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African Self-Drive Safaris & Tours

An African self-drive safari might be right up your sleeve if you're a bit of an adventurer. There’s nothing quite like exploring Africa at your own pace and in your own time. While most safari packages adhere to a pre-determined itinerary, a self-drive safari is where you get to take control. Yes, you’ll need to have your campsites and other accommodation booked well in advance, putting some limits on your freedom. But it will be up to you which route you take, how long you stay to watch those lions on a kill, and how long you stop for lunch. That freedom comes with a sense of responsibility – if somethings happens, you’re the one who’ll need to deal with it. But help is never more than a satellite phone call away and it’s a small price to pay for the sort of safari holiday that you’ll never forget.

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1-20 of 73 African self-drive safaris, tours, packages, trips, holidays and vacations

7 Questions About Self-drive Safari Tours


7 Questions About Self-drive Safari Tours

Answered by Anthony Ham

Why should I choose a self-drive safari?

“A self-drive safari is the ultimate in African exploration. This kind of tour has the effect of sharpening the senses – you’re a participant in Africa’s drama, not merely an observer. You’re the one who controls the speed, and who decides which fork in the road to take and how long to linger. Every time you get out of your vehicle there’s nothing between you and the wild lands you’ve come to see. It would certainly be easier to let someone else take control and make the decisions, but the self-drive journey is a remarkable experience. As a general rule, self-drive safaris tend to be cheaper than other kinds of safaris. The cost of vehicle rental is expensive, but if you are on a self-drive camping safari you will save greatly on accommodation costs.”


Which countries are most geared to self-drive safaris?

“Self-drive safaris are possible in most African countries, but South Africa, Botswana and Namibia are probably the best. South Africa usually involves a combination of a safari with other tourist attractions and therefore offers less ‘wild’ self-drive tours. On the other hand, Kruger is probably the most popular and easiest park for self-drive safaris and great for first-timers. With their long history of self-drive exploration, well-maintained roads and tracks, and very little traffic, they’re ideal for those on their first such expedition in Africa. Zambia comes not far behind, although there’s heavy traffic in some parts of the country, and some roads can be in bad condition. And provided you take back roads wherever possible there is nothing to stop you from self-driving Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Remember, however, that traffic can be heavy in all of these countries, at least on major roads.”


Do I need 4x4 experience?

“For most self-drive safaris, it is strongly recommended that you take a 4x4 course, preferably in the vehicle you will be using on your safari. South Africa is a partial exception – most parks, including Kruger, have tarred roads, although Kgalagadi is one park where gravel roads are the norm. By its very nature, a self-drive safari is a serious undertaking. Working out how to engage the vehicle’s 4x4 or re-inflating tires are things not best done with darkness fast approaching in the middle of the animal-rich Okavango Delta. Many rental companies and self-drive safari operators can arrange such day courses. The experience and confidence you will gain will serve you well out on the trail. Most operators and vehicle-rental companies provide an overview of driving when you pick up the vehicle. If you plan to stick to main roads and main safari trails through parks and reserves, you may be fine with only this information. ”


What type of vehicle can I expect?

“Most 4x4 safari vehicles have all the essential elements of hard-core expedition cars. Typical vehicles include a Land Rover Defender, Toyota Hilux or other off-road workhorse. Most will be manual, although automatic transmission vehicles are also possible. Some will be single cab (for two people), while others are dual cab (for four or, a tight squeeze, five people). Unless you’re driving from one lodge or tented camp to another, you’ll likely have a 4x4 camper. If that’s the case, your sleeping quarters will consist of a pop-top roof, or a rooftop tent that you’ll need to set up every night. In the back there will also be a fridge and/or freezer as well as a gas stove, cooking equipment and eating utensils. The better vehicles will have a portable shower, lighting, a shade awning and a mini-ladder. And, importantly, a toolkit with basic tools and essential elements such as rope, a winch, electric pump for inflating tires and other necessary items.”


What should I do when I encounter animals?

“Stay in your vehicle. Never get out of your vehicle if there are animals around. Ever. Most national parks have speed limits that rarely exceed 40km/h (25mi/h), and in many instances you’ll want to drive even slower than that. Some wild animals can be skittish and unpredictable around vehicles, so be ready to stop suddenly whenever animals are around (and even when you just suspect they might be nearby). You’ll quickly discover how close is too close. Approach slowly and watch for any signs that the animal in question may be becoming agitated. Never get between a mother and her offspring. Remember, too, that some animals such as rhinos have poor eyesight and are liable to charge if they sense (or even imagine) a threat. Don’t do anything that changes the shape of the vehicle in an animal’s eyes, such as climbing onto the roof, dangling limbs outside the car, or opening doors. It’s always better to enjoy an animal encounter from a reasonable distance than it is to scare off that animal by trying to get too close. In general, always drive with great care. Slow down to avoid accidents. Stop and admire the view. And be prepared to wait for animals to pass by, do something interesting or come down to the waterhole to drink.”


How much will this safari cost?

“The price of a vehicle alone usually begins at around US$100 per day. However, it can go above US$170 per day, sometimes significantly so, for a fully equipped 4x4 camper. Remember, however, that this is the cost per vehicle, to be shared between all of those who will be traveling in the vehicle. In addition to this per-day cost is petrol, camping fees and/or accommodation costs, satellite phone and food supplies, all of which can vary significantly from country to country. Some operators will give you a rate that includes most of these, although petrol is usually considered an additional cost. The range of self-drive safari packages is vast.”


What should I consider when choosing a self-drive trip?

“The biggest question is whether self-driving is for you. The experience of driving yourself around Africa may be exciting, but it’s not for everyone. If this is supposed to be a relaxing holiday, consider a guided safari. On a self-drive camping safari, you’ll spend quite a bit of time each day setting and packing up camp, and cooking, not to mention sleeping on what are usually thin mattresses. You also need to be realistic in what you hope to achieve, making sure that daily distances are sensible. Be sure to build in a few rest days along the way. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere without a telephone signal is a great way to ruin your trip. Make sure that you carry a satellite phone with you.”