Every year, millions of tourists make their way to Africa’s savannas and nature reserves to catch a glimpse of the various species of wildlife that make those areas their home. There is no other place on Earth where it is possible to see black rhinos or cheetahs living in their natural habitats. However, for someone who has never been there before, the prospect of traveling through the African wilderness may seem overwhelming. What is the best way to get there? Which kind of safari experience do you want to have? What precautions should you take to avoid injury while observing wild animals? The good news is that travelers of all experience levels can choose from a wide variety of safaris and game drives to fit their needs. Here are the things you need to know about game drive safaris.
What is a Game Drive on a Safari?
Exploring the African savannas through the use of game drives is both the safest and most popular way to do so. The majority of game drives take place in an open-top vehicle, such as a 4×4 Jeep or Toyota Land Cruiser, as they travel along the roads of Africa’s game reserves in search of the “Big 5” animals, which are lions, cheetahs, rhinos, leopards, and elephants. There are several different kinds of game drives, but the majority of them involve traveling in an open-top vehicle.
These drives are typically undertaken by small tour groups consisting of four to ten individuals and led by a guide and a driver. People who want to avoid traveling in large groups can travel independently through the reserve by renting a car and driving themselves, or they can hire a private guide to avoid traveling with other people. There are benefits and drawbacks associated with each option. A private game drive or a self-guided game drive can give you more freedom to go where you want to go and to stay as long as you want to stay at each location, in contrast to a group tour, which caters to the needs of the group as a whole. On the other hand, if you are not familiar with Africa or its wildlife, going on a tour with a group that is guided is the best way to ensure your safety and have the least amount of stress. When you go on a guided tour, you have a better chance of seeing the “Big 5” animals because the guides are familiar with the landscape, and they frequently use radios to communicate with other tour groups about animal sightings.
Are Game Drives Dangerous?
When you see pictures of open-top vehicles parked just a few feet away from a pride of lions, you might think that it can’t be safe. However, millions of people travel through Africa’s nature parks like this every year without any unfortunate incidents occurring. According to the statistics, the risk of getting hurt in a car crash is significantly higher than the risk of getting hurt while going on a game drive. The animals have grown accustomed to the vehicles that drive around the park, and as a result, they do not perceive the vehicles as posing a threat to them or being frightening to them.
The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to all of your guide’s instructions and always remain inside the vehicle. You shouldn’t make a lot of noise, you shouldn’t try to get the animal’s attention, you shouldn’t throw things at them, you shouldn’t feed them, and you shouldn’t walk up to them. When it comes to interacting with animals, there is always going to be some level of danger, but as long as you respect the fact that they are wild and follow the instructions of your guide, you will not put yourself in danger.
What Types of Vehicles are used in game drives?
Depending on the region and the type of terrain, game drives may be conducted in 4×4 vehicles or minibuses that have seating for anywhere from five to twelve people, in addition to the driver. Typically, the roofs of vehicles in South Africa and Botswana are open in these two countries. The seating for passengers is frequently arranged in a “stadium-style,” in which each row is elevated slightly above the row in front of it. This ensures that your line of sight will not be obstructed by the passenger in front of you.
On private reserves in East Africa, drivers are permitted to use vehicles with open tops or canvas roofs. The use of enclosed safari vehicles is typically required when entering national parks. They may be enclosed 4x4s or minibuses, the former of which is particularly common in Kenya. Both are typically outfitted with either a sunroof or a pop-up top, which allows for an expanded field of view. At Ujuzi, you won’t ever have to worry about your view being obstructed because you’ll always be given a seat by the window.
Types of Game Drive
Self-drive safaris and guided game drives are the two most common forms of game-viewing excursions available in Africa. A game drive can either be done in a group or on a private basis, and there are typically drives done in the morning and drives done in the afternoon. They also sometimes provide night game drives, during which they search for animals that are active at night.
You are permitted to drive on your own within the boundaries of certain national parks and private reserves, such as South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park and Kruger National Park. This type of game drive is known as a self-drive game drive. You are the one in charge of the steering wheel and the destination when you are on an exciting self-game drive. You will be given a map as you enter the National Park, and you are required to stay on the roads that have been marked out for you. You can observe the animals without leaving the convenience of the vehicle.
2. Guided Game Drive
During a guided game drive, you will be led by an experienced and qualified field guide or driver-guide who has extensive knowledge of the region as well as its history. You have the option of going on a private game drive or participating in a guided game drive with other people in a group. In comparison to a self-drive safari, It is also better to go on a guided safari is more exciting. Self-guided game drives are generally only possible in the larger national parks that have tarred roads and are popular with tourists. This is one of the primary reasons why these parks are so popular.
