Taking a simple walk had never seemed so dangerous. Gathered around a camp table set up with maps, field guides – and gin and tonics – we plotted our stroll into the late afternoon heat. Normally jovial, our guide Paul Ditiro looked around the group, fixing us with a serious look. “The first rule is no running – at all,” he said, his usual glimmer of mirth buried in the gravity of the moment. “And we will walk in a single file line, with me at the head. We have four of the big five out there – and you can easily stumble into them. This is the best way to truly encounter nature. You can smell and touch and taste and feel it. It’s a truly unique thrill.”
I was at Footsteps Across the Delta, a small, remote camp deep in the heart of Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta. As its name suggests, Footsteps focuses exclusively on “walking safaris”, small hikes that bring people out from the jeep – and their comfort zone – and onto the dry, African soil. Here, I would take two daily hikes, always accompanied by an armed guide. The Okavango surrounds travellers with a plethora of bird and animal life, but I was here seeking just one thing: big cats.