A Southern African Self Drive Safari gives you the freedom to explore the region in your own time, at your own pace. It also allows you to really explore off the beaten track destinations.
An African Self Drive Safari gives you the freedom to coast along the back roads away from the masses of tourists doing the Lemming thing along the highways in Southern Africa. You certainly experience more of the countryside and it's people.
But, there are many things to consider. For example, What Season? Summers can be very hot. Except for the Western Cape, Southern Africa has a summer rainfall climate. This means that the countryside is lovely and green but it has it's own hazards to consider.
If you are on an overland safari in the wilderness you might have trouble crossing swollen rivers. Gravel roads can become muddy swamps. Malaria is prevalent in summer along the Eastern Coast north of the Tugela river in Kwa Zulu Natal, Mozambique and the Lowveld of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.
Overland through the Limpopo Cross Border Park
Summer time is a wonderful time to visit the vineyards of the Western Cape.
Winter in the bushveld is usually dry and a lot cooler.
Game viewing is generally better as game congregates at water holes and the veld is more open due trees having lost their leaves and the grass that is grazed down to ground level.
Spring is flowering season in the Western Cape and Namaqualand. The whole West Coast and interior comes alive in an explosion of color as the myriad of flower species come to live and bloom for a month or two.
Route: Which roads are you going to use to reach your destination? Will you drive there directly or make use of the opportunity to take the scenic route which may be longer but allow you to take in more of the countryside? An African Self Drive Safari allows you this freedom of choice!
Good Maps are always a must. Make sure you have the latest maps covering the region you are visiting. Maps can make or break your African Self Drive Safari.
A good GPS system such as Garmin will save you a lot of trouble. The Southern African Maps are quite up to date with all the latest info. If you are however planning on traveling the back roads and unmarked gravel tracks (of which there are plenty in Southern Africa!) rather download Tracks 4 Africa from www.tracks4africa.com.
African Safari Vehicle - Going off road could very well require a 4X4. Southern African off road conditions can be very rough. This is Africa after all! Then, on the other side of the coin, if you are planning on taking in the sights on a leisurely safari up theGarden Route of South Africa, you will be traveling on excellent tarred roads and an ordinary sedan is all you need.
Southern African Safari Accommodation covers the whole spectrum and where you choose to stay will determine what need to take along. For example, you could choose to stay in:
Food. If you will be staying in hotels and dining in restaurants, this is not a problem. If you are camping, you would probably need to take all your food and drink along.
Camping Equipment can include as little or as much as you want to take along. This obviously depends on your personal comfort levels as well as the packing space available in your car. Over and above the basics such as tents, camping chairs and sleeping bags you need to consider taking along a camping fridge / freezer. A solar shower kit is also a special treat as not all wilderness campsites provide such luxuries as ablutions. You might even require a Porta Potti.
Travel documents such as Passports and Visas. Always make sure of the entry and exit requirements of all the countries you are planning to visit and make sure that your paper work is in order.
Recovery Equipment is essential on Off Road African Self Drive Safaris. The conditions in some of the places you may visit on a Southern African Self Drive Safari can be extreme which will test the mettle of both driver and vehicle. Consider taking along the following equipment depending on your route and destination. Do your homework before you leave! The list below is not complete but indicates some of the essential equipment to consider.
Traveling alone or in a group? It is always a good idea to travel in a convoy of 2 or more vehicles as this always provides you with back up in case of trouble along the way. Never travel alone if you are going off road to wilderness destinations. Africa can be very harsh and you do not want to be stranded on your own in the middle of nowhere.
A Good First Aid kit is essential.
Always check the availability of fuel and water along your route. In some places fuel may not ba available and you will have to carry extra in Jerry cans. The same goes for water. Not all water is fit for drinking so you might have to take your own along or stock up along the route where fresh water is available
Here are some samples of actual safaris we planned, went on and thoroughly enjoyed.
We included several other arid National Parks on our Richtersveld Self Drive Safari. We departed from Gauteng and our first overnight stop was at the Mokala National Park where we camped at the Haak en Steek Campsite.
