Safari Drive: Expert Tips & A Guide To Doing It Right

Safari is a Swahili word which means trip or journey. Its use in the travel context has always meant an excursion and mostly focuses on the leisure aspect. This means accommodation, dining and transportation would all be catered for. Safaris have really been developed into various many “packages” suitable for different travelers. After all, it is the quintessential African travel experience.

Masai Mara, Tourist with a Guide from Natural World Safaris

What is a safari drive?

A safari drive as the word suggests is an experience that involves driving an off-road capable vehicle to known sites in order to watch wild animals in their natural habitat. It is the surest method of having the authentic African travel experience while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort and safety.

Game Drive in a Reserve Safari Jeep

For anyone thinking of booking a trip to the African Savannah, a Safari Drive must have been indicated in quite a number of itineraries. The African Savannah is vast and if there is something important any research should show you is that a large area has little infrastructure in the form of transportation. 

Likely a Trip to Africa will mean a trip into the “bush”. Once you get there, the best way to move around is by an off-road capable vehicle. The activities will involve watching wildlife in their natural habitat and this will mean a guided drive to the spots.

Jeeps Used for Safari’s with a Guide, By Natural World Safaris

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What is the difference between a safari and a game drive?

The two words are used interchangeably in many instances and indeed they really mean or refer to the same thing. A Safari refers to the excursion as a whole including the stay at the camp and the travel involved whereas a game drive only refers to the actual trip to see the wildlife at their natural habitats.

A Safari could last several days or even weeks while a safari drive could just be a day long affair. Depending on the amount of provisions you carry, you could stretch it out for some days. As a rule of thumb however, when the phrases “safari drive” and “game drive” are used, they literally mean the same thing.

How long is a safari drive?/How long do game drives last?

As a rule of thumb, a safe and equally thrilling safari drive should not exceed 4 hours. A good itinerary should have you in spots where you can see various wildlife quickly and even have time for a meal during the drive. Safari camps typically plan their safari drives at all times of the day since different Safari  animals have different habits. An experienced safari guide should introduce you to all sorts of life in the savannah and they should be able to share infinite knowledge about African wildlife.

Resting Point in the Reserve

Ultimately, how long a safari drive should last greatly depends on the travelers tolerance to the African Savannah and the size of the reserve. Simply put, how much is there to explore and how much of it are the travelers willing to explore. The African Savannah is usually breathtaking, even for people living in Africa.

What are the best places for a safari drive?

  1. Masai Mara
  2. Serengeti
  3. Kruger National Park
  4. Victoria Falls
  5. Okavango Delta
  6. Tsavo

What are the best times for a safari drive?

The Best Time of The Year

A large portion of the African savannah lies within the tropics which means that seasons are categorized as either dry or wet. As a general rule of thumb, the best months to go on a safari drive are June to October, which make up the dry season for most of the African Savannah. Wildlife tends to congregate at the few watering points that remain by this point. The short rainy season which usually  lasts from November to March may also be a great time to go on a safari drive; however, it is important to note that the majority of people also go during this period which may make the experience somewhat dull.

A Tourist Takes a Pic of Mt.Kilimanjaro on Clear Sunny Day ,Natural World Safaris Jeep

The Best Time of The Day

The best time of day for a safari drive would be the early morning hours and the late afternoon to early evening hours. These hours are perfect to avoid the intense sun of the African Savannah and problems like dehydration. You can also expect to experience a wonderful bush breakfast as you watch wildlife in their element or enjoy a glass of wine as you admire the African sunset.

Best Times to Catch Big 5 early morning hours and the late afternoon

How much does a safari drive cost?

The true cost of a safari drive is dependent on a myriad of factors and it is really important to carry out your due diligence before using any service. Most safari camps and tour company operators provide excellent Safari Drive services and this would significantly reduce your grief over planning such an excursion.

Entrance Masai Mara, Natural World Safaris Jeep

A simple 4×4 Land cruiser would cost about $150 per day to hire without a driver and without fuel. The total for a Safari drive in such a vehicle can end up being as much as $500 per day. This is however, not inclusive of the park’s entrance fees which will also depend on the particular park you intend to visit.

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Factors that influence the cost of a Safari Drive include:

1. Type of vehicle to be used

  • Four-wheel drive

These make up the majority of vehicles you can expect to use for a safari drive. The most common models are the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series and the Land Rover Defender which have proven their mettle on the African outback.

They are usually retrofitted to sit 6 passengers seated by the windows as in the Eastern African countries or are left open sided especially in the Southern African Countries.
Types of 4X4 Safari Jeep
  • Overland Trucks

Although they are rarely used, the vehicles usually are perfect for large groups of travellers and since there is so much room, they are used to carry a lot more gear and provisions. They can sit as few as 20 and as many as 50 and the hire rate starts from $500. Companies that usually hire out these trucks often understand that driving them is a challenge and they always provide a driver. However, fuel costs are met by the travelling party.

2. Affiliation

This refers to who is providing the vehicle or the Safari Drive service. Enterprising people have found ways to acquire these Safari vehicles in order to offer the Safari Drive experience. This may end up being a cheaper alternative to tour companies or Safari Camps. However, you can always rely on the professionalism of tour companies and Safari Camps as well as their reliability.

3. How long you plan to have the drive

This would make more sense in the event you hire a vehicle and a driver on your own instead of using tour companies or Safari Camps. The longer you tend to make your Safari Drive, the better it would be for the vehicle owner and the more likely you are to negotiate a cheaper rate per day. In simple terms better terms from economies of scale.

What do you need for a game drive? Clothes, Gear etc.

As a rule of thumb, good Safari Drive organisers provide a few essential items such as plenty of water, a pair or two of long range binoculars, warm blankets for evenings and any other items they may deem useful for the drive.

However, here are a few other items we think you should consider as well;

  1. Sunblock – In case the African sun gets too hot
  2. Comfortable shoes and clothes – The African Savannah can get exhausting
  3. A pair of binoculars – So that you don’t miss a thing
  4. Insect repellant – Incase you end up staying late
  5. A Nutrition Bar – If your drive does not include a meal plan
  6. Extra bottles of water – Just incase, it never hurts to bring two or more bottles of water
  7. A Camera and extra batteries – So that you capture the whole excursion
  8. A Power bank – To make sure you have a backup power source for your phones

African countries rarely have government operated emergency services and this may be a red flag for most travelers. However, there are several privately run companies that provide a myriad of services including emergency medevac and rescue services. Furthermore, experienced Safari Drivers know their way around the bush and in the event of an emergency local communities also spring in to assist.

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