A self drive vacation offers a God sent opportunity to get a real feel of the invigorating beauty of the African bush. The sheer joy of cruising along at your own pace and as per your own schedule gives the motorist more time to revel in the surroundings.
Behind the wheel safaris in Africa are becoming increasingly popular because many national parks and game reserves are being redesigned to cater to the needs and minds of the independent road traveler.
So if camping in Africa is on your bucket list, head to these parks which have been chosen keeping your flair for adventure in mind. These top game reserves are must visits for some of the best safari holidays in the world.
Self Drive Parks of Africa
1. Kruger National Park, South Africa
It is said, and rightly so, that Kruger National Park has more returning visitors than any other reserve in Africa. While many tourists have tried to put a finger on the pulse on this one thing, it is quite easy to understand why.
The good network of roads, the combination of many different camps (where no two of them are alike), the unique vegetation and unparalleled geology which changes with every drive, has motorists coming back again and again, some for as many as thirty years in a row.
From the baobabs to the north, right up to the central plains of Satara in the south, the amazing flora and the smell of thatch as you camp in the wilderness is all what makes Kruger special. It is only here where the driver has the luxury of alternating between observing wildlife in peaceful solitude on remote roads as well as on the main, easy to access spots.
Apart from the five super stars of the bush, there are over 500 bird species and not to forget the large reptile numbers to be found in Kruger.
2. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
While game reserves are Tanzania’s pride, Serengeti National Park is the actual naturalist’s delight where one doesn’t have to drive far to get a glimpse of the extensive variety of wildlife.
All major roads are pretty good, while the smaller arterial patches passing through the national parks can become rough and extremely bumpy. So allow for extra time when moving from one place to another.
The main concentration of animals can be seen around Seronera, which also has a good number of campsites. Some of the side tracks here are in a better condition than the main roads, so sticking to them can be a better option.
If you have a good 4WD vehicle and don’t mind roughing it up a bit, then the effort can be rewarded with exceptional game views, as you are actually in the most documented and famous wildlife National Park in the entire world.
3. Etosha National Park, Namibia
Namibia makes a fantastic choice for a self-drive safari, irrespective if it is your first ever trip or you are a return enthusiast. The country has the best possible infrastructure in place, from a good network of roads to excellent maintenance of all the parks.
The whopping 20,000 square kilometres Etosha National Park is home to four of the big five, along with the endangered black rhinoceros. A planned self-drive itinerary will take you close to the diverse wildlife and past some of the sweeping landscapes.
Most prominent features of the reserve are the Dolomite Hills and the Etosha pan. Just remember to travel in a 4WD vehicle to overcome the many roads topped with gravel which are bound to form your way.
A word of advice: peak summer months have their own challenges because of the large number of visitors, so book your self-drive Etosha safari at least nine months to a year in advance to avoid disappointments.
4. Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Stretching across seven countries, the sands of the Kalahari form some of the most prominent geographical features of Africa.The excitement of driving in some of the last surviving patches of secluded wilderness left in South Africa can only be experienced in Botswana.
Self drive trips to Botswana can start either from Johannesburg or from the country itself and ending on the banks of the Chobe river. This adventure allows uninterrupted game viewing in a totally crowdless and beautiful environment.
Hire a 4×4 to drive wherever you please, be it the Chobe National Park or along the intricate river routes of the Okavango delta. One thing is certain, you will be blown away in no time.
5. Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
Located 40 km away from the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Addo Elephant National Park attracts a large number of self drivers particularly due to the less number of visitors which makes traversing easy.
Addo is preferred on account of convenient accessibility as one can opt for both day trips as well as night stays. No prior booking is necessary for day drives and since the roads are well paved both normal and four wheel vehicles are suitable.
Apart from huge elephant herds, the park is home to the big five and an impressive number of birds. Wild animals visit waterholes during the afternoon which makes spotting them easy from the comfort of your vehicle.
6. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana & South Africa
If you are aiming to get off the beaten path and explore a road less traveled, then consider heading to the remote wilds of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park that lies on the border of the two countries. The temperatures are high and roads difficult, which means self driving in a 4 WD vehicle is only possible.
Having said that, the fruits far outweigh the efforts because this aird reason is famous for providing such iconic predators as the desert cheetah and the black maned lion.
Moreover, the camps in the park are few and far between and allow just eight guests per night in each of them. The unique location also makes a cross border trip between South Africa, Botswana and through to Namibia easy.
In a country like Africa, a clear advantage of a self-drive safari holiday is the modest budget. Moreover, these trips can turn out to be life-changing travel experiences, as the proximity to wild animals and the pristine environment allows bonding with nature in its purest form.
Whether it is culture, landscape or wildlife, every country offers its own unique attributes. So if you are planning a single or a multi country self-drive safari, we hope that the information compiled here rewards you with the ultimate African safari experience. After all this may be your only trip to the Dark Continent.