and farmers are getting ready for a bumper harvest. It’s welcome news too for wildlife and walking safaris, as parched bushveld has been transformed in just a few months.

Nowhere better illustrates this change than the semi-arid lands skirting the Kalahari desert. Mashatu Game Reserve gets an average of just 24 days a year when rain falls, often in the form of thunderstorms. This year it exceeded the average over the summer months, and the result is clear in the video below, with the land carpeted in the yellow flowers of Devil Thorn (Tribulus Terrestris) which the elephants love to munch.

Video courtesy Mashatu Game Reserve

In April, the reserve will reopen and Walk Mashatu will welcome walkers back for the 2021 season. It promises to the best time to visit for many years. Walkers in April can expect day time temperatures in the range 18-30°C, and perhaps occasional showers. From May on, it will be dry with chilly nights and perfect morning walking temperatures.

Walking safaris at Mashatu feature in Walking Safaris of South Africa.

Letters from Pafuri

For the last few years, Hlengiwe Magagula has been resident blogger for RETURNAfrica, a walking safari specialist in the Pafuri Triangle in the far north of Kruger National Park.

More correctly known as the Makuleke Contractual Park, the area is less than 1% of the Kruger’s area but contains an astonishing 75% of the park’s biodiversity, according to SANParks. The rich ecosystem and diverse terrain make it a superb walking destination. The land is owned by the Makuleke community, who share in the tourism revenue as well as benefiting from employment and local sourcing of traditional furnishings.

Each blog examines a particular aspect of this ecological hotspot with the latest focusing on pachyderm skin hydration regimes.

Previous blogs have covered the Pafuri’s critical location at the nexus of an enormous transfrontier conservation area; the special place for trees in the walk experience; a personal “Makuleke 5” and the variety of wildlife to be found without leaving camp, the Makuleke Menagerie.

The diverse walking options in the Pafuri triangle – RETURNAfrica, EcoTraining and African-Born Safaris – all feature in Walking Safaris of South Africa.