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Game drive in serengeti Tanzania

Game drive – Get close to the wildlife

In our tour descriptions, we often write something along the lines of “today you’ll be going on a game drive”.

But what is a game drive? How does it take place? And is there anything in particular you should think about before going on a game drive?

What is a game drive?

As the name suggests, a game drive is when you go on a drive in search of game.

When you go on safari in Africa, you will typically go on some kind of game drive, where you drive out to see the animals in their natural surroundings.

There will often be a driver and a guide, or a driver who doubles as a guide, while in some places it is possible to go on self-drive game drive, such as in Etosha National Park in Namibia or Addo National Park in South Africa.

Game drives: where, when, how

A game drive can vary a little depending on where you are in Africa and what time of the day you head out.

What do you drive in?

In East Africa, a game drive typically takes place in a 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser, where the roof can be lifted to allow you to stand up in the car and look out at the animals (when the car is stationary!). The good thing about this is that it puts you at a good height in relation to the animals and gives you a fantastic view. If you have a large camera with you, you can also rest it on the ledge of the car to take pictures.

In southern Africa, the safari cars are typically open, i.e. with either a roof and no windows or neither a roof nor windows. The advantage of this is that you really get the feeling of being at one with nature because it is so close you could touch it (please keep your hands inside, though!). What’s more, you can constantly survey the landscape and help spot the animals – even when the car is driving.

National park or game reserve?

In Africa, you can experience animals on safari at one of the many African national parks or at a private game reserve.

More rules apply when you go on safari in the national parks. You have to stick to the established roads, for example, while in the private game reserves, you can go off-road. This means that you are sometimes in with a better chance of getting closer to the animals at a private game reserve. On the other hand, the national parks are often much larger, giving you a feeling that you really are here on nature’s and the animals’ terms.

At a private game reserve (e.g. Kariega Game Reserve in South Africa), you can, in principle, go on a game drive around the clock, allowing you to choose the times when the different animals are most active. At the national parks, on the other hand, you are usually restricted to a time between sunrise and sunset.

No matter where and when you are on the game drive, however, there is always one rule: listen to the guide and always follow his advice! The animals don’t know if they are in a national park or in a private game reserve.

What time of day does a game drive take place?

You can go on a game drive at various times throughout the day. When, largely depends on where you are. Sometimes you can even be on a game drive without realising it – for example when you are being transported from A to B through an area where the animals live in the wild.

A game drive in the middle of the day can be somewhat sweltering. And the animals think so, too, so there’s not as much “action” on a game drive in the middle of the day as in the morning or evening. This said, you can get some really good pictures because the animals don’t tend to move around as much. And there’s something quite magical about the hot air, which almost makes the horizon quiver – it doesn’t get much more African than that!

In the morning and at the end of the day, the animals are more lively. They make their way down to the waterholes, graze or begin to prepare for the hunt.

Sometimes, you may also be lucky enough to go on a game drive after dark. At this time of the day, the guide will often use a red light that doesn’t hurt the animals’ eyes but allows you to see them in the dark.

You spend many hours in the car on safari. If you are driving at a time when the sun is down, you should be aware that African nights can get pretty chilly – so bring warm clothes with you!

What do you experience on a game drive?

You can go on a game drive at various times throughout the day. When, largely depends on where you are. Sometimes you can even be on a game drive without realising it – for example when you are being transported from A to B through an area where the animals live in the wild.

A game drive in the middle of the day can be somewhat sweltering. And the animals think so, too, so there’s not as much “action” on a game drive in the middle of the day as in the morning or evening. This said, you can get some really good pictures because the animals don’t tend to move around as much. And there’s something quite magical about the hot air, which almost makes the horizon quiver – it doesn’t get much more African than that!

In the morning and at the end of the day, the animals are more lively. They make their way down to the waterholes, graze or begin to prepare for the hunt.

Sometimes, you may also be lucky enough to go on a game drive after dark. At this time of the day, the guide will often use a red light that doesn’t hurt the animals’ eyes but allows you to see them in the dark.

You spend many hours in the car on safari. If you are driving at a time when the sun is down, you should be aware that African nights can get pretty chilly – so bring warm clothes with you!

Well, it’s almost impossible to say.

The animals and nature set the agenda.

Prepare for the unexpected.

You may be falling asleep out of sheer boredom because you’ve only seen ostriches and wildebeest and then – boom – there’s a lion lying in the middle of the road! And then the next day, you might find the driver braking hard right outside your lodge or tent camp, because an elephant has fallen in love with a tree right there, and that’s as far as you get that day.
Nature doesn’t work to a schedule, and no two game drives are alike. But that is also what makes going on safari so fascinating!

Tips for your game drive

It’s wonderful to experience the African animals on a game drive, for example.

When planning your safari, it’s a good idea to prepare for the game drive itself, e.g. think about what clothes to pack. Layering is good, so there is always something to take off – or put on.

It may also be a good idea to bring some snacks for the game drive itself. The fresh air and excitement can give you quite the appetite, and it would be a shame to lose focus because hunger has struck. And remember to bring something to drink – particularly in the middle of the day – as it can get hot when the sun is high in the sky.

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