What is a self-drive safari?
It is the ultimate adventure, where you get to discover Africa at your own time and pace… Imagine driving down yourself, making your own schedules, and discovering a host of attractions off and on the beaten track!
And besides, so far as you stick to the safety and other precautions, and are adequately prepared, you will face no dangers or unpleasant situations.
What are the different tracks to choose from?
Most of the countries which are popular safari destinations have roads that are just right for Self-drive Safari:
- South Africa
Pointers for choosing the right roadster!
When you drive out with a car into a new land, you are actually depending to a great extent on the vehicle! There are places to hire cars from, but when it comes to picking the right vehicle, do keep in mind:
- 4 wheel Drive vs. others: While any vehicle would do in most conditions, a 4WD is essential for certain parts which are inaccessible otherwise. Besides, if you are going to tow along a camping trailer, then a 4WD is the only thing that can handle the drag….
It is recommended that you pick a 4WD with both high and low range and a diff lock.
- Diesel vs. Petrol: Finding unleaded petrol at all places may be an issue. Besides a diesel engine will give you better fuel efficiency and power. Diesel engines are also easier to tinker with in case of any trouble, but if you will tow a trailer, then petrol is the option for you.
- Pickup vs. Station Wagon: This will depend on your preference. If you are travelling light and want comfort, then station wagons are the vehicle for you. However, if you need more luggage space, then go for the Pickup. But, contradictorily enough, the Station Wagon IS easier to pack!
- Make of Vehicle: The usual makes used and available in Africa are the Nissan Patrol, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Defender and the Toyota Hilux. It’s advisable you pick any of these so you’ll be able to find both spares and technicians if you need them. With something more high end, you are guaranteed luxury but if it comes to that, you may be stranded, waiting for spare parts to be sourced.
Preparing for the Drive
There are a few upgrades you should consider – either look for or get them done. After all you are setting out into the unknown by yourselves…
- A suspension upgrade
- Go for tires that are fitted for gravel roads
- Improve the lights
- Tow bar – a heavy duty one.
- Dual Battery system
- Bulbar that comes with a Winch and spot lights
- Back bumper with attached spare wheel carrier
- Long-range fuel tank
- Rock sliders
- A snorkel air intake
- CTEK battery charger
- Skid plates under the transfer/transmission case
- Sand and mud tracks
- GPS and multimedia systems
- A complete tool kit
- A set of basic vehicle spares, incl. tires.
- High lift and bottle jack
- Winch and tow rope.
- Driving lights and working lights.
- Wheel brace
- Diesel container
- Air compressor.
On the Road…
On a self drive safari you are likely to experience various kinds of terrain… Needless to say, do not attempt a Self-drive safari unless you are reasonably well experienced in 4 wheel driving, and are also able to learn fast and act fast in difficult situations. Self-drive is not for the novice driver or the weak at heart… So here are a few words on each type of terrain:
If you encounter mud or loose soil, especially during the monsoon, keep driving! Don’t stop at any cost.
Again, keep driving, do not stop! And if you have a means to re-inflate them, then deflate your tires till a noticeable bulge appears along the tire walls before you start.
You may be required to ford shallow rivers at times. However, be very careful and only do it if you are comfortable with it. Assess the situation well first, and then keep a slow steady pace, on a low gear while you drive across. Beware of strong currents, and hippos and crocodiles!
Keep tire pressure high and speeds low. And post a scout at a good position to guide you through properly.