September 12th, 2021

An Introduction to Self-Drive Holidays in Africa

Written by:

Toby Pheasant

Category:

Safari 101

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There are two principle ways of travelling around the great African wilderness whilst on holiday - by road and by air.

Both means of transport have a big long list of pros, and a couple of cons too. 

In this notebook entry we’ll explore the beauty of driving yourself around this vast continent.

Dwarfed by elephants in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Self-driving through Africa - travelling slowly through villages, towns and cities - offers you a completely different perspective and, if it is something that interests you, we would highly, highly recommend it. 

Here is our list of Pros & Cons, our Top Tips & our Top 3 countries we’d recommend self-driving through:

Pros:

1)    Put very simply, driving from destination to destination allows you to see so much more of the region. Instead of quickly flying over (and often missing everything), you are able to appreciate and understand how the cultures, habitats and wildlife slowly change as you progress through the country.

2)    Self-driving opens the doors to a number of different ‘styles’ of accommodation, including camping on top of your very own vehicle. Depending on your level of experience, this may also mean you are able to explore much further off-the-beaten-track.

Cooking dinner in the Okavango Delta

3)     Hiring a vehicle and driving can often be very cost effective (it is not always!). However, it’s vitally important to not skimp on who you hire a vehicle from - we work with several very reliable partners across Africa and can help you choose the most suitable.

4)    Self-driving is true adventuring. There’s nothing quite like being completely independent & responsible for yourself. It's that feeling of coming across a herd of elephants in Botswana, or lighting your own fire to cook your wild feast under a blanket of stars in the remotest reaches of Namibia. There are so many adrenalin-raising moments that are only possible when you self-drive.

Self-supported road trips are a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the African bush

Cons:

1)    If you’re restricted by the amount of time you can be away, self-driving may not be the perfect option for you (for now anyway). That being said, if you are keen to self-drive and have limited time, the ability to explore just 1 or 2 areas in much more depth is possible.

2)    Your safety is our paramount concern; heading out by yourselves into the African wilderness, or along some of its rather hairy roads, can involve risk. This is, again, why we only work with certain vehicle partners and take the time with you to understand your experience levels to ascertain what would be suitable for you.

The wide and (very) open road!

Top Tips:

Take your time

Make sure you plan for your journeys to take much longer than the GPS suggests. This is for 2 main reasons: 

1)    It will allow you to slow down, stop to take photos, chat with locals, buy fresh fruit off the street vendors and generally appreciate and absorb the world you are travelling through.

2)    It’s far safer. Driving slower, especially on dirt roads or single carriageways is the way to go.


Enjoy the drive

Self-driving isn't just about getting from point A to B, it's part of the adventure. Download some great music and audiobooks, and settle in for a few hours of relaxation with stunning views.

Stopping to stretch the legs in Botswana

Be well prepared

It's vitally important to understand your route as best as possible. Knowing where you can refuel, buy food, water etc (and always having a contingency plan!) will make for a much more relaxing journey. 

Plan for all weather conditions - there is nothing worse than being cold at night and having a bad night sleep before a long drive.

In case you need to jack up the car and change a tyre, or have to top up anything into the engine, learn the basics of car mechanics. Take some basic tools with you too (if they are not provided).


Plan the trip well in advance

While we do love an impromptu road trip, planning a trip in advance is the best way to really get to know your journey in detail, and understand the best routes. This is especially true if you’re thinking of a longer multi-country self-drive, such as South Africa up to Kenyaor further.


Try and mix in some flying

If possible, try and get up in the air too. It’s always great to get a different perspective on the areas and ecosystems you are travelling through.

Sundowners overlooking Toby's Land Cruiser in Namibia

Our Top 3 Self-Drive Destinations

Namibia - Endless beauty & great value

South Africa - Incredible diversity & huge number of areas to explore

Botswana - Real adventure & wildlife galore

Self-drive holiday through Namibia's Etosha National Park

We absolutely adore self-driving across Africa and, in fact, Toby regularly explores the continent in his own vehicle. 

If you think that self-driving is something you’d like to explore but aren’t 100% convinced, then get in touch and we’d love to chat through all the intricacies with you. 

Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel Team

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By taking the time to properly listen to you, we design unique and personalised itineraries that combine your dreams with our first-hand knowledge of Africa.

We know that it’s the all-important finer details that have the power to turn your experience into a memory that will last a lifetime. We always go that extra mile to make sure you have the best holiday possible.

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