Self drive safaris travel guide


You, your hire car, an itinerary designed by someone who knows the country, packed with breathtaking sights and exciting activities, plus – as the name suggests – a safari, too. Wow! Self drive safaris are good! More varied than a straight safari vacation, more adventurous than an organised group tour, this kind of driving-discovery trip works brilliantly for so many people. It suits anyone traveling with kids, who wants the flexibility and comfort of their own car and schedule; animal lovers who don’t fancy a full week on safari, but hope to bolt on some walking, beach-lazing and cultural treats, too; those folks who love the scope and variety of a tour, but don’t want the small group aspect; and anyone with an intrepid soul but a busy schedule, who doesn’t have time for booking hotels, planning routes and working out how long to spend where. Tempting, no?

Find out more in our self drive safari guide…

Is a self drive safari for you?

Responsible Travel recommends

Go on a self drive safari if...

… you’re traveling with kids. The flexibility to stop off anywhere for snacks, swimming or leg stretching, plus the privacy of your own vehicle, suits a family trip. Want that Disney story CD again? Sure, why not…
… exploring under your own steam is your thing. Your itinerary is simply the framework for your trip. It’s not a strict timetable and you won’t be answerable to other travelers or a guide on this kind of vacation.
… a little back-up is appreciated. Your vacation company is just a phone call away if you get lost or blow a tyre.
… you don’t want to arrange an entire trip yourself. An organised tour will book accommodation, arrange park permits, explain journey times, tell you where to buy fuel... Just turn up and drive.
…you’re watching the budget. Self driving, rather than expensive internal flights, keeps costs down.

Don’t go on a self drive safari if…

… you only want to see animals. A self drive safari is generally a driving vacation taking in a host of highlights, with a few days’ game viewing included. Want to make game drives your sole focus? Book a regular safari vacation instead.
… you like everything done for you. Accommodation is booked and an itinerary drawn up for you, but you’ll still be in charge of pulling it off and in Namibia especially, there can be long drive times of five hours plus.
… you want to go solo in the bush. With the exception of Namibia’s Etosha National Park, which you can explore in your vehicle, the actual game viewing part of a self drive safari is typically in a safari vehicle, with a driver and guide.
… wild camping is your thing. Most organised self drive safari vacations use lodges and permanent camps in game parks.

Best time to go on a self drive safari


South Africa delivers at any time of year thanks to its temperate climate, but the best time to go on safari in the Eastern Cape, along the Garden Route, is during the dry months of May-early Oct, when animals cluster near water sources. Temps are mild, too, rarely dropping below 18°C, with rain from Jun-Aug. KwaZulu Natal keeps a similar timetable, with dry, mild May-Sep the best time for wildlife viewing. The best time to go to Namibia is also during its dry season, Mar-Sep, when temps are°C-25°C and wildlife viewing at its best. The Jan-Mar rainy season can soar to 40°C.
Photo credit: [Topbox: April Killingsworth] [Tempchart: Spephane Gallay] [Help desk: Riju K]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Oleg Znamenskiy]