Mini report: Walking safari with Vuya

In January of this year I went on a three night walking safari to Manyeleti Game Reserve. The trip was arranged and hosted by Vuya Walking Safaris and we were accommodated at Pungwe Safari Camp.

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On foot in the Manyeleti Game Reserve

Let’s start with Manyeleti. In my view Manyeleti is one of the hidden gems of the Lowveld. With the Timbavati to the north, Kruger to the east and Sabi Sands to the south, Manyeleti is situated in one of the best game view areas in the Greater Kruger.

Manyeleti location

The reserve is managed by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and you can actually visit the reserve as a day visitor. All the accommodation however is private lodges.

We stayed at Pungwe Safari Lodge. The accommodation is in luxury safari tents with ensuite bathrooms. There is no electricity but hot water is provided from donkey boilers and you can recharge your camera batteries, cell phones etc using the solar powered batteries in the communal lounge / dining area.

We were hosted and guided by Vuya Walking Safari’s. In Dean, Dylan and Devon (DDD) we had 3 of the best guides you could possibly ask for. Drawing on their wealth of experience (including many years guiding at some of the top lodges in SA) they really go out of their way to make sure that your trip is incredibly special. Whether your interest in the big cats, large mammals, birds and even butterflies – these guys seem to know it all!

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DDD performing their (second) most important task – pouring drinks!

A typical day on safari with Vuya starts just before sunrise with hot coffee / tea and rusks before embarking on a short drive to the starting point for the walk. Walking in the African bushveld is an awesome experience and completely different to being in a safari vehicle. First, the downside – you will probably not see as much big game as you would going on a drive. This is because, while the animals are used to vehicles they are generally not used to people on foot and tend to run away when they hear, see or smell you. There is also the very practical reason that you simply can’t cover the same amount ground on foot as you can in a vehicle.

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White rhino up close but seen from the vehicle

Having said that the upside is experiencing the bush in a whole new way. Hearing the sounds of nature, bird calls, alarm calls and contact calls – smelling the wild aniseed or the nearby buffalo herd – seeing the small things, butterflies and ant lions, coaxing a baboon spider out of its hole – all of things make walking in the bush an essential part of any safari. Of course in hands of brilliant guides like DDD you will also get to see many of the large mammal species. They will make sure that you approach the animals downwind and get to view them safely and in a way where often the animal doesn’t even know you are there.

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Just beyond that tree was a herd of elephant that had no idea we were there
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Learning about the small stuff

Back at camp you are treated to a well-earned brunch provided by the fantastic chef and staff of Pungwe. The rest of the morning is yours to spend at your leisure – reading, napping or bird watching in camp. In the late afternoon you reconvene for afternoon tea before setting out again.

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Sundowners – an essential part of any afternoon game drive!

Dinners were served either in the communal lounge / dining room or outside next to the camp fire. One of the big advantages of having private guides is that this routine is pretty flexible and can be tailored for every group to maximise your safari experience. A non-negotiable for me is sitting around the campfire at night. Listening to the stories around the fire from DDD was an absolute highlight of the trip and I will never look at a leopard tortoise in the same way again!

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Evenings in camp

In the gallery below you can see a few more pics from our trip. If it looks like something you would also enjoy give the guys at Vuya shout – you will not regret it.

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