What Type of Safari Transportation is Best For You?
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You’ve been dreaming of an African safari holiday for a while and you’ve finally decided to go for it.
Maybe you’ve already chosen the national parks you plan to visit. But when you start to plan the details, you soon realize you are faced with a plethora of transportation options.
You can explore the vast expanses of the African wilderness by land, by water, or from the air. You can choose a 4x4 open vehicle, an overland truck, a boat, a balloon, or on horseback!
In this article, we’ve put together detailed information to help narrow down the ideal transportation for you when going on an African safari.
Transportation by land
The most common way to experience an African safari is by land. So it comes to no surprise that there are numerous land-based vehicles to choose from, each with their advantages and disadvantages.
Overland trucks are the most affordable way to experience an African safari. They are best equipped to survive the rough roads of the continent.
Normally used for longer and larger tours, overland trucks can accommodate up to 44 people. That said, smaller trucks are also available. If you choose an overland tour, it may last for days or even weeks thus they come equipped with a mobile kitchen and offer (some) space to store luggage.
The seating may differ depending on the setup of the truck. Some may have only front-facing seats, while others may have rear or side-facing seats. Make sure to ask for details about this before you book.
These trucks generally have large windows, which allow for pretty good wildlife viewing. Many even have a pop-up roof.
Do note that overland trucks come with onboard charging facilities so you will never miss an opportunity to snap a pic!
Minivan safari vehicles
Photo credit: Go East Africa Safaris
When going on a shorter tour which doesn’t cross very rough terrain, converted minivans are the preferred vehicle.
They can carry up to 10 people, all forward-facing. Whether you get a window seat or not depends on how they are configured, do ask your safari operator for more information before booking.
Especially if you go on a safari in Kenya, please note that the minivans have a pop-up roof allowing for better wildlife viewing. In general, though, the minivans have sliding windows. Some minivans are also equipped with air conditioning.
Land Cruisers and Land Rovers
Photo credit: Explorers Wild Adventures
Many safari operators prefer the land cruisers and land rovers for the game drives.
The vehicles can be converted in many ways: from “bare-bones” which don’t have AC to highly specialized vehicles which even feature slightly tinted windows to keep the sun rays at bay. New models, especially in Tanzania, feature a pop-up roof, too.
They can carry up to 6 people (extended version) and can easily handle rough terrains. These vehicles provide excellent game viewing and photography opportunities.
Note that your luggage will usually be stored either in a trailer or on the roof so make sure to pack light.
Just imagine the Ngorongoro Crater and you’ll easily realize why 4x4 WD (jeep) closed vehicles are used for game drives in this area.
Open safari vehicles
Photo credit: Safari With Us
Within many parks – and usually, in private conservancies – open-sided or completely open vehicles are used on game drives.
Because of the setup, you can get up close and personal with the sounds and scents of nature, but you are left unprotected from the harsh elements.
Because of this, it’s highly recommended that you bring a windbreaker, scarf, sunglasses, sun hat, and sunscreen.
The vehicles are usually converted land cruisers which can seat up to 9 people. They designed with tiered seating, so everyone gets a clear view of the wildlife, without the companion’s head in sight.
You will be accompanied by a driver and a tracker, which are highly experienced and allow to you see the best of what the African wildlife has to offer.
Photo credit: Out in Africa Encounters
Experienced riders will have an excellent time on a horseback safari in Africa.
Generally, you spend most of the day on horseback and go to places where there are no paved roads. Instead, you will ride along bridled paths or, in some cases, make your own path throughout your journey.
Getting the chance to spot the Big Five animals out of the confines of a car is a truly magical experience.
Some of the places where you can go on a horseback safari are the Okavango Delta, as well as in some private conservancies in South Africa and Zambia.
Photo credit: Viva Safaris
Yes, you can go on a safari on foot! In fact, walking safaris in Africa are gaining popularity in recent years.
You can experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the African bush in a way that no vehicles allow you to.
If you are concerned about safety, rest assured that you’ll be accompanied by a highly trained armed guide and a tracker to make sure you are never too close to the dangerous predators.
Transportation by air
Aside from embarking on a flying safari - which includes the internal flights to get to the national parks by plane - you may also explore the landscape from above by choosing a helicopter, a light-plane ride or a hot air balloon experience.
There are many helicopter types used by safari operators, so it’s best to inquire about the details. For example, those used at Victoria Falls have 4 or 6 seats. Some even have bubble windows allowing for excellent views.
Photo credit: David Berkowitz on Flickr
Many light planes can be chartered to get to the lodges but you can also get a bird’s eye view over the vastness of Okavango Delta, for example, for spectacular photographic opportunities.
On some overland tours, you can opt for a scenic flight so make sure to inquire with your safari operator.
Hot Air Balloons
Photo credit: Rosolo Safaris
They aren’t only available in Tanzania. You can also experience a hot air balloon ride in Kenya, or Botswana.
Transportation by water
Africa is not just about the rough terrains and vast, grassy plains. There are many bodies of water which are teeming with wildlife, which you can explore on several types of boats.
Photo credit: Africa4Us
Mokoros are traditionally dug-out wooden canoes, but in recent years, they’ve been made out of fiberglass to preserve the indigenous trees.
Gliding through the waterways and getting up-close and personal with the birds, elephants, crocodiles, and hippos is an experience you will never forget!
Photo credit: Rafiki Tours and Travel
Should you find yourself along the east coast of Africa, make sure to book a sunset cruise on a dhow.
Originally used for trading, you can now catch a ride on these graceful vessels along the shores of Zanzibar.
Houseboats and motorized boats
You can stay near a large body of water and choose a boat cruise for a few hours during which you can spot hippos, crocodiles, and elephants.
Alternatively, you can opt for a houseboat if you prefer a longer stay on the water. By doing so, you may spot all types of wildlife from the comfort of your deck!
Ready to indulge in the beauty of Africa? Book a jeep safari and allow yourself to be amazed by its stunning wildlife and nature!