Self Drive Safari

zululand game reserves south africa

Ever imagined watching the most incredible sunrise, while listening to Elephants trumpeting or Lion roars in the distance. A self drive safari can be just as incredible travel at ones own pace and enjoy the wonders of the African Bush.

Before setting out on a Self Drive Safari

Please abide by all of the Rules

self drive hluhluwe

Speed

Please at all times keep to the speed limits within the game reserve irrespective of which reserve you may be in.

safari self drive photographic tips
Safari Self Drive

Photography

Most importantly while out on a Self Drive Safari, do not forget to take extra memory cards and batteries along. If possible take a ziplock bag along.

hluhluwe accommodation map
Safari Self Drive

Maps

Most importantly while out on a Self Drive Safari, make sure that you have a Map. Don't assume that you will have cell reception in all areas within a park.

do not do it on a self drive safari

A Big No

Don't become a meal while out in the reserve. Why on earth would anyone try and climb out? Heard of Lions before?

safari self drive and hides
Safari Self Drive

Hides

While out on a Self Drive Safari always make sure that you visit a Hide as these designated areas offer some spectacular sightings.

wildlife self drive safari tips
Safari Self Drive

Wildlife

Note that not all reserves and parks are Big 5. The fauna and flora also depends on the area that you visit.

never leave your car on a self drive safari

Wildlife

Remember wildlife roam freely and may just surprise you at anytime. Please refrain from leaving your car. Except in designated areas please.

picnics and self drive safari
Safari Self Drive

Picnics

Please ensure that you only get out of your car at designated areas such as Picnic areas. Always check the area prior for wildlife.

hluhluwe imfolozi gate times clock
Safari Self Drive

Gate Times

Please ensure that you are aware of the gate times as fines may be imposed should you leave the reserve late.

Self-Drive Safari Tips

 

Embarking a self-drive safari in any of South Africas’ game reserves can be an exciting experience, but good preparation, some planning and research can avoid those unforeseen events that may pop up from time and may change your fun outing into a stressful one.

One thing to note is that most popular game reserves are somewhat off the beaten track, most off the big parks will have multiple entrances and chances are that there are secondary roads leading to these, so first things first is to know where you are going and how to get there. Consult a road map or gps, although in some instances the gps directions may sometimes leave you lost as they may not be up to spec with road name changes etc.

Most game reserve entrances will have card facilities but technology may fail at the best of times or internet connections may be slow (this is Africa after all), so best carry some cash with you. Generally game parks may charge international visitors a higher entry fee than set out for local visitors, so make sure you have enough money on hand. Positive identification and vehicle registration is often required upon entry for security reasons so be sure to have it ready to complete your entry permit. If you are planning a visit for longer than a few hours, then be sure to take some snacks and plenty of drinking water as facilities inside the really big parks may be far apart and tap water is generally not suitable for consumption. Game parks will have picnic or braai facilities for you to enjoy a breakfast or lunch in the bush if you like.

When it comes to game viewing there are a few things to know before setting off. There is a real art to finding rare animals in the bush that comes with experience and time spent in the bush, but not everyone has that luxury, so as a first time visitor without a guide there are a few pointers to follow in order to maximize your chances of finding something special. Game viewing varies a lot from summer to winter as the seasons and rainfall or the lack thereof may see animals constantly moving around in search of better fodder so it’s good to understand what to look out for. Winters in the eastern parts of South Africa are generally dry, which results in animals concentrating around or close to remaining water sources such as rivers, so consult your map and plan your routes accordingly. Summer rainfall may see animals disperse more but higher temperatures will make game viewing difficult  in the late morning and mid-day and the bush may be quite lush and overgrown so it could affect your spotting abilities.

