I love walking. The sense of pushing off the earth and propelling one step further. The simplicity of locomotion is embedded in our DNA, from the moment we stood up and looked around as proto-humanoids millions of years ago. The simultaneous engagement of our muscles and mind seems to bring things into sharper focus.
New, unknown pathways are my favorite, where my senses are on full alert. Whenever traveling, we are often walking. It’s a natural win-win; some of my most resilient travel memories are ones in which I’ve been striding along and taking it all in.
Walking has also helped me. Not in the physical or reciprocal way, but in an almost spiritual way. Time out from the ordinary allows the mind to get extraordinary. I typically find my best ideas or solutions to long dwelled on issues start to materialize in my subconscious when I’m fully immersed in a long walk.
A bottomless spring of inspiration, wonder and adventure can be found in Tanzania. You’ve probably heard of the Ngorongoro Crater, famous for its massive scale, varied ecosystems and the impressive wildlife found within its expansive valley floor. Well, if you follow the crater rim to the Northeast, you will eventually wind up at the end of the road. A rutted dirt path, traveled by Maasai herders bringing their livestock to pasture, continues from this point. Winding down from the highlands, through the rift valley escarpment, and eventually all the way to the mirror-like shores of Lake Natron. The timelessness of this path is immense. Who knows how long people have been trekking through the rift valley volcanoes on this same path. Not far away are the million-year-old remains of the early hominid Australopithecus boisei and at the lakes edge, 5,000-year-old footprints of a family are etched in rock. As a kid from geologically-rich Washington State and anthropology major, it’s a very surreal and incredible place to me.
At 8,500 ft in elevation, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is where the expansive savanna grasslands of the Serengeti come crashing into volcanic craters and mountains. The landscape in the highlands is varied and filled with mountain long grass, moorland planes, clumps of Acacia and forests that quickly thicken into dense vegetation in water catchments and ravines. This robust ecosystem makes it an ideal location for all types of life to thrive. The protected wildlife and the landscapes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area exist in partnership with the semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists who co-habitate the space and protect the environment for wildlife as well as for their livestock.
From the cool and temperamental highlands the trek quickly descends into golden grasslands dotted with Maasai bomas*. Ol Donyo Lengi or “Mountain of the Gods” in Ki-Maa*, actively fumes in the distance, cloaked in its rare white carbonatite lava. The enchanting vistas of the East African Rift are on full display.
On this three-day wildlife, landscape & cultural trek, you are led by a local Maasai guide who has an intimate connection to the land and a full support team of camp chef and porters from the local community. Along the route you’ll sample local honey beer in the nearby village of Nyobi School, learn how to build a campfire from scratch using dried cow dung and sleep under the most brilliant starry skies. You also can explore Empakai Crater, which you can hike down in and out (about 45min down and up) escorted by a park ranger. At the shores of Lake Natron, you’ll find massive flocks of brilliant pink flamingos foraging at the lakes edge, along with the prints of other, larger visitors such as leopards and lions. Wildlife from the Serengeti have started moving in, closer to the lakeshore, and groups of giraffe, wildebeest and zebra are commonly seen.
While the trek from the Crater rim to Lake Natron is one of the more far flung and physically demanding options for a non-mountaineering stroll in Africa (covering 15+ miles over 3 days and descending over 8,000'), there are many other shorter and more accessible walks that encourage freedom of thought and delight of discovery. Walking safaris are possible in certain sections of the Serengeti and there are numerous great short hikes in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, some with waterfalls for taking a cool plunge. Just across the Tanzania's Eastern Border in Uganda is Kibale National Forest where you can trek to see troops of chimpanzees in the wild, although there is so much to do in Uganda that we think that Kibale is best done in conjunction with many of the other National Parks in Uganda. For an unparalleled walking safari, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is one of the best locations, not just in part to the incredible wildlife that inhabit the meandering bends of the river, but due to the incredible knowledge and skill of their trackers and guides.
For more on this trek, other great ways to explore Africa on foot or to discuss the countless incredible safari opportunities that await, you can reach me at email@example.com. Or fill out our Travel Request Form to get started. In addition to over a dozen unique trips to Africa to scout and develop travel experiences, I lived with a Masaai family in their boma for more than a month and spent ½ a year living in Tanzania, Niger and Sudan while conducting archeological work. This time spent in Africa even landed me on the pages of National Geographic; in an article on the Lost Tribes of the Green Sahara, my left hand can be seen in the corner of an image.
*Bomas - a typical Maasai village, usually circular and surrounded by a fence
*Ki-Maa - language of the Maasai, different than Swahili which is most commonly associated with Tanzania.