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I’ll tell you all about it but, be warned, you might want to head out straight away 🙂

We are December 2017, a friend is telling me she is going on this 4-day backpacking trail in Kruger National Park (South Africa). I’m listening very carefully because I doubt what I just heard. Can you actually go on a Backpack trail in big five country?

Fast forward to 25 July 2018… I’m sitting in the back of a game vehicle, realizing that I just completed my first backpack trail in Kruger National Park, already thinking on when the next one is going to be!

That's the face I make when I did my first walking safari, Backpack trail, in Kruger.

How did I get there?

A month after I was fascinated about finding out that such thing as backpacking trails in Kruger even exist, that same friend calls me to let me know a spot came available and if I’m keen about joining! For sure, where do I pay?!

I only found out after paying the deposit that I had to carry everything myself. And with everything I mean everything! Food for four days, tent, sleeping bag, clothes,… the whole shebang. What had I gotten myself into? We had to be self-sufficient for the whole trip and water would be sourced from the river in the evenings.

I made an equipment list, compiled a food plan and started training. I had plenty of time to prepare and I started looking forward to this unique trip!

Walking Safari in Kruger, Olifants Backpack Trail Group picture

When I told friends and family about my plans, the questions started rolling in. Hence this series of going on Walking trails in Greater Kruger National Park. But first things first, I’ll give you a bit more insight in what, more affordable, options you have to go on your ultimate, once in a lifetime, Kruger Walking Trail experience!

What options do you have?

There are actually a few options you can choose from. Walking Trails range from being completely self-sufficient (like the backpack trail) and sleeping under the stars to trails were the accommodation is slightly (read LOTS) more luxurious. I kept my focus on the basic trails since that’s where my experience lies. Here we go:

Wilderness trails
Organized by South African National PARKS

You want to consider this option if:

  • You don’t want to carry a heavy pack
  • Sleeping in a tent is NOT your idea of going on a holiday
  • You cooking on a camping stove is guaranteed to cause a bush fire

What can you expect?
The Wilderness trails, organized by SANPARKS, are 4-day, 3-night walking trails. You stay at one camp and go on two daily walks starting from the bush camp. In a group of no more than 8 people, led by two experienced (and armed) trail guides you explore the wilderness on foot. Since you are staying at the same place for the duration of the trail you don’t need to worry about carrying everything with. Just a small daypack is sufficient.

There are 7 different trails where you can choose from, plenty to discover. Each trail is located in a totally different area each one has got his unique character.

How will your day look like?
The first day you’ll be pick-up at the rest camp that is the closet from the bush camp. Once you arrive in the bush camp you’ll have the opportunity to settle in and relax. While the first meal is being prepared, the only thing you need to do is listen to the sounds of nature.

At the crack of dawn, you’ll awake to the smell of coffee and commence your first walk. When you return to the camp a well-deserved brunch will be waiting for you.

Walking Safari in Kruger National Park

After your siesta a short walk in the afternoon is followed by traditional “sundowners” and a well-cooked meal.

Day three is similar to day two you’ll only be more focused because now you know what to look for, how to listen and therefore enjoy it much more!

On the day of departure, you’ll go back to the pick-up point after breakfast. Only leaving footprints and going home with some awesome memories!

Where do you sleep?
The accommodation is rustic and either consists of huts or big canvas tents and consists of four units that sleeps two each. The camp has no electricity or generators, so you want to bring extra batteries and a flashlight. There are however showers and flushing toilets 😉

How do you book?
These wilderness trails are organized by SANPARKS. For booking and more information I would like to redirect you to their site.

The Tented Camp Trail Experience
Organized by Lowveld Trails

You want to consider this option if:

  • You don’t want to carry a heavy pack
  • Sleeping in a tent is fine as long as it’s a comfortable one
  • Experiencing the bush feeling is ok but not to the extreme
  • You can appreciate the personal touch and the incredible knowledge the trail guides have!
  • You want to book with a group (max. 8 persons)

What can you expect?
The Tented Camp Trail Experience, organized by Lowveld Trails, are 4-day, 3-night walking trails. You stay at the camp that is operated out of the central Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which is open to the Kruger National Park. You can opt for a self-catered version if you would like to do the cooking yourself.

How will your day look like?
A typical day starts with a wake-up call prior to sunrise. As the birds announce the approaching day, you can enjoy coffee and rusks before heading out on a 4 to 5 hour walk. Around midday you return to camp for a well-earned brunch. In the afternoon you have time to spend some free time. A good opportunity to read or take a nap. A late (light) lunch is served at around 3pm, before you head off into the wildness again for a 2 to 3 hour walk. Dinner and a crackling campfire awaits back at camp, usually followed by an open-air shower and an early night after an eventful day.

Where do you sleep?
The accommodation consists of tents (read tents where there is a decent bed and you can stand in). There is no electricity, mobile phone signal or WiFi, but they trusted me that you’ll find a strong(er) connection.

Tented Camp on the Lowveld Walking Safari Trails in Timbavati.
Tented Camp – Lowveld Trails

How do you book?
These wilderness trails are organized by Lowveld Trails. For booking and more information I would like to redirect you to their site.

