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By Emma 13 November 2019

Walking with Deb Tittle

YZ expert Emma went on a walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park with legendary guide Deb Tittle. Here Emma recalls her experience:

Having been in the safari industry for several years, I have had the privilege of taking part in several safaris and heading out on numerous walks. I absolutely love a walking safari – not only does it allow you to stretch your legs, but it also gives you the chance to explore the area you are in from a different perspective. You catch things that you completely miss in a vehicle and you learn all about how the little things in an eco-system can play some of the most important roles in said environment!

For example, I had heard all about the termites and the important role they play within the eco-system. Whilst it is important to learn all about these things, after hearing about termites for the umpteenth time, I was desperate to head out on an interpretive and exciting walking experience.

Luckily for me, and to the envy of many of my colleagues, I had the unique opportunity of spending a night at Mapazi Camp, which is owner-run and -managed by the walking legend herself, Deb Tittle, a household name in the South Luangwa.

The walking experience with Deb Tittle

Walking with Deb gives walking safaris a whole new meaning and perspective. Deb has the exceptional ability to bring the bush alive. Covering the small things, she enjoys focusing on the more unusual aspects and loves nothing more than being out in the bush and testing her own guiding skills. She has an innate ability to read her guests and she understands the experiences they have had in the past – this ensures you get a walking experience to remember.

Walking with Deb is all about telling a story – reading the signs and sounds of the bush, letting the bush speak for itself, and heading out to investigate. Sharing this story with her guests brings out the passion and excitement Deb has for walking safaris, and it’s where you find her most comfortable and in her element. To her, walking safaris are all about getting out and understanding just how much fun a walking safari can be. There is no doubt that Deb is a unique character with a wicked sense of humour and up for a laugh, but guiding is her true passion. 

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Deb (left) telling the story of the bush

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We even came across a python on our walk

Deb has a refreshing and immersive way of telling the story of the bush. Her ideal number of guests on a walking safari is four, as she believes that this is the optimal number for keeping everyone engaged and involved – after all, she is testing out your tracking skills too. Her way of guiding is to start out on a walk looking for any signs that could lead to a storyline. This way is so important for Deb that anyone arriving into camp, arrives into camp on the same day to allow for everyone to start at the same point, and continue to follow it throughout your stay, allowing guests to create the story with her.

How Deb Tittle got into the safari industry

Sitting around the campfire in the evening, I got talking to Deb about how she got into guiding and how the brainchild of Mapazi came about. Deb grew up in the UK, but from an early age she was captivated by Africa’s wildlife and so she decided to explore ways to travel the continent and to experience its wildlife.

Deb started her guiding career with over-land trips, during which she stumbled across non-native guides in Africa and realised that her dream of becoming a safari guide was a reality. However, it was in the mid-1990s that her guiding career really began. She has spent the last 22 years exploring and interpreting the signs of the bush in the South Luangwa and imparting her extensive knowledge to many local Zambian guides and conservationists!

The story of Mapazi Camp

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Mapazi Camp

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The tent interiors

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An afternoon walk with Deb in front

Having spent many years in the South Luangwa working and guiding for the likes of Shenton Safaris and Robin Pope Safaris, where she learned from some of the best, Deb had heard from several well-known guides that walking in the northern part of the South Luangwa was something quite special due to the fact there are no road networks.

This was music to Deb’s ears and is where the idea of Mapazi came to fruition. At the end of the season, guiding at RPS’s mobile walking safaris, Deb borrowed a vehicle from Lion Camp and off she set. She walked right up the Mupamazi river, got lost a few times as the GPS stopped working on a few occasions, and had a few interesting run-ins along the way. It was here that she stumbled across a particular tree that now stands as the centrepiece of Mapazi Camp and is home to the camp’s bar.

What sets Deb Tittle apart

Deb will be the first to say she is no better than any of the other guides in the South Luangwa area, which is a little modest in my opinion, as her passion really brings the walks alive. Being excited by exploring an area and getting to know the wildlife of that area, particularly the cats, is what walking with Deb is all about. Whilst we were sitting around the fire, she told us the story of a lion she watched from 18 months old right through to growing up into a successful adult at the ripe old age of 13, with a passion that brought the story to life and had us all captivated. For Deb, when you stay in an area and explore, you get to know an area’s inhabitants, learn their behaviours, and understand them. That’s the difference in her guiding, and it’s what sets the experience of walking with Deb apart from other walking safaris!

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Deb (1. second left & 2. right) in South Luangwa

Deb’s stories of her time guiding provide great entertainment whilst back in camp, but out in the bush on a walk is where she is most comfortable. For her, Mapazi Camp is an exciting venture that she gets to call home and she is genuinely excited to explore the bush for years to come. What makes her guiding techniques different is that she will stop and listen to the bush. If there is some commotion going on somewhere, she will head straight towards it and go investigate, whilst testing out your own skills you have picked up along the way. When I asked what she loves the most about walking safaris, her answer was simple: ‘Getting up to high-profile game and watching the expressions on my clients’ faces is what makes this all worthwhile.’

Deb’s unique ability to bring the simplest and smallest things alive out on a walk is fascinating and a great skill. For her, staying in an area and getting to know the inhabitants, their behaviours, and their movements only helps to create the story she loves to tell and that lifelong memory for her guests of getting up close on foot, especially to the high-profile game. With Mapazi in its infancy (it only opened mid-2018), Deb is still learning about who’s who in the area, but she’s having a fun time taking guests out and figuring this out together!

Contact our experts here to start planning a safari to Zambia that includes a walking safari with legendary Deb Tittle. Alternatively, take a look at our recommended trips and experiences below for a walking-focused safari: