An early wake-up call and you are off on your bush walk at Sefapane River Lodge where you can track game on foot and discover all about the small things – ‘termite-mound building techniques, medicinal plants and fascinating facts of the bush and walk closer to zebra, kudu, buffalo or even elephant. Walking safaris are the ultimate safari experience,’ says Joris Bertens, Managing Director of AHA Sefapane Lodges and Safaris and highly experienced Trails Guide. ‘On foot, you are much more a part of nature. You can walk in freedom, without the protection of the vehicle. You can touch and smell the soil and leaves and sometimes get close up to wild animals… not so close to endanger the animal or ourselves but to be able to see them in their natural environment doing what they normally do. It is not about the distance walked but the details in nature. Even in a couple of hundred metres, there is so much to see… tracks, insects, birds and trees as well as animals. Every walk is a memorable experience. It is nice to get close to large animals, like elephants, especially if they don’t know you are there. And the odd lion encounter is exciting… but it is just as exciting to come across a Ground Hornbill or to see rare antelope like bushbuck and eland. Every day in the bush is a great day with something to surprise you.’
With this mantra ringing in our ears, we head off quietly and in single file behind Joris Bertens towards the banks of the Olifants River. Hippos snort and blow noisily from the middle of the slipstream, enjoying the natural Jacuzzi after a night of foraging on the banks. A sudden bark alerts the herd of impala to our presence and a hundred eyes turn our way. The morning breeze carries the smells of the bush – wild sage and fresh elephant dung overlay with dust and the musty smell of the potato bush. Our eyes pick up movement as a steenbok breaks from the bush to make a sudden dash in the opposite direction and baboons call out their barking cries to the new day. Every moment in the bush is an awakening of the senses and a chance to learn the secrets of our incredible wilderness areas. As the sun rises in a blaze of orange, the fresh elephant tracks and dung tell a tale of the night before and a buffalo carcass is a stark reminder of the cycles of life and death. We open up our senses and our hearts to the African bush in Big-5 country and rewild our spirit.
The smells and sounds are so much sharper and your senses come alive as you take your time and pick your own pace.