A self-drive safari can be great and inexpensive way to visit national parks and get some wildlife viewing in. However, most of us aren’t trained to drive around in between a breeding herd of elephants or a pride of lions. To ensure your self-drive safari will be a fun travel experience, I share some essential tips to help you avoid ending up squished by an elephant.
In the National Park
Know the Rules
Mostly, there are signs posted which have on the rules in the national park on them. However, a surprising amount of the time, guests are unaware of them anyway. Take a few minutes to read the rules when entering the park. They’re there for your and the animals’ safety.
<– This sign is honestly not a joke!
This is obviously what your whole self-drive safari is about, spotting animals! Just make sure to keep enough distance between your car and the animals. In addition, keep an eye on what others are doing. When multiple cars approach a sighting, they might block you in. As long as nothing happens, it’s fine. However, if an elephant gets annoyed, you might have to back-up all the way across the bridge and up the hill to get away from them. That might be what happened to us. Maybe.
It comes down to the following:
Animals Have Right of Way
And if you don’t give it to them, some of it might take it anyway…
Although animals having the right of way makes sense, when a giraffe stand in the middle of the road and won’t move for twenty minutes, you might think differently. It happened to us and by that time I was considering turning it into a nice and juicy giraffe steak…
Report Suspicious Behaviour
Poaching is sadly a massive problem in many of the national parks in Africa. If you see empty cars sitting near the road or people walking through the bush (without a park uniform), please report this as soon as possible. You might save the life of a rhino or help catching poachers.
A small reminder, check that your geotagging is switched off before uploading pictures of rhinos to social media. Poachers use social media posts to find rhinos. Sick but true.
Assuming you need to rent a car for your self-drive safari adventure, there are a few things in mind.
Please get the maximum insurance. No one want to bring the car back dented or scratched and pay a ridiculous price. Especially because rental car companies charge hefty prices for things they rarely get fixed. Upgrading to super coverage is generally inexpensive, so my advice would be to do so.
Automatic or Manual?
At home, we drive on the right side. So to me, in South Africa they naturally drive on the wrong side.
Although my own car has a stick, it made sense to opt for an automatic. Simply to avoid banging your arm into the door when needing to make a quick gear change.
I was incredibly happy for getting an automatic, since we had to make a quick getaway to escape an angry elephant, twice!
Know the Road Conditions
This relates to getting your rental car properly insured before your self-drive safari. Heavy rains, high water, or poor maintenance can have its effect on road conditions. It’s smart to ask about this at the entrance or ask other drivers once inside the national park.
We ran into some really sketchy road conditions on some loops in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park. Only my mad driving skills kept the car (mostly) in one piece. Although good luck might have played a role too.
Either way, stick to these tips and don’t forget to enjoy it! A self-drive safari is a different and special way to go through national parks.
Have you ever had sketchy animal encounters? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing about close encounters!