We were asked an interesting question by one of our travellers yesterday: what's the difference between a game drive and a game walk? The obvious answer is that one involves a vehicle and the other involves your legs - but the distinction is actually a little more subtle.
When you visit a safari lodge, whether in a public park or a private reserve, a game drive normally takes place in an open-top game viewer. This is a 4x4 vehicle, normally with a lengthened chassis, so that it can accommodate tiered seating, normally in three rows. The game viewer normally has a sun shade but otherwise is completely open to the outside (no windows or doors) so you get a really intimate experience when coming across animals. So long as you don’t descend from the vehicle, the animals treat the vehicle as an uninteresting object and stay away from it. The game viewer is normally driven by one ranger and then another ranger will ‘spot’, either sitting on the bonnet of the vehicle or beside him or her. Rangers also stay in touch with each other by shortwave radio, informing each other of sightings. Game drives can last up to three hours.
Game walks (also called bush walks) don’t involve a vehicle, unless it’s to get to a remote area in the bush. Once at the start of the walk, a ranger (or normally two rangers) guide you through the bush on foot. It’s an electrifying experience as you’re not physically protected by a vehicle and are totally immersed in the wildlife. One ranger leads, the other follows and they keep a very watchful eye on the situation around you at all times. At least one ranger will carry a rifle, more to create noise to stop an aggressive animal than to cause harm to it. On game walks, the idea is to come across wildlife in complete silence (which you cannot do in a game viewer) and observe it close up, without being observed yourself. As such, much of the game walk is devoted to tracking (itself fascinating) and total quiet. Game walks can last a considerable time, as in 2 – 3 hours, but the rangers carry refreshments with them.