When you go on a game drive with an experienced guide, you won’t just be looking for animals; instead, you’ll have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the African bush, making use of all of your senses as you take in the breathtaking scenery, the vast number of animals, and the information provided about their behavior and the environment. Therefore, the best way to experience a game drive in Africa is to go on a guided game drive.
If you go on a safari with a professional guide, tracker, or ranger, they will be able to provide you with a wealth of information regarding the fauna, the ecosystem, animal tracks, and the human culture of the area. When you go on a safari where you drive yourself, you don’t get as much information, and the experience is different. Because they come into contact with the animals so often, local guides are privy to a wealth of anecdotes concerning specific animals and the families to which they belong.
There is yet another benefit to using a field guide, and that is the fact that they are connected to a radio station. At the radio station, guides and rangers discuss amazing things they have seen. When you go on a guided wildlife game drive, you won’t just be driving around and looking for animals the whole time. It’s a full-fledged experience that involves learning, having fun, and being outside in nature.
What to Expect on a Guided Game Drive Safari?
The purpose of going on a guided game drive is to get a feel for what it’s like to be in the African bush and to observe animals in their natural environments. The coolest parts of the day, when the majority of animals are active, are the best times to go on a wildlife viewing excursion. Because of this, game drives are most frequently conducted in the wee hours of the morning, the afternoon, or the night. Depending on the type of game drive that you booked, you will either go on the excursion with a guide accompanying your private travel group or with a shared group consisting of up to 12 other people.
You should be on the lookout for a variety of animal species while you are driving. While you are watching the animals, your guide will provide you with interesting information about the animals so that you can gain a better understanding of their behavior.
To provide you with the best photo opportunity and a secure location from which you can ask questions about what you see, a good ethical guide will stop the vehicle at a safe distance from the animal sighting with the sun on your back. This will allow you to ask questions about what you see.
How Long Does a Game Drive Last?
Depending on what you want to see and how long you want to spend viewing it, a typical game drive on a safari can last anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours. If on the way back to the lodge for breakfast you come across a leopard, you will have to postpone eating until later. The length of a game drive, both in terms of distance and time, can change depending not only on where you are but also on what you can expect to see during the drive.
Some locations provide full-day game drives, which can last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. You will bring a packed breakfast (and lunch) with you on a full-day game drive, and you will eat out in the bush, with breathtaking views over the African plains or a water hole. Some vacation spots offer night game drives, which are typically shorter than daytime excursions. The average length of a night game drive is about two hours.
What to Wear on a Game Drive?
The most appropriate attire for a game drive in Africa is clothing that is unobtrusive, breathable, and comfortable. khaki colors. Which colors should you try to avoid wearing when you’re out in the African bush? On a game drive, you should avoid wearing any bright colors and, if possible, avoid wearing black, white, blue, or camouflage as well. Bright colors have the potential to frighten animals or give off an aura of danger to animals, whereas black and white colors are more likely to attract insects.
Always make an effort to dress in layers, as the weather can change unexpectedly at any moment. Additionally, you should wear closed shoes, a hat, and a raincoat, and bring an umbrella. The most effective clothing for a safari is that which is water-repellent, air permeable and dries rapidly.
Is a Game Drive Ethical?
Yes. Priority should always be given to environmental protection. Certified field guides are expected to follow a code of ethics that requires them to drive slowly and cautiously around wildlife to avoid causing the animals any unnecessary stress. These guides have a deep respect for the natural world and an extensive understanding of the African bush. This also means not stopping too close to an animal sighting or not joining a sighting because you have to respect the rules regarding the maximum number of cars that are allowed at a sighting.
The majority of wildlife game drives take place on designated tracks to protect the surrounding plant life. The majority of Africa’s national parks do not permit off-road driving, but some private game reserves and conservancies do. Off-road driving is permitted in these areas so visitors can better observe the local wildlife. Take, for instance, the Mara Conservancies which are located in the vicinity of the Mara National Reserve.
When off-roading is permitted to look for wildlife, the guide will choose areas that have soil that is more resilient to lessen the impact. The entrance fees for game drives provide funding for various nature and wildlife preservation efforts, making game drives an additional way to assist in wildlife conservation. The presence of guides and rangers also acts as a deterrent against the illegal hunting of animals.