Trade the traditional 4×4 game vehicle for a guided bush walk or short walking safari in the remote wilderness of Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and experience a thrilling adventure that you won’t soon forget.
Rambling on foot through one of the most internationally celebrated and beautiful natural areas – and recognized as the Seventh Natural Wonder of the World – is a unique experience you can enjoy whilst on safari. The Maasai Mara holds the largest concentration of land mammals and is, of course, on the route of the annual Great Migration of 2.5 million wildebeest, zebra and antelope species across Kenya and Tanzania.
As you stride out deeper into this incredible region of East African bush, the long grasses brush against against your legs, accompanied only by the myriad bird calls emanating from the trees, the earthy smell of animals nearby, and the knowledgeable bush linguist in front, your professional guide. The safari camps and lodges in and around the Maasai Mara are well-known for having a high standard of professional guiding and often employ people from local Maasai communities.
No guided bush safari is the same as the one before it. Every piece of bush has its own particularities in terrain, and every sunrise presents the opportunity to encounter different fauna and flora as you venture out into the bush on foot. Kenya in general, and the Maasai Mara in particular, offer popular walking safari places that are complete with beautiful landscapes, fantastic biodiversity, rich cultural heritage, and authentic luxury lodgings.
A guided bush walk should definitely be added to your list of activities during your safari in the Maasai Mara. Here are just a few reasons why we suggest taking a walk on the wild side and exploring the bush on foot:
Step into the bush and out of your comfort zone
With each morning, you walk out into the bush not knowing how the day will unfold and it is almost guaranteed that at least once during that journey, your comfort zone will be challenged in some way. Taking the road less travelled is always a thrill, particularly when you and your guide make the road as you wind through the wilderness, between bushes and over streams.
When you leave the height of the vehicle, you are able to get up close to the intricacies of the bush, which might have passed you by when elevated during a game drive. The inter-connectivity of the ecosystem at a micro-level will reveal itself in amazing ways, for instance, in the mutually beneficial relationship that sunbirds have with wildflowers or the architecture of an anthill.
The vast, golden savannah plains of the Maasai Mara host Africa’s iconic Big 5 (buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant and rhino), so you are likely to be accompanied by a ranger who is armed as a precaution. It is also a stronghold of other predators, like the cheetah, who are followed by their scavenging counterparts, such as spotted hyena, a variety of vultures and the marabou stork. Avid birders will be delighted to know that there are over 450 bird species and you can be particularly excited at the prospect of sightings of the Usambiro barbet, bateleur, little and dwarf bitterns, and kori bustard.
Become fluent in the language of the bush
A bush walk will generally start before sunrise as this is when wildlife is most active and visible before the heat of the day kicks in and makes them seek shelter under shady bushes. Before you head out, the guide or tracker leading the walking safari will brief the group on, among other things, how to behave when encountering animals on foot to ensure safety for all involved.
A guided bush walk in a private conservancy or game reserve in the Maasai Mara treats you to a hands-on and incredibly interesting learning experience. With some of the most knowledgeable guides in Africa’s safari industry, you will come back from your walk with greater fluency in the language of the bush. Learn to identify animal tracks and droppings, keep those binoculars ready for impressive birdwatching, and discover more about the habitats and ecology of your surrounds. From a dung beetle hard at work, a herd of elephant quenching their thirst at a lagoon and two African fish eagles calling to each other in the sky above, you will learn about all the facets of the bush first-hand.
The cultural aspect of a walk is a wonderful way to find out how the local community engage with and benefit in sustainable ways from their natural environment. You will get the unique opportunity to learn about basic tracking techniques as well as hear the tales and tips from those that live within the bush and alongside the different creatures that also call it home.
Go on a digital detox, the natural way
Surrounding yourself and connecting with the natural world is undoubtedly good for the soul – it is nature therapy at its very best. Not only will a guided bush walk help work off those scrumptious meals and snacks that are part of the luxury safari experience to be expected in the Maasai Mara, you will shed the stresses and worries that often come with a busy life and the responsibilities back at home. Watching a bird preening itself or a spider building its web of complex design will allow you to step outside yourself and into the slow, gentle pace of nature.
After covering just a few kilometers during your walk, you will get to tuck into a meal before cooling off in the pool or enjoying an outdoor shower and that night, your comfortable bed will bring you a well-deserved, peaceful sleep. This is a special way to become totally immersed in nature and depending on the distance you wish to cover, you generally don’t need a high level of physical endurance to be able to enjoy the walk comfortably.
This type of safari activity embodies the saying that ‘travel is about the journey, not the destination’. The magic of nature is in its smallest detail, peaceful quiet and steady slowness, which you will experience when completely immersed in the wild for a couple of hours.
Calvin Cottar is Director and Owner at Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa.