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A Short Guide To African Safari Vehicles

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Ask anyone who knows Africa and the two most important components to a successful safari are being led by knowledgable and enthusiastic guides and travelling in a top notch and reliable safari vehicle.

Due to varying terrain, climate, and tourism infrastructure, safari vehicles do differ by destination with the largest variation being the different styles of vehicles in Southern Africa versus East Africa

Each style of vehicle comes with its own benefits which we explore below

Safari Vehicles in Southern Africa

Southern Africa consists of the countries South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia

In Southern Africa, safari vehicles are most often modified 4x4s, such as Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers.

These vehicles are typically open-sided with tiered seating to ensure all passengers have an unobstructed view of the wildlife. The open design is ideal for game viewing and offer a closer connection to nature. Those that have experienced an open sided vehicle will understand the thrill of having incredible wildlife right next to your vehicle with nothing to obstruct your view.

Leopards on a Game Drive with Londolozi. Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

Open sided vehicles sometimes make use of shaded roofs that provide protection from the sun.

Open Sided Vehicle at Savute Botswana. Photo Desert & Delta Safaris.

Open sided vehicles provide the ultimate way to connect with Africa's incredible wildlife.

Wild Dogs at Sabi Sabi. Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

Safari Vehicles in East Africa

East Africa Countries include: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda & Uganda

In contrast, East African safari vehicles, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania, are typically closed 4x4s with pop-up roofs. These vehicles provide a more enclosed experience, which is crucial in East Africa when doing a safari by road and travelling across extensive road networks with long drives across the vast savannahs and during the rainy season when protection from the elements is needed.

A Typical Closed Vehicle in East Africa

The pop-up roofs allow passengers to stand and get a 360-degree view while being protected from the sun. This design is particularly effective during the Great Migration in the Serengeti or Maasai Mara, where large numbers of vehicles gather, and the elevated vantage point can be advantageous for viewing and photographing wildlife over tall grass.

Photo roofs provide a good vantage to capture uninterrupted photos. Photo Lemala.

A number of camps in East Africa do offer the open sided vehicles, however these type of vehicles are primarly used on fly in circuits at luxury camps.

Open Sided Vehicle at the Luxurious Mara Plains Camp

Overall, the choice of vehicle reflects the regional requirements: Southern Africa’s open vehicles suit its varied landscapes and private reserves, while East Africa’s enclosed, roof-hatch vehicles are tailored to its expansive plains and more structured National Parks.

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