Our next overnight stop was at the Augrabies National Park. There is actually a lot more to do and see than just the Augrabies falls. Mind you, this is a site worth seeing.
From Augrabies we travelled to Port Nolloth where we camped overnight before going on to the Richtersveld National Park.
We camped at the De Hoop Campsite on the bank of the Orange River. This centrally located campsite was a perfect base to explore the Richtersveld National Park.
Returning from the Richtersveld we used the Springbok Caravan Park for an overnight stop on our way to the Witsand Nature Reserve which was the last destination of this Magical Southern African Self Drive Safari.
Follow this link for the complete review of our Richtersveld Safari...
Day 1: Johannesburg to the National Mountain Zebra Park
skirting the Lesotho Border from Clarence to Wepener. After setting up
camp there was sufficient daylight for a leisurely Game Drive through
Day 2: Drive from the National Mountain Zebra Park via the Zuurberg Pass (Beautiful!) through Patensie to Kudu Kaya in the Baviaanskloof.
Day 3: Leisurely hike along the banks of the Ys River. Packed up camp and crossed the notorious Combrinck's Pass to Rooihoek in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area.
Day 4: Continue from Rooihoek to Bo-Kloof. Set up camp and enjoyed a walk along the stream.
Day 5: Enjoyed the Waterkloof Hike. This is a must do! Please my friend, you cannot say you visited Baviaanskloof if you haven't hiked the Waterkloof Trail. All you need is a good pair of hiking shoes and Skollie, the Guide Dog! Another Magical Southern African Safari moment! From Bo - Kloof we enjoyed the short drive to Duiwekloof. As in the rest of the kloof it is very scenic. Side note: You can also consider staying over at Makkedaat Caves. You do sleep in a cave!
Day 6: Exit the Baviaanskloof on the Willowmore side. Drive to the town of De Rust. Stop for brunch and continue to the Swartberg Pass via the Rust and Vrede waterfall. Do yourself a favor and stop here. It is worth it. Continue from here to the Swartberg pass which you climb to the top. (Very scenic) Take the turn off to Gamkaskloof. At this point you need to allow yourself at least 2 hours to travel the 52 kilometers down into The Hell. Set up camp and restored frayed nerves with a few quick cold ones!
Day 7: Explored the quaint restored village in Gamkaskloof. Packed up camp and once again endured the hair raising climb out of "The Hell". Descended the Swartberg Pass and had lunch in the town of Prince Albert. From here we continued to Karoo National Park just outside of Beaufort West.
Day 8: Long drive home to Johannesburg from the Karoo National Park.
Day 1: Long Drive North from Johannesburg to Pietersburg on the N1. From Pietersburg exit the highway and take the less traveled route via Alldays. Set up camp at Dongola Ranch. (Side note: Dongola Ranch has unfortunately been closed to the general public and can no longer be used as a campsite)
Day 2: Relaxed and explored Dongola ranch
Day 3: Day trip to neighboring Mapungubwe Cross Border Park. Highlight - Boardwalk over the Limpopo River Flood Plains with Hide overlooking river.
Day 4: Break camp and continued to Tshipise via Messina.
Day 5: Relaxed and enjoyed the hot water springs.
Day 7: Break camp and entered the Kruger National Park at Pafuri. Camped at Punda Maria.
Day 8: Leisurely Game Drive. Highlight - Pack of Wild Dogs (Endangered Species) feeding at a kill. The Kruger National Park is always a great destination for an Southern African Self Drive Safari, especially if you are new on the continent.
Day 9: Break camp and continued to Shingwedzi, our next camp site. This is what is great about the Kruger, even between camp sites you can enjoy game viewing!
Day 10: Leisurely game drive. Since this is an African Self Drive Safari you get to choose the route, destination and duration!
Day 11: Packed up camp and enjoyed Game Viewing all the way from Shingwedzi to the Maroela Satellite camp.
Day 12: Long Drive home to Johannesburg via the scenic route of Abel Erasmus Pass and Lydenburg. What a great African Self Drive Safari!