FAQ Piet's pan

What is the best time of the year to do a walking safari?

Our trails operate year-round and neither winter nor summer is a better time to walk in the Kruger as both times are unique in their own way. It is just the duration of the walks that are determined by the seasons: In the hot, wet summer season (October to March), the Park is green and lush, alive with newborn young and throbbing with the calls of local and migratory birds from Central Africa, Europe and Eurasia. Walks are better suited to early morning trails ending by 09h00, before it becomes too hot. The cool, dry winter season (April to September) is better suited to the added option of full-day walking safaris. In winter, the landscape is drier and less dense, offering excellent game-viewing opportunities as the animals travel to and from water sources. Typically, summer walks depart at sunrise (05h00) to cover around 5km before a breakfast back at the lodge. The rest of the day is spent relaxing before the afternoon game drive, sundowner drinks and a night drive back to the lodge in time for dinner. Winter walks follow precisely the same itinerary as summer, but with the added option of a full-day walking safari covering around 15km, before returning to camp for dinner. These would depart at sunrise (06h30), halting for a sit-down, cooked breakfast at around 09h00, before heading off again at 10h00 to a cold lunch stop at 12h30/13h00, followed by a siesta. At 15h00 walkers set out on the final leg to the waiting vehicle with welcome drinks around 17h00, before driving back to the lodge. Meal stops are at pre-designated spots reachable by vehicle in order for staff to set up tables etc., prior to the arrival of the walkers.

Are walking safaris safe?

Walking safaris are very safe. In over 30 years of walking trails in the Kruger, there has never been a guest fatality. All our guides are extremely experienced and competent and so long as people follow the Rules of Conduct as instructed by the guides, there shouldn’t be any problems. The general rules of approaching dangerous game is to do so in such a way that doesn’t disturb or stress the animal and to always ensure that it has a clear path to escape. Wild animals have an instinctive fear of man of foot and they virtually always choose FLIGHT, rather than FIGHT when they feel threatened. Should a dangerous situation arise, our guides are more than capable of handling the matter competently.

How experienced and qualified are the guides?

All of our guides are highly qualified with many years of experience in conducting walks in the Kruger National Park and the surrounding wilderness areas. As such, they are accredited Trails Guides through the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), which includes the View Potentially Dangerous Animals (VPDA) qualification. On top of this our guides have all qualified for the Kruger National Park’s required Weapons Handling standards and first aid training requirements. Finally, our guides are all registered with the Department of the Environment and Tourism (DEAT) to legally operate in the Kruger National Park and surrounding reserves.

What are the rules of conduct on a walk in the Kruger?

Your guides will take you through these before you walk, but the basic rules are: 1). At all times guests are to act on the guides’ instructions without delay or debate. This is especially important in a potentially dangerous situation. 2). Whatever you do, DON’T RUN! In the event of a confrontation, running may trigger the chase instinct in dangerous game and, in any case, you will never outrun any of the ‘Big 6′ dangerous animals. There may be instances where your guide will instruct you to move rapidly – even run – to a place of safety, but this will never be in the face of a dangerous animal at close quarters. 3). The walking formation is strictly single file, with the lead guide up front and the back-up guide in second place. In 99% of dangerous situations, the confrontation has always been at the front or side of the group. Guests are encouraged to switch places in the line throughout the walk. 4). Other than when gathered around to discuss something of interest, walks are undertaken in complete silence, with no talking. Wild animals have extremely keen senses of smell and hearing. Your guides will endeavour to walk into the wind to negate our scent, but human voices, coughs, sneezes, etc. are alien sounds that carry very far in the bush. 5). Should you wish to ask a question or point out something, a low whistle or a slap to your thigh will get the guides’ attention. 6). No cell phones, MP3 players, or any electronic device that makes a noise is to be carried and digital cameras are to be switched to SILENT MODE. Many close-up game sightings have been ruined by the chime of a digital camera being switched or the tearing noise of a Velcro-fastened camera pouch being opened. Flashes are also to be switched off, as these can upset dangerous game at close quarters. 7). When approaching dangerous game, wait for your guide to indicate when it is ok to take photographs. 8). There is no smoking whilst walking or when stopping to talk about something. You may smoke at tea breaks when we stop for snacks and refreshments. 9). Always leave the wilderness as you found it. Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. Nothing is to be thrown away on the trail – not even bio-degradable apple cores or match-sticks. Toilet paper is carried on walks, but it must be burnt once you have completed your ablutions.

What should one wear and carry on a walking trail?

