There aren't many better ways to see Africa's extraordinary wildlife and scenery than a self-drive excursion through one of southern Africa's many national parks and reserves. That feeling of driving at your own leisure, being behind the wheel as you encounter a herd of elephants crossing in front of you or spot a lion lounging on the roadside is one that will never be forgotten. The main attraction of a self-drive safari is the freedom that it offers, but there's still plenty to consider to ensure you have the best experience possible. So to give a helping hand, we've compiled a list of our top 10 tips for a self-drive safari.
You'll most likely be experiencing a lot of your wildlife encounters from afar, so a good quality pair of binoculars is essential. With a bit of practice they may also be used to take photos or videos with your phone if you don’t have a zoom lens.
Try your best to be the first car out of the gates when they open. Most animals, especially predators, are more active at dusk and dawn so sightings are more likely. Also, many people will still be sleeping, so any sightings you get you will often be able to enjoy for yourself!
If you drive slowly, wildlife sightings are much more likely and the animals are less likely to be startled and run away from your vehicle. In wetter weather, we recommend keeping an extra eye out for tortoises and snakes coming to drink from puddles on the road.
Not all parks allow you to have your windows rolled down for safety reasons, but in the one's that do it's a good idea to do so. Keep the radio switched off and rouse your senses with the sounds of the African bush. If you hear birds frantically calling or other animals alarm calling, there’s a very good chance that there’s a predator in the area so keep your eyes peeled.
A herd of impala, wildebeest or a giraffe all staring intently in one direction usually means one thing – a predator is in the area. Sit tight and scan where they are looking with a pair of binoculars, hopefully you too can spot the predator lurking in the distance.
Sitting patiently at a watering hole will often pay off eventually, especially in the drier months when animals are forced to come to larger water sources. If you have an interest in birds, sitting by the water will never get tiresome. If it's the larger game that you're more keen on seeing, simply park up in the shade with a good book or some easy entertainment, just don't forget to look up every now and then!
The lights and noise from vehicles can sometimes disturb animals, meaning they'll move away and you'll lose your sighting. It might get very hot inside your vehicle during the day but if you sacrifice the air-con just for a little bit, you'll give yourself a much better safari experience.
Even if you want a better view of an animal, it's very important that you never drive off the road to get closer. Not only will you disturb it, but you'll also damage vegetation. Instead, be patient and respect the animal's comfort zone, and use a pair of binoculars If you want an animal to look at you for a photo, be patient and avoid beeping your horn or whistling at it. This isn't fair on the animal, and you'll most likely just scare it away.
You can learn a lot from hearing about other traveller's experiences. Make sure you chat to other people that you pass or at a camp and find out what sightings they’ve had. You'll often pick up some very handy tips on when to head off or which route to take, and will likely have a better experience as a result.
A day spent on safari in a vehicle will obviously get very warm, so it's always good to have extra water on-board in case you have any vehicle difficulties or there is a sighting that's too good to leave. Some snacks and drinks in the car will also keep morale up and prevent any grumpy passengers, so you can keep your focus on looking for animals.
Looking to book your dream self-drive holiday? Get in touch with us by calling 020 7843 3500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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