The African bush is no doubt an exciting place, abundant with the natural beauty of landscapes and roaming wild animals, but it is never a given that you are just going to get to see everything you hope for – you’ve got to put in a bit of work on your safari self-drives…
The Dinokeng Game Reserve is brimming with everything from flora and fauna, to trees, rivers and wetlands, to the many-coloured birds, roaming antelope and the much-loved Big Five. When you are in charge of your own safari tour, there are a number of things you will need to take into account in order to guarantee both you and your loved one’s safety, while providing for the richest possible experience.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks that will help you tackle self-driven game drives like a pro!
Have a plan
You want to make the most of the day and see as much as possible. Planning ahead will allow you to do this without turning the experience into a stressful hurry. Remember – no one wants to rush in the bush. Therefore:
Have the basics
Make sure you have the necessities to be able to get into the park. You will need your driver’s license and identification documents of all vehicle passengers.
Normally you will have to pay a conservation fee upon exit of the park but will be charged automatically when booking a self-drive.
The Dinokeng Game Reserve charges:
- R80 per adult conservation fee/stay
- R50 per child (ages two to 12) conservation fee
- Self-drive costs R250 per vehicle (max. 10 people per car) for a one-day permit, R380 for 2 days and R450 for up to seven days.
So make sure to come prepared. You don’t want to have to drive back to your accommodation – that’s precious time that could have been spent in the park.
Look at the map
Even if you’re just going out for a scenic drive, giving yourself an idea of the route you want to take will help you plan and take other factors into account. Do you want to head towards a sunset spot? Get an idea of how long it will take you to get there – that will include time set aside for possible sightings along the way. Look out, some parts of the roads will only be accessible by a 4×4 or high clearings vehicle!
If you are looking for animals, consider what they would most likely be doing at that time. If it has been hot, maybe design your route to include a watering hole or two.
Look for clues
There are animal clues everywhere… The trick is to know how to find them. You could take your chances and drive around with nothing but luck in your trunk, but searching for clues could raise your chances of a special sighting.
Some clues you can pay attention to:
Finding animal tracks is difficult – so, take your time. Look out for small game paths that lead on and off the road you are on. Stop to investigate those junctions because there is a good chance that there are all types of tracks there. You could also turn this into a fun game and discuss all the little clues with the people you are with, in order to determine where to look.
- Do the tracks cross over vehicle tracks?
- Are the tracks from after the rain?
- How much debris has blown in?
- Are there bug tracks in the bigger tracks? These can help you determine how fresh the tracks are.
If you now have direction, take out your map! Look at the possible routes the animal might take. Think “why would the animal go there?”
Stop, Listen, and Look
Turn your vehicle off! The sounds of the engine running will drown out the possible distress calls of monkeys, birds and antelope. Watch these animals! If they see something, they will make a scene and lock eyes onto their predator. Take notice as to where they are looking and you might end up seeing a leopard or a lion!
Safety and sensitivity
If you do find animals, be respectful of the space that you share with them. You have every right to coexist there—but you need to realise that if you push that animal’s comfort levels, the next time it comes across humans or vehicles, it may receive it as a threat and react negatively: either by hiding or with aggression. Give the animals space, especially if they are eating or with their young.
Try to AVOID:
- Big noises
- Flashing lights
- Standing in vehicles or hanging out of the car to get that Instagram-worthy shot
- Making excessive noises to get a response from the animal
Whether you’re heading out in the early morning or late afternoon, it’s the extras that can catapult your experience to the next level.
Packing a flask with coffee and some biscuits or rusks will be perfect for the early risers who enjoy exploring the park when it is still cool and animal sightings are more common. There are numerous spots throughout the reserve for you to stop and snack – packing some delicious breakfast goodies could be a well-deserved mid-morning treat.
Later afternoon drives could be accompanied with some chips, biltong, and something cold to take the edge off the heated afternoon drive. It’s the little details that could take your self-drive safari from amateur to pro!
You do not have to be in a Game Drive 4×4 with a ranger and a tracker to have an amazing experience in the park! Pay attention, use your eyes and ears, follow safety tips and you could have a professional-feeling safari adventure from the comfort of your own vehicle!
Are you ready to self-drive like a pro? Contact us for the perfect accommodation to complement your park experience!
Have any self-drive tips of your own? Share them with our community by leaving a comment below!