Another wonderful article from our friend and partner Charles Norwood, who inspired us to travel and explore Africa in self-drive
Charles and his wife Meregan created the first commercial self-drive safari in 1992 and after more than 25 years of operations have come to know what makes the perfect journey. Self Drive Safari Resource is the result of all that experience and is a free knowledge site to help you with your planning, pre-departure, and experiences on the road in Africa.
Today Charles is the founder and owner at Self Drive Safari Resource, a free content web site that offers, information, planning, inspiration, and on the ground knowledge to fully independent travelers that are driving themselves on safari or Overlanding across Africa. The knowledge for the site has been developed from more than 25 years of self-drive safari operations across Africa by Meregan and Charles Norwood.
Firstly, do your research, there are a bewildering array of safari operators trying to lure you into their hands. Before you speak to the operators, try to get an idea of which country appeals most, the seasons, and your budget will have a bearing on your decision as well as the sort of journey you are looking for.
Some other basic early decisions include the levels of personal comfort, the amount of driving that you are happy with and how adventurous you are. At its most basic level a self-drive safari is no more than touring between safari lodges with lavish comfort and guides to meet you on arrival and deliver the game experiences in open game viewers. At the other end of the scale, remote driving across a national park and camping at a special campsite with no one else but the animals for company, cooking supper over an open fire with that sundowner moment to finish the day. Nights spent sleeping either on a roof tent above the vehicle or securely tucked up in a ground tent.
The variations are endless and it’s important to find the right safari for you. The best self-drive journey doesn’t involve tagging along to other vehicles as part of a group being shepherded through the bush with all the decisions being made by a professional. This devalues the experience and without making your own decisions about the journey such as navigation or when to stop for lunch or to follow an unexpected wildlife sighting it will be a less rewarding journey. The important thing is to use a safari outfitter that understands how and why a self- drive journey works. The easiest way to find out if they are knowledgeable enough is to ask them if they have driven themselves in Africa. If they have, they will soon be enthusiastically telling you about their last journey and will understand exactly what you are looking for. Do ensure that they have the team on the ground, to brief you on arrival, for example about the road conditions as these can change with the season and importantly the ground team will back you up if you have any problems. A good operator will not only ensure that the vehicles are in perfect condition and not some tired old hack, but also the equipment they supply will be appropriate and serviceable. They will also supply everything that is needed including all the bedding and camping equipment and will even provision the vehicle if asked.
The best companies will treat your safety and security of the highest importance and supply you with a satellite phone free of charge ensuring that there will never be an occasion when you are without backup. They will also have a flying doctor service to cover you for any eventuality.
Whilst piecing together the many elements of an expedition to Africa can seem daunting, with the right attitude and the support of good organisation your first self- driving experience in the bush will change the way that you go on safari for ever.
So, enjoy those special sundowner moments with the drifting smoke of your campfire in your own bush camp and waking at sunrise in the morning cool to the sound of doves and the guinea fowl pecking around your tent and look forward to another exciting day on the road.