Backpack Trails
Organized by Sanparks

You want to consider this option if:

  • You want to get your boots dirty
  • Sleeping in a tent is really your cup of tea
  • Carrying your own backpack for four days and being self-sufficient is not a problem at all
  • You are reasonable fit or you are by the time you are doing the trail

What can you expect?
The Backpack trails, organized by SANPARKS, are 4-day, 3-night backpacking trails. As the title already implies, you carry your backpack and walk from one point to another. There is no prescribed route and the trail leader decides when & where to camp. The group of no more than 8 people is led by two experienced (and armed) trails guides.

Sanparks organizes 3 different trails. Each trail is located in a totally different area, all with their unique character. But even doing the same trail twice, it still will be a totally different experience!

Discoveries on your walking Safari in Kruger National Park.

How will your day look like?
The first day you’ll be picked-up at the rest camp and taken out to the drop-off point. After a proper safety briefing, you’ll start walking.

The trails ranger will be able to plan a circular or direct route to the pre- arranged collection point and will also be able to decide whether to spend more than one night at a particular camp site or not.

During lunchtime, usually when it gets too hot to walk, a siesta is incorporated.

In the late afternoon, the trail guides will start looking for an appropriate camp spot. You’ll have to put up your own tent and cook your own food and water will be collected from natural pools/ pans, seeps, boreholes, etc.

Digging for water on the Olifants Walking Safari Trail.

Fires are made at night, but these are not to be used for cooking purposes and are only for social, aesthetic and safety reasons.

On the second morning you’ll be awoken by the sounds of the birds and the sunlight seeping through your tent. Time to pack up and hit the trails again.

On the day of departure, the walk will be short to the pick-up point where hopefully a cold drink is awaiting you!

Where do you sleep?
You’ll be sleeping in your own tent during the 3-nights. It’s best to pack a good sleeping bag and mattress. There is a strict “take-in – take-out’ policy and leave no trace ethic needs to be followed rigorously.

Walking Safari in Kruger, sleeping in your own tent.

There are no toilets along the way so “Ogre” will be your next best friend for the duration of the trail! Your first toilet stop could be a little bit “different” but you’ll soon get the hang of it. When you feel nature calling (no, I’m not talking about the birds), locate Ogre from your fellow hikers who will take it in turns to carry him. The guide will help you secure a suitably safe place out of sight from the rest of the group and sufficiently distant from any water sources to prevent contamination.

In the evening, you’ll be able to freshen up in the river. When there is no water in the river, don’t worry, everybody will be equally smelly 😉

How do you book?
These Backpack trails are organized by SANPARKS. For booking and more information I would like to advise you to e-mail them specialisedreservations@sanparks.org or tel: +27 (0)12 426 5111.

The Primitive Trail Experience
Organized by Lowveld Trails

You want to consider this option if:

  • You really want to experience what being emerged in the wilderness means
  • The idea of sleeping under the stars each night (no tents) gets you really excited
  • You are ready to feel the positive impact of this once-in-a lifetime experience

What can you expect?
This Primitive Trail Experience, organized by Lowveld Trails, is a 4-day, 3-night backpacking trail. Lead by professional wilderness trails guides, with thousands of trail hours experience each, you will spend three self-sufficient nights (four days) in the wild.

By carrying all your equipment on your back, you’ll enter a world accessible to a privileged few. There are no demarcated campsites or routes for these trails. The only restricting factors are the availability of water and the midday sun. During the summer months when water is plentiful, you’ll collect from pools in non-perennial rivers and depressions or pans in the veld. Once the dry winter months arrive, the guides will lead you to natural springs or follow Elephants to where they dig for subterranean water in dry riverbeds.

How will your day look like?
These 4-day trails take place across exclusive properties in the Greater Kruger National Park – Timbavati PNR. Groups set their own pace and explore according to their interests and capabilities. There are no demarcated campsites or routes. Each night is spent under the stars (no tents) at a pristine location with participants sharing the responsibility of ‘watch duty’.

Where do we sleep?
Have I already mentioned that you sleep under the stars 🙂

Sleeping under the stars on the Lowveld Primitive Trails, Walking Safari.
Lowveld Trails – The Primitive Trail Experience

How do you book?
These Primitive trails are organized by Lowveld Trails. For booking and more information I would like to redirect you to their site.

Walking trails – the other options

There are of course some other more luxurious walking safari options where you are spoiled rotten. The walking however stays the same, it’s your two feet that need to do the work 😉

I don’t have any experience with any of these but I heard through the grapevine that Rhino Walking Safaris in Kruger National Park are really good.

Most of the lodges offer bushwalks in their activities and if you have the opportunity to go on one of these, please do so, you won’t regret it!

P.S. please reach out if you are still a bit overwhelmed, I’m more than happy to help you getting on the right trail 😉

P.P.S. it would be awesome if you could share some of your experiences!

Peggy

Peggy

Hi, I'm Peggy, A Backyard Hiker. I like to inspire you to go outside, to explore your Backyard. All our backyards look different but we can all hike!

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