Update 26 March 2021: Unfortunately, we were informed that Klaserie Sands had to close all of its properties, including the Safari Trails Camp. However, our travel writers had such a memorable experience, which is why we decided to keep our blog posts online. If you’re interested in a similar walking safari in South Africa, contact our travel experts to get a quote for the best options.
Just before the New Year, my colleague, Katharina, and I were given an amazing opportunity to visit Safari Trails Camp to see what they were all about. The camp is absolutely beautiful with many attractive attributes, which you can read about in my Safari Trails Camp | 2021 Review. However, the overall experience was so exceptional that I felt it warranted a blog of its own. Here are a few interesting snippets from my walking safari adventure as well as some memorable personalities that I met along the way.
But first, what makes Safari Trails Camp so unique?
Accommodating a maximum of eight guests at any given time, Safari Trails Camp offers an experience that is exceptionally exclusive. The camp is also located on its own private concession sharing an unfenced boundary with the renowned Kruger National Park. Unblemished by neighbouring lodges, vehicles and tourists, this flourishing piece of Big Five wilderness is virtually untouched, and with its many natural trails, makes for an ideal escape for an adventurous walking safari. And the staff are spectacular too!
Meet Florence – our most caring and gracious hostess
Arriving at Safari Trails Camp we are warmly welcomed by our lovely hostess, Florence. She gives us a tour of the beautiful facilities as well as a quick rundown of our agenda for the days to come.
With her bubbly personality, beaming smile and giggles for days, Florence makes our stay feel especially special! I can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside after spending just a moment with her! She ushers us to a table along the pool deck and, while enjoying beautiful views of the flourishing bush beyond, we savour a delicious lunch – fuelling-up for the adventure to come!
A few minutes into our first walking safari…
We are in a bit of a tricky situation” Matt whispered, scoping out the perimeter… “we’re in the middle of an elephant breeding herd.”
What!? An elephant breeding herd? In the middle of it!? Surely, I would have noticed being slowly encircled by a bunch of boisterous elephants, right? After all, they are rather MASSIVE, aren’t they? And make quite a commotion bulldozing unassuming trees and termite mounds… don’t they?
Oh, to the contrary. Elephants are surprisingly swift, silent, and blend in astonishingly well with their surroundings. “They are not called Grey Ghosts for nothing” Matt, our safari guide, would later say after expertly manoeuvring us away from the herd.
Meet Matt – our fearless Safari Guide
It is imperative to have a great guide to ensure your safety while in the bush – especially if you find yourself in “tricky situations” on foot.
With over seven years of dedicated safari walking experience, Matt is an expert in animal behaviour and enormously respectful of the local wildlife. He is a walking (and talking) encyclopaedia when it comes to the area’s geology, fauna and flora. Offering insights both obvious and obscure – whether it be about dung beetles, hippo paths, edible bush berries, or his soft-spot for spiders – Matt keeps things fascinating by bringing attention to the often-unnoticed details in nature.
After the close elephant encounter…
Suddenly, everything seemed more “dangerous” than before (in an exhilarating kind of way!). And, with a heightened sense of our surroundings, we continued our trek through the bush in a single-file: Matt (with his rifle) in front, Casswell (our tracker) behind him, followed by Katharina and then me.
A moment passed and Casswell paused. He glanced back, indicated to a small shrub and signalled that we should walk around it. What was this menacing shrub? Why did we have to avoid it? Was it endangered? Perhaps dangerous? Maybe poisonous? I needed to know!
“Why can’t we touch this plant?” I asked, pointing to the mysterious bush. Caswell smiled and Matt replied, “we call that a ‘wait-a-bit’ tree”.
Turns out, this isn’t a bush, but a baby acacia tree known as a “Wag-'n-bietjie” (“wait-a-bit” in Afrikaans). The name refers to the tiny hooked thorns lining every inch of its branches. When caught in its thorny grasp it is difficult to escape. Best to give it a wide berth. Katharina and I learnt this the hard way – rescuing each other numerous times from its unyielding clutches.
Meet Casswell – our attentive Tracker
Locating wildlife requires in-depth knowledge of tracks, sounds, terrain, and more. It’s not as simple as just waiting for the animals to come to you. You have to find them. And that is why having the keen eye of an expert Tracker is vital for any great safari.
With more than 10 years’ experience within the Greater Kruger Park, Casswell knows this stretch of wilderness as if it were his very own backyard. He may come across as shy or soft-spoken, but (while Matt provides us with a wealth of knowledge and tales of the bush) Casswell is quietly on the lookout for tracks, signs and movement which, in turn, leads to amazing sightings big and small. They make a great team!
What makes a Walking Safari so incredibly special
Unlike a game drive where one is elevated off the ground in a large rumbling vehicle, a walking safari allows you to tread softly in the very depths of nature itself. With no noise – save the crunching of your footsteps – there is a real sense of exposure, which, consequently, enhances one’s awareness of… well… everything!
You begin to notice the many intricacies in nature that are normally overlooked. And with the help from a great Guide and tremendous Tracker – a whole new world of wildlife is revealed. Here are a few things (of many!) I learnt on this amazing journey:
Returning to camp...
Evening is drawing near and the safari concludes with a game drive back to camp. Slowly the wilderness is engulfed in darkness and only the light from the vehicle and gleaming stars in the sky remain. Returning to camp, the boma is illuminated by a central campfire and glowing lanterns dispersed throughout. Tables wait ready – beautifully set – as a mouthwatering aroma fills the air suggesting a delicious dinner is afoot.
First and foremost, we freshen up before returning to the boma (it has been a long day in the bush after all) and then take a seat around the fire. It is here where we meet Liberty.
Meet Liberty – our incredible and talented Chef
Liberty is a master chef in his own right when it comes to open-fire cooking. His passion for the culinary arts is evident as we watch him slice, dice, sizzle, boil and braise a compilation of different dishes with a finesse that is positively mesmerizing. He sparks up a conversation about the cuisine and preparation – providing a truly authentic, South African culinary experience, as well as a supper that is cooked to perfection! (Make sure to ask for his onion-chutney recipe, it is to die for!)
I want to go back!
The following day is once again filled with delicious food, exceptional wildlife encounters, warm hospitality and wonderful conversations. I’m left feeling at home and one with nature. There is still so much more to see, experience and learn, but alas, it is time to return to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We depart, and I’m left with a feeling of longing. Longing to be in the bush again. Contact our travel experts today to book this incredible, intimate safari camp in the Kruger area.
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