Most visitors to Africa experience its wildlife from the safety of a Land Rover. But on a walking safari, things get real fast.

THE FIRST THING WE NOTICED WERE THEVULTURES, about a dozen of them, perched on the flat top of a tall acacia tree. Every so often, two or three of the birds, white-feathered and ominous, would swoop down into the tall grass, remain out of sight for a few moments, and then return to their perch.

“Something has definitely been killed,” Mark Thornton said. “Let’s go see what it is.” He paused a beat. “Of course, whatever killed it is still around here, too.”

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We were deep in a swath of largely untouched wilderness in Serengeti National Park. The closest human was perhaps 75 miles away. Our plan was to set off on foot, but first Thornton, a veteran safari guide in Tanzania and one of the few guides in all of Africa to lead multiday walking tours of the bush, laid down some ground rules. “We walk single file, and we stay quiet,” he said. “That way we hear things.” He went on. “If a lion or a buffalo appears, do not run. You’ll be scared, but stay behind me and don’t move. As long as you don’t move, it’s a situation that can be handled.” We left camp, heading in the direction of those vultures, maybe 300 yards away. Thornton, a 46-year-old American with floppy grayish hair and bright blue eyes, took the lead, cradling a Krieghoff double-barrel .470 rifle, powerful enough to stop an elephant, across his chest. He was followed by a longtime colleague, a 60-something Nderobo man named Toroye, who wore the traditional sarong-like shuka and carried a bow and sheath of arrows. I fell in behind him, while a baby-faced park ranger brought up the rear, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. (Tanzanian law