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In the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park lies a wild haven called Pafuri. Between April and October each year, you can escape the confines of a game vehicle and experience the sights, sounds, and scents of the African bush on foot. These months bring the walking safari season much to the delight of our guides; getting close to nature on foot inspires them like no other safari activity. Alweet Hlungwani, one of our seasoned walking guides at Pafuri, shares his experiences walking in this pristine landscape.

RETURN AFRICA walking trail camp

On foot in Pafuri: Journeys of Discovery & Transformation by Alweet Hlungwani

A walk through Pafuri takes us through an array of landscapes. We explore mountains, gorges, rivers, pans and forests. The terrain is vast and tranquil, showcasing the best that nature has to offer. Along the way, we encounter large and small mammals. We observe not only elephants and buffaloes in their habitats but also birds, butterflies and much besides. Almost everyone who visits Pafuri on a walking safari is captivated by how transformative this experience can be.

Elephants, for example, are highly emotional and intuitive animals. One experience which stands out in my memory was when my guests and I walked to Nwambi Pan through the Fever Tree Forest. As we walked, we became aware of a group elephant bulls heading to the same pan but blissfully unaware of our presence. I guided the guests on a wide path. We arrived at Nwambi moments before the elephants. Once there, the elephants noticed us. They drank peacefully and started to move on, except for one inquisitive bull. He approached us with curiosity and mockingly charged towards us. The guests were safely behind me and our second guide. I took a step towards him and with a small unaggressive standoff, managed to get him to retreat and move away from the group. The experience certainly lives in my memory as one of my favourites as it highlights our fragility while standing face to face with one of the largest land mammals on earth, and really puts into perspective our small comparative size.

RETURN AFRICA Hutwini

The Rules of the Wild

Walking safaris heighten one’s awareness of the sounds and smells of the bush, and add a sense of vulnerability which allows us to forge a genuine connection with the environment. There’s no engine noise interrupting the bush’s natural symphony and no barrier between you and the wild. The guides leading Pafuri walking safaris are not just experts; we are passionate custodians of the land. Many of us are from the Makuleke people whose ancestral land we explore during our walks. Our  knowledge and experience ensure a seamless blend of adventure and education, enhancing the overall experience for every participant.

As guides it remains our core responsibility to take care of our guests and to ensure that our safety protocols are strictly followed. This allows us all to have a pleasant adventure and to minimise any potential issues – we don’t want to startle a wild animal or be startled ourselves. We must always respect the environment and appreciate that this is a wild and untamed land.

“Pafuri’s essence quickens your blood, it nourishes your soul and hastens your RETURN” – Harald van Lennep

Beyond the wildness, Pafuri is rich in cultural heritage. Exploring the land on foot allows glimpses into the past, offering insights into the lives of the Makuleke people and their predecessors. It is a journey through time, providing a deeper appreciation for the local communities and the struggles they faced, not least the forced removal by the apartheid government in 1969. The ruins, artifacts and unique finds at Pafuri give an insight into the rich cultural history of the land.

Pafuri Pilgrimage

A walking safari through Pafuri isn’t just an adventure. I believe it is a journey of transformation. If there’s one wish every person should have, it should be to undertake a pilgrimage to Pafuri on foot. The land you will discover is wild, layered and dynamic. The more you RETURN, the more you experience, the more you are transformed.

Alweet Hlungwani

A naturalist, trails guide and lover of God’s creation through which he expresses his purpose, which is his love for people, his guests, and those who come from all walks of life. Alweet has been in Pafuri for 19 years. Born and raised in Limpopo, buttered in the bush by nature, and has passion for birds, stars and butterflies.

Currently resides in Mabiligwe village, a Makuleke settlement, with his wife, Tongani Susan and his two daughters Ntivo, Ntamelo and one son Kuhlula David.