Tell me about game drives

January 12th 2018  |  Botswana, South Africa, Travel, Zambia, Zimbabwe  |  by  Charlotte Opperman
Jao Game Drive with antelope, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sitting in the back of a vehicle, watching the African wildlife and scenery unfold before you is one of the true pleasures of a safari. If you’ve not done it before here’s a quick look at what to expect.

Your first experience of a game drive is likely to be the journey from the airstrip to your camp. It’s a great opportunity to glimpse some of the landscape that you’ll be enjoying over the coming days.

Kanga Camp Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Kanga Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Game drive vehicles are specially adapted 4x4s, cleverly designed and built to give passengers great unobstructed views of Africa’s prolific wildlife. They’ll have open sides and in some countries an open roof too. They often have electric points for battery charging, a mini-fridge, and usually reference books as well. While most accommodate around eight guests, we try and work with camps and lodges where four or six people is normal, and you can also ask for a private vehicle if you prefer to travel with just your own family or friends. They’re remarkably rugged and can cross seemingly impossible terrain; on one occasion I found myself in a vehicle going through a channel of the Okavango Delta with water washing around in the floor pan!

Kwetsani camp game drives, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Kwetsani Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

You might be surprised by how often you’ll be allowed out of the vehicle, but never get out unless your guide says you can. There are times such as sundowner drinks, entering a photographic hide, looking at animal tracks, checking out a specific tree, or even a loo stop, when the guide will check the locality, and say yay or nay to getting out. Even though the vehicle’s sides are open it still offers much better protection than being on foot. Don’t forget that the cuddly sleeping lion in your viewfinder is still wild.

Chiawa Camp game drives, Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Quiet talking is ok, and the guide needs to talk or he can’t tell you about the animals, birds, bones and tracks you are seeing.

John's Camp game drives, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

John’s Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

During game drives it’s wise to stay in your seat all the times, and keep all of your body parts inside the vehicle. The intention is to allow wildlife to feel relaxed around a vehicle, and not to move away at its approach. You can help by not making sudden moves or noises, and not altering the outline of the car. Many guides are keen photographers too, and they are experts at both getting close to the animals and into the best position for pictures.

Jaci's Safari Lodge game drives, Madikwe, South Africa

Jaci’s Safari Lodges, Madikwe, South Africa

Generally your safari day is split into morning and afternoon activities and your morning game drive will leave camp at dawn. Although an African morning can be surprisingly cold before sunrise, don’t worry as the vehicles are equipped with blankets to warm you against the dawn chill. You’ll stop to look at tracks from the night before, possibly a lion or hyena making their way home after a night’s hunting. Then it’s a question of what unfolds before you as to where you spend your time, although guides will try to accommodate specific requests if they can.

Morukuru Family game drives, Madikwe, South Africa

Morukuru River Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.

Your morning game drive might end with a wonderful breakfast out in the bush or perhaps you’ll head back to camp for brunch and a siesta before heading out again in the afternoon. This time you’ll drive to a different area to the one you explored in the morning and just before sunset you’ll stop in a scenic spot for a ‘sundowner’. This as an African institution and there’s nothing better than to end the day with a cold drink overlooking a beautiful view. Where possible, on the way back to camp the spotlight will be out and you’ll get a chance to see some of the nocturnal wildlife setting off about its business; perhaps serval, civet, African cat and, if you’re very lucky, pangolin and aardvark.

Tanda Tula game drives, Kruger, South Africa

Tanda Tula, Kruger, South Africa

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions about game drives. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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