As the old saying goes; “the early bird catches the worm”, its best to go in as early as possible. Yes I know you might be on holiday you might feel the need to sleep in a bit. But remember you have to fit into the animals’ schedules if you want to find them active, they won’t wait for you. Predator activity is most at dusk, dawn and throughout the night, so if you want to get those Lions active or the African Wild Dogs moving or hunting along the roads then be in at first light. Don’t get too tempted to stop for the general species of game right from the start, as antelopes and Warthogs, although great to see and very cute, these animals are easier to find and you will likely encounter them many times throughout the day so rather focus on covering some ground in search of those rare sights such as the Big 5 species and look at the more common animals later on. Speak to the locals and stop passing vehicles to share sightings as this may also help you go about your search, remember sharing is caring… nost Game parks now a days have some form of sharing methods for sightings such as Whats App groups or sightings apps you can download, so be sure to enquire about that before you enter.

Game viewing “etiquette” is a real thing, and should be adhered to to help create order at sightings and not to infringe on the animals’ personal space. What we mean by etiquette is that there is a certain way to behave at an animal sighting and some of the generally accepted rules are as follows:

Self-Drive Safari Tips

  • Always park on the side of the road that the animal is on (only if this doesn’t infringe the animals comfort zone). This may mean facing oncoming traffic, but that’s ok, as this allows vehicles to pass around you without blocking your view or photo opportunity, and prevents the animal from being startled by passing vehicles.
  • Switch off your engine, there is nothing more irritating than an idling engine with a fan motor switching on and off periodically. This disturbs the animal and blocks the beautiful sounds of the birds and bush (this is why you visit nature isn’t it? To enjoy the tranquility)
  • Never leave your vehicle or stand out the sunroof or sit on the window sill as this breaks the outline of the vehicle that animals get habituated to and exposes your human presence, this usually will cause the animal to move off or it could result in an aggressive response.
  • Never speed in the parks, a general speed limit of 40km/h is applicable to most parks but it is advised to drive slower in order to spot animals better.
  • Give way to vehicles wanting to pass, roads can sometimes be narrow so be courteous.

Most animals living in parks have over time become habituated to vehicles passing by and have mostly accepted them as part of their natural environment. This does not mean they are tame. Wild animals can still be unpredictable and dangerous so practice caution when approaching the big animals such as Rhino or Elephant. Watch their movements and predict where they may want to move or cross the road and DON’T stop in such a way as to block their direction of travel. Back up and give them room and they will usually cross without any hassles. Beware of Bull Elephants in musth, the breeding phase that a male Elephant may enter at any time. It is distinguished by wet stains down the side of their cheeks and dribbling urine from in between the back legs, give these guys plenty of room. Remember you are a guest in their home so behave accordingly. A good way to tell if an animal is comfortable with you being there is to look whether or not they are continuing with their natural behavior, i.e. what they were doing before you got there, did the stop eating or playing with your approach? Over animal dung on the roads as there are usually dung beetles and other small decomposers inside busy with important work.

Be aware of small animals and insects on the road such as dung beetles, tortoises and chameleons, give them right of way and try not to drive over animal dung on the roads as there are usually dung beetles and other small decomposers inside busy with important work.

Self-drives are usually the cheaper option and can be rewarding as the feeling of accomplishment is great when you find your own animals, but it lacks the aspect of learning about the animal and its surrounding environment which a guided safari tour may offer you. Guides have trained eyes too and may spot things that most will miss. So there are pros and cons to both ways of doing safaris so it just depends on your personal preference after all.

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If all this sounds too daunting for you, or if you’re not sure of how your small rental vehicle will hold up on the bush roads then why not take the safe option and hop on an organized safari tour with a professional guide and you won’t be disappointed.

heritage tours and safaris

Good luck with your chosen adventures and be safe! Contact Heritage Tours and Safaris for details on safari packages and day safari outings to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, in Zululand South Africa. We depart daily into this incredible reserve and go insearch of the African Big 5. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is splendid park to venture into, this 96000 hectare reserve offers not only sightings of the Big 5 but Cheetah, Wild Dogs and much more. Discover and Explore this wondrous park.

Day Safari Options in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

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