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Elephants, Tanzania

Head to head: Guided safari versus self-drive safari

04 Min Read

Should you take to four wheels on your own or explore with a guide? Here's how to choose the right African safari for you.

For some people, the beauty of a safari lies in flying into a remote location and setting out on game drives with guides that know the area like the back of their hand. For others, it’s the sense of adventure that appeals; the idea of being able to take each day’s journey at your own pace, self-driving through incredible landscapes and discovering a country under your own steam. Our Africa specialists argue the benefits of both.

Self-drive safari

Namibia by Steve

Namibia has endless horizons, a harsh but beautiful coastline and wonderful game reserves. The best way to explore it all is to hire a car and hit the tarmac. The roads are quiet, wide and free of traffic, so you can explore jaw-dropping landscapes with ease. Vehicles drive on the left here, and we provide full directions as well as breakdown cover should you need it.

Leopard on the Okonjima Reserve
Leopard, Okonjima Reserve, Northern Namibia

The drive from Swakopmund and on through Damaraland is a major attraction in itself — the landscape changes from the eerie, desolate plains near the coast to breathtaking vistas dotted with volcanic rock formations as you move into Damaraland.

Spot herds of oryx and springbok, and if you’re lucky, desert-adapted elephant in search of water. With all our self-drive Namibia trips you are given a full briefing by our partners on the ground beforehand, along with a Namibian mobile phone that comes preloaded with any numbers you may need. So no matter how remote your location, you can rest assured that we are always just a phone call away.

South Africa by Toby

Self-driving in the Kruger National Park
Self-driving in Kruger National Park, South Africa

South Africa’s Kruger National Park has been a protected haven for wildlife since 1926, and it is also one of the largest parks in Africa. My fondest and most exciting memories are of the times I spent in my own vehicle with the freedom to navigate the park not knowing quite what was around the next corner. The real magic of it is that it’s your own personal safari experience, and if you want to stop by a waterhole for the day, then you can. 

A great option is to start by exploring the canyons and waterfalls of the aptly named Panorama Region, on the edge of the park. After this, you can drive further into the park itself and stay for two or three nights in simple government rest camps along the course of your route. Finally, spend a couple of nights in one of the exclusive game concessions around Kruger to track Africa’s Big Five.

Footsteps Across The Delta Mokoro Trip
Delta Mokoro, Shinde Concession, Botswana

Guided Safari

Botswana by Harriet

Botswana’s Okavango Delta offers one of the most diverse safari experiences anywhere in Africa. The guides in the delta are some of the best in the world because they have an excellent understanding of the behavior patterns of the resident game and where to go for fantastic sightings — ideal for first-time safari goers who want to seek out the hiding places of some of the Big Five.

Each concession area has a particular wildlife focus, along with its own expert guides. No two concessions are the same, and the guides are permanently attached to a particular camp, so they all know their region intimately.

The highlight of my time here was the walking safari. I’m always astonished at how well the guides are able to point out different tracks and spoors, and spot the smallest reed frog hiding in the grass. Their knowledge of the area and its wildlife is what makes the overall experience all the more enjoyable.

Lioness in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Lioness in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Tanzania by Jack

The vast parks and reserves of northern Tanzania lend themselves well to a guided safari. As only licensed guides are allowed to work in the parks, you’ll be able to gain an even greater insight into the region assisted by the people who know it best. My guide Jonathan’s limitless knowledge and passion for wildlife showed he had real empathy for the animals, joking about their antics and explaining their behavior in fascinating detail. 

Your guide is one of the most important factors on any safari, and we work hard to ensure we use only the best. Having a private guide means you can focus your game drives around your interests. You also get a unique insight into local life, and the chance to discuss diverse topics ranging from education to customs.

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