As Andrew Pierre White succinctly put it on a safety video about driving the roads of Africa, the easiest way to stay safe is to …. Slow Down!
This simple piece of advice can also be applied to far more than the roads of Africa, all aspects of a self-drive safari will benefit from a slower pace.
So my top ten slow safari tips in reverse order are as follows:-
10) Slowing down the journey at the planning stage of your safari is critical. Allow extra days and extra hours even though paper and google maps may indicate a short drive. For example, Windhoek to Victoria Falls is only 14 hours and 34 minutes driving time according to Google! Three weeks would likely do this wonderful journey more justice. Remember that delays and breakdowns will happen in Africa and you don’t want your carefully planned itinerary thrown into turmoil on day one because the bags never arrived or a scheduled flight connection was missed.
9) Stepping off a plane into a hired 4×4 and then driving for several hours in the heat of the day is asking for trouble. Plan to unwind at a nearby tranquil bush lodge if possible and get the flights out of your system. Somewhere like the unique Enignu Clay Lodge if you are near Windhoek Airport, then spend the afternoon napping and watching the many species of Kalahari birds from the cool of the pool.
8) At the start of any journey it’s always tempting to push it and cover too much distance, try to settle down into an easier paced rhythm and limit your driving hours to a minimum each day.
7) Start the day early especially if you need to cover more distance. Dawn is the special time of day in the bush and rewards the early riser with a spectacular light show and you will often find game calmly browsing nearby.
6) Stop and greet people, ask questions and explore the terrain, it’s why you have come to love Africa and grinding through the dusty roads can be very unrewarding and tiring without good breaks.
5) Lunch on the road is a treat so stop and make time for it. One tip is to ask the lodge for a packed lunch the night before you leave as it’s often included in the price and the African packed lunch is full of surprises.
4) Game drives are a big part of any safari, but many inexperienced self-drivers keep driving and miss the wildlife.
Ask guides at camps and lodges for the best game viewing spots and also talk to other drivers about game sightings. If possible stop at a waterhole, park in the shade, sit and wait the and game will come to you.
3) Stop driving early and get into camp with plenty of daylight. Pushing on and driving when tired is the cause of many accidents. Over the years statistics show that many accidents happen in the late afternoon and strangely its often on a Friday.
If you are camping it will take a while to work out how the kit fits together so allow time for this and to cook supper whilst it’s still light
2) Make sure you give yourself time for that sundowner moment at the end of the day, which makes all that heat and dust of the road seem trivial. Its a special time that should be savoured slowly.
1) The big one and the single most important tip to safety is driving slower which will automatically keep you safer on Africa’s dirt roads .