The whole idea is to blend in with the environment and not to stand out, making it possible to approach animals on foot. This means wearing colours like olive green, brown and military camouflage pattern (unlike some other African countries, it’s not a problem to wear military cammo in South Africa). Although many animals are colour-blind (the cats and nocturnal animals for example), most can see some colour and others, such as the primates, have full colour vision. A favourite colour of many people visiting Africa is khaki. Unfortunately, although cool to wear in the heat, khaki and similar colours such as beige and stone are really only suitable when walking over wide open grassy plains in the dry winter months. Even greys and dark blues are better than such light colours as the terrain we walk in is mixed bushveld and open woodland. Although some trails set off directly from camp, most morning walks entail a drive by vehicle to the starting point where the vehicle is parked. Early morning drives in open safari vehicles can be pretty cold to freezing in winter, so guests are advised to bring warm clothing and a wind-breaker along for the ride. This heavy clothing is then left in the vehicle for the duration of the walk, with a lighter top carried on the walk that can be removed and packed into a small back-pack as the day warms up. The African sun can be pretty fierce, so sunscreen and a suitable hat is essential. For fairer skins, long sleeved shirts and long trousers are a good choice. The morning walks in summer end around 09h00 before the sun gets too hot, but there is still the drive back to camp in an open vehicle to contend with. Where footwear is concerned, good hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes are a must. Light-weight running shoes in white or other light/bright colours are not suitable. To have a thorn pierce the thin sole or to have a twisted ankle far from the vehicle is not fun. Insect repellent in summer is also a good idea against ticks. Guests are encouraged to carry camera’s and binoculars on trails, but please ensure that all camera sounds are switched off before walking. Many an animal sighting on foot has been ruined by the musical chimes of a digital camera being switched on. The same goes for velcro fasteners: zipped or buttoned camera pouches are more suitable. Most people choose to carry a small water bottle on walks. This is especially necessary on full-day trails, where water is replenished at the breakfast and lunch stops. It’s not necessary to bring snacks along on walks as these are carried by one of the guides for the ‘tea break’ on morning walks.

What is the required level of fitness for walking safaris?

Morning trails cover around 5km over about 4 hours and an average level of walking fitness is sufficient as these are interpretive walks at a relaxed pace with frequent short stops to discuss points of interest. Full-day trails may cover anything from 15 to 20km, depending on guest preference and fitness.

What is the maximum/minimum age on trails?

Minimum of 12 years at certain lodges and 16 at others. Walkers over the age of 65 must have a letter from their doctor attesting to their walking fitness.

What is the size of a wilderness trail group?

Minimum of two guests (depending on the lodge) and a maximum of eight, plus two guides. Due to the fact that Trails in the Kruger Park are led by two armed trails guides, instead of the single driver guide required for vehicle safaris, an additional surcharge may be levied for groups of less than four guests. The surcharge is R700 per day per group. For example, with only two guests walking, the additional cost would be R350 per person per day.

How many days should one budget on for a walking & game drive safari in the Kruger?

The Greater Kruger Park is a vast wilderness area about the size of the Netherlands, with many diverse regions. The landscape in the far north of the park is completely different to that in the south and the fauna and flora are very different too. A week-long safari would be an ideal length of time in order to experience at least two of the different walking areas. For example, three nights at a lodge in the northern Pafuri region and three nights at a camp somewhere in the south, spending a night in the middle on the journey between the two regions would allow you to experience most of what Kruger has to offer.

What is the risk of malaria?

What transport options are available for getting to the Kruger Park?

Scheduled flights on SA Airlink and SA Express from Johannesburg and Cape Town land at KMIA Nelspruit (southern Kruger) and Hoedspruit (central Kruger) daily? Private charter flights are able to land at bush strips all round the park. If driving by hire car, Johannesburg to southern Kruger takes around 5 hours, central Kruger is around 6 hours and northern Kruger is around 7 hours. If driving the entire length of Kruger inside the Park, the journey is around 8 hours non-stop at the speed limit of 50 km/h. However, this is impractical due to stops to view game, so budget on spending a night in central Kruger, with a comfortable 2-day drive between north and south.

Which animals are referred to as the ‘Big 5’ and why?

These are the five African big game animals traditionally considered the most dangerous to hunt by big game hunters, namely Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. Where Rhino is concerned, this refers especially to the more aggressive Black Rhino. Another dangerous animal which never made the original list for some unknown reason is the Hippopotamus, which should read the ‘Big 6’ dangerous animals. As an amusing aside, a play on names has given rise the the ‘Little 5’, namely the Ant lion, Leopard tortoise or Leopard butterfly, Elephant shrew, Rhino beetle and the Buffalo weaverbird.