Sometimes you go on safari and you’re in an open sided vehicle. Sometimes you’re in a closed vehicle, why?
If you go on a safari where you are flying between different national parks and staying at individual camps for a number of nights, chances are you will be doing your game drives in an open vehicle. If you are on a safari where you are driving between camps and lodges, in and out of national parks, you will be using a closed vehicle.
There are a number of reasons why closed vehicles are better for driving long distances. Open vehicles are often not allowed on public roads outside national parks and game reserves. Moreover, closed vehicles are more comfortable for this sort of journey. You are sheltered from the elements, the wind, the dust and the rain. It feels more secure at speed and you can have a conversation with the person next to you or put on some sun screen without it going all over the person behind you. We can put all your luggage in the back without it bouncing out on the way. In Tanzania, this is often how you get around the northern circuit of parks, between Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. The distances in-between are relatively small and the scenery is spectacular, well worth the driving. We recommend flying on the way back to save time. In southern Tanzania, the Selous (Nyerere national park), Ruaha and Katavi, you are more likely to be based at a camp and do your game drives in the surrounding area, using an open vehicle.
It’s often said that open safari vehicles are the best for game viewing. You don’t have any obstructions between you and the amazing wildlife and spectacular landscapes you have come to see. This does add an extra level of excitement and feeling of closeness with the wilderness all around you. There’s nothing quite like being eyeballed by a lion while he swaggers past just feet away with nothing at all between you and him. The degree of security a closed vehicle offers is absent. It’s not uncommon to see previously unfazed guests jumping into the laps of their now well acquainted fellow guests on the other side of the vehicle.
Open vehicles are generally better for photography. It’s easier to manoeuvre in your seat, swing your huge lens around and retrieve a spare battery from your bag. It’s also much easier to eject lens caps, memory cards, phones, passports, gin and tonics and so on. Low angles are more achievable. That said there are now closed vehicles out there that have some very clever adaptions to achieve the same effects as open vehicles. Extra large windows, pop roofs, and my favