7 Must-Do's for the Active Explorer on Safari

Don’t get us wrong, game drives are a hallmark of the safari experience, but there's more to safari than only viewing wildlife from the vehicle. When you're some place at jaw-dropping beautiful as the wilds of Africa, getting out to stretch your legs can be the best way to connect and explore in nature. Depending on your adventure level, we've put together seven of our favorite activities that let you experience Africa's captivating landscapes and wildlife from new perspectives.

The Classics

1. Walking Safaris

Walking safaris are a great alternative for seasoned safari-goers and/or clients who can’t sit still. Depending on your interests and fitness level, we work with you to identify the best camps and regions for a safari on foot. From a few hours to a few days, there are various options for exploring the bush on a walking safari. Activities like fly camping or mobile safaris offer a short overnight or two. A full walking safari circuit offers a more comprehensive experience that allows you to truly slow down and appreciate the micro environment – the sights, sounds and smells of the bush. A walking safari in the Serengeti offers a fresh perspective of this renowned area. Be sure to take a moment at the top of one of the many kopjes to reflect as the sun sets over the plains on another day in the bush. Another great option is Zambia, with overnights at intimate tented camps for the real safari experience. The camps are located on the river for additional activities and opportunities to explore the various ecosystems. This is your chance to relax and reconnect with the natural world and its incredible wildlife.

Walking with Maasai at Tortilis Camp.

2. Boating and Mokoro

Combine a water-based camp with more traditional safari camps for the complete wildlife experience. In the morning, motorboat through the depths of the Okavango Delta in Botswana to discover new wildlife – hippos, crocodiles, the sitatunga or marshbuck, etc. Take a break in the afternoon to fish. Then, slow things down in the late afternoon/early evening in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe. Propelled through the shallows, you sneak up on swamp-dwelling creatures, and the occasional elephant quenching its thirst. It is a totally different experience than game drives in a vehicle. In some ways, you feel closer and more in tune with the surroundings. It’s also preferable for birders as the mokoro is a quiet way to come upon birdlife. The Heronry at Kanana in Botswana is one of the best experiences for birders and non-birders, alike – what a sight to behold! Like the mokoro in Botswana, canoe through the deeper channels of the Zambezi River in Zambia, where you encounter crocodiles, hippos and elephants, to name but a few. It’s a thrilling way to experience wildlife from a fresh perspective.

Mokoro outing at Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge.

Something Fresh

3. Snorkel and Scuba Dive

For an even more active exploration of Africa’s waters, snorkel and scuba dive to uncover life below the surface. Extensions to Lake Malawi at Kaya Mawa or further afield, like Mozambique, Seychelles or Zanzibar offer pristine waters to explore before or after a more traditional safari. These areas, rich in marine life, are active and exciting options for both beginners and expert divers to enjoy. Navigate coral reefs as colorful fish swim all around you. For really adventurous travelers or clients short on time, shark cage diving or freediving, respectively, in Cape Town offer exciting alternatives to a more complicated island extension.

Diving Rocktail Beach Camp, South Africa

4. Quad Bike

Get out of the safari vehicle and into another... Quad bikes or ATVs are a faster means of exploring an area. Quad bikes are great in areas with dunes and open spaces, like Sossusvlei in Namibia, with the most spectacular landmarks like its red dunes, white salt pan and Deadvlei; or Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, one of the largest salt flats in the world. It’s a fast paced and high energy activity so you’re not seeing tons of wildlife unless you really slow down. But it’s a super fun and makes you feel like a kid again as you explore fascinating landscapes. The Sahara Desert in Morocco is an especially gorgeous region to explore on quad bikes.

Quad biking at the salt pans near Camp Kalahari.

5. Mountain Bike

Trade in four wheels for two: mountain bike excursions in Africa are an active and fun transport. For short rides, travel from village to village in Victoria Falls; or for a longer excursion, bike through National Parks like Safari Specialist Pearl Jurist-Schoen in Lake Manyara. South Africa’s scenic Garden Route is another option for beginners, traveling from the forests of Knysna through small towns and beaches. For serious bikers, the popular annual Cape Town Cycle Tour Race, with over 35,000 participants, takes place along the Garden Route as well.

Bicycling with wildlife at Ol Donyo Lodge.

Next Level

6. Horseback Ride

Return to the classic African safaris, with a horseback ride across the savannah. Half-day or full day rides provide beginners to expert riders unique opportunities to encounter Africa’s wildlife. More recently, permanent stables opened in the world-famous Masai Mara, with access to unparalleled wildlife and the Great Migration. For more experienced riders, a multi-night horseback journey, with some truly wonderful guides, is on offer. Harken back to the earliest safari-goers and scan the horizon in search of elephant and wildebeest. It’s a real ‘trip’! On horseback, you call the shots, where your trusty steed leads you. You don’t need to be ‘fit’ but don’t underestimate the wear on the body, especially if you’re new to the saddle and opting for extended overnight excursions.

Exploring from Lewa Wilderness.

7. Mountain Trek

From Kilimanjaro and Volcanoes National Park in the east, to Odzala-Kokoua in the west, to the Drakensberg in the south, Africa is home to tremendous mountains. Serious hikers spend days trekking uphill for the breathtaking views and unforgettable natural encounters along the way. Not to mention the undeniable sense of accomplishment! The experience is almost spiritual. Trek through the jungles of the DRC, Congo or Rwanda to come face-to-face with families of gorillas. It’s a life changing experience! Later, summit the Nyiragongo Volcano in the DRC and make camp under the Africa’s night sky – it’s stargazing heaven.

Taking on Kilimanjaro's Barranco Valley.

Plan Your Visit

Call or email us to start planning a safari that gets you out of the car and in tune with Africa's wilderness!

RELATED: Best Properties for a Horseback Safari

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Jamie Mehrotra