I have been on a number of guided, self-drive, camping, lodge etc. safaris and I have to say that whilst I love the professionalism of the guides, with all their knowledge that I couldn’t hope to learn, the off-roading and being able to get up close to the wildlife, there is nothing quite like driving yourself through somewhere like the Kruger National Park and coming up on anything from a massive bull elephant in must to a tiny mongoose skitting along the roadside.
The flexibility of planning your own routes, working out which circuits you can squeeze in before the gates close for the evening (strictly at 6pm – season dependent) can be an exciting part of the whole holiday. My husband and I have had a number of holidays in the Kruger, from early childhood family holidays to just ourselves, and the main argument we have now is whereabouts to stay, the north or the south (Ryan wanting the south and me the north). The south is the busiest part of the park in terms of vehicles but it does have a fantastic concentration of the big cats. The north however is much quieter and more remote but there are less big cats, or rather, they are well hidden on the Mopani forests! In recent years we have done both to avoid arguments but once we’re in the vehicle with our ‘eagle eyes’ ready, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Ryan can be quite the drill sergeant when in Kruger. We are always the first vehicle waiting to get out of the gate, heaven forbid we get out second!!! And our lunch stops and waterhole viewings are timed precisely to maximise game viewing hours. While most people return to their chalets during the heat of the day for a leisurely lunch or time to chill on the veranda with a book, we are out driving in the boiling car (without aircon because the window MUST be down to ensure maximum clarity in being able to see), even though all the animals are probably asleep in the shade or hiding in the deepest bush. But the funny thing is, I wouldn’t change it one little bit. The main reason being is the excitement of what might be around the next corner and the feeling that if you’re indoors you are likely to miss out on some spectacular sighting, and that keeps us out trawling the bush from dawn til dusk.
The evenings are then always the same, sitting around the BBQ (braai) with an inappropriate amount of meat cooking, a few beers and chatting about what we’ve seen followed by the dreaded plan of the next day! Bliss!
Self driving safaris are not for everybody. Some people go on holiday to be pampered and looked after and the thought having to pack everything but the kitchen sink, plans meals, cook for yourself etc is not everybody’s idea of fun. But if you’re looking for and exciting adventure mixed with bringing some household chores with you then have a go! I am sure you won’t regret it!