Be the First on Foot in the SerengetiSafari expert Mark Thornton, Adventure’s top-rated outfitter in 2007 (visit ngadventure.com/ratings for a complete list), specializes in exploring wildlands so remote he’s often the only guide who knows how to get there. It’s an intrepid reputation that will earn him a remarkable reward in 2009: permission to lead the first walking safaris in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. "A lot of the park is zoned wilderness, which means no camps, no lodges, no game driving, no tourists period," says Thornton. "But you can do serious extended walking in there if you meet the government’s requirements, and that’s what I’ve been allowed to do." Thornton, his Tanzanian guides, and up to eight clients must travel on foot from camp to camp (a pickup truck transports luggage). It’s a singular experience even for Thornton, who scouted the trip earlier this year. "We walked up on a herd of 200 buffalo, and suddenly they split and started running in our direction," he says. "We hunkered down behind a tree and watched them go by, observing the herd composition and the way the big bulls sniffed the wind." Thornton also saw elephants and lions, stalked warthogs, and crossed paths with hyenas, but a walking safari isn’t always the best way to check animals off your life list. For that, Thornton offers an extension to the Ngorongoro Crater, where big game are corralled within the rim.
Outfitter: Mark Thornton Safaris; thorntonsafaris.com
Length: 12 days
Next: Kenya: Sail Animal Planet