What You Need to Know About Self Drive Safaris in East Africa

When considering the various types of African safaris, the options are limitless. Nevertheless, before embarking on planning your safari in Africa, there is a pivotal question that must be addressed: Are you prepared for a self-drive safari in Africa?

What is a self-drive safari?

As the name implies, a self-drive safari places you in control of everything. You will drive yourself into the wild on a typically simple camping safari. In most eastern African national parks, the roads are often in poor condition, necessitating the use of a 4WD vehicle. If you opt to embark on this adventure independently with a 4WD, it is advisable to include a familiarization course in your plans. This course can serve as a refresher for those with prior experience or as a beginners’ training session for novices, ideally conducted in the same vehicle you intend to travel in.

Several rental companies provide 4×4 campers that are equipped with all the necessary amenities for complete self-sufficiency. These campers typically include a rooftop and/or ground tent or a pop-top with a sleeping area on the roof. Additionally, they are equipped with fridges, gas stoves, cutlery, sleeping bags, camp tables, and chairs. While the upfront costs for such vehicles can be a bit high (starting at approximately $110 per day and often higher), it is understood that you are paying for both transportation and accommodation in a single package. In these instances, the only additional expenses would be campsite and national park fees, as well as food, which can be purchased affordably at local supermarkets in most African countries.

Bad Roads in East Africa

A variety of car rental agencies, including Car Rental Kenya, 4×4 Uganda, 4×4 Self Drive Kenya, and 4×4 Tanzania, Drive Kenya offer these types of vehicles. An even more convenient option is 4×4 Self Drive Africa, which procures cars from these and other agencies and can handle campsite bookings and other arrangements on your behalf. It is worth noting that organizing self-drive safari is considerably cheap in Uganda and Kenya than in Tanzania.

For those seeking the best of both worlds in the upper end of the self-drive market, there are alternatives available. These options allow you to relish the excitement of off-road driving while indulging in the comfort of luxurious lodges and tented camps, all while someone else is doing all the arrangements. African Jungle Adventures Ltd stands out as the premier company providing this service.

What are the Advantages of Self-drive Safaris?

Imagine a scenario where you have diligently saved throughout your life for an extraordinary African safari experience. Finally, you are in Africa, encountering a lion pride with adorable cubs. You don’t mind sharing this awe-inspiring moment with fellow tourists in a safari vehicle. However, once the other tourists decide to move. While you wish to linger for another ten minutes, maybe even an hour longer, the guide starts the engine, and you’re reluctantly compelled to leave the lions behind. But on a self-drive safari, this predicament would never arise – you have complete control over when and where you go. This freedom permeates every aspect of your safari.

Land Rover Defender in National Park

Another significant advantage is the cost. In countries like Tanzania, where organized tours and safari lodges can be quite expensive, opting for a self-driving camping safari can be a cheap option.

What are the disadvantages of self-drive safaris?

To begin with, when it comes to a self-drive safari, you are solely responsible for navigation. While many companies offer sat navs to assist you and they always advise you to get a local sim card for easy communication and also use Google map for directions, it is crucial to be able to road paper maps and follow road signs. If any issues arise during your self-drive safari, you are the one tasked with handling them. This could involve coordinating repairs with the Rental Company or waiting for a replacement vehicle to be delivered. Additionally, it falls entirely upon you to ensure you carry sufficient supplies and a satellite phone in case of unforeseen emergencies. Consequently, this type of safari needs meticulous thought and preparation compared to an organized tour.

Unless you opt for luxurious lodges, a self-drive camping safari tends to be modest in terms of comfort. You will be responsible for cooking your meals, sleeping on thin mattresses or camp beds, and generally embracing a more rugged experience in the wilderness.

In the driver’s seat of an open-topped 4WD, a cheerful African safari guide is depicted.