South Africa is home to so many game reserves where you can enjoy the views of African plains and experience African wildlife in its natural habitat. And as exciting as experiencing all that South Africa has to offer in terms of game drives is, it’s important that if you’re planning on doing a self-drive, that you adhere to the rules and take note of the following tips.
Not only will it make your experience a smoother one, it could also prevent you from being a threat to wildlife and being attacked.
Everyone is going to want to keep their eyes peeled for wildlife lurking in the bushes, but the driver’s eyes need to be, majority of the time, fixed to the road in front of them. Most game reserves’ roads are gravel and unpredictable in areas. If the weather changes, it can also have an effect on the quality of the roads, so the driver needs to, preferably, be experienced and cautious when behind the steering wheel.
With the gravel roads being a challenge in themselves, drivers also need to focus on any movement happening on the roads. This includes wildlife crossings and other drivers. You can’t always be sure what motivates another driver to move from the oncoming lane into yours and, as the driver, you need to be prepared for anything. They might be trying to get a better view of a certain animal or they’re moving out of the way for a herd of animals up ahead which you can’t see yet.
Point of the story: focus on the road.
Again, for the driver, you need to understand and respect the fact that life inside a game reserve is unpredictable. Drivers and wildlife alike. Speed limits are generally between 20 and 40 kilometers per hour and it’s so important that you stick to those limits.
You never know what is waiting for you around the corner and you also don’t want to come speeding down the road and scare all the wildlife viewing opportunities away. The idea is to take your time and admire the environment around you.
As tempting as it is for passengers to have their windows wide open so they can climb out while still technically being inside of the car, you aren’t allowed to do it. Watching lions hunt down buffalo is really exciting and you’re going to want to get a better view, but that is where patience comes in.
Having your arms and legs out of the window is dangerous for you as it can be treated as a threat by wildlife. It can also scare the animals away and it’s just plain silly. You can’t be sure what is lurking in the bushes and don’t underestimate the speed at which these animals can react to a foreign object.
This is why you are here – to observe. Don’t try and get animals attention or force them to react by talking loudly, making sudden movements, blasting music, revving your car or hooting at them. You need to respect the environment you are in and acknowledge the fact that you are an intrusion to the wildlife.
And while you’re observing, be sure to read the wild animals’ behaviours. There are different warning signs that certain animals give off but you also need to be able to read the situation. Understand that animals will be more aggressive and territorial if there are babies around and more on edge if there is a predator or hunt happening nearby.
Remember, wildlife is unpredictable and although you may be advised to follow the “I won’t bother you and you won’t bother me” principle, you never know. Specifically, the driver should be on alert to how animals react to the vehicle and passengers presence. For the sake of the state of your pre-owned car, keep your distance and stay aware.
Following the reading of animal behaviour, whoever is driving needs to make sure that they drive with an exit strategy in mind. They also need to exit in a way that doesn’t further aggravate an on-edge animal.
The exit strategy is just a safety precaution, but in most other circumstances, your best bet is to switch the engine off and just let the wildlife continue with what they were doing. Be it lions chilling in the road, elephants crossing the road or rhinos passing by. Oh, and take photographs while it’s all happening right by you.
You’ll find that many game reserves have designated areas for you to hop out of the car, stretch your legs and enjoy the views from a viewpoint. These areas are, generally, safe as animals are accustomed to people being around the area, but don’t be surprised if you get visits from monkeys, antelope and other smaller mammals.
Knowing where these exit points are will be a way for you to strategically plan toilet breaks and break down the route for the game drive you’re wanting to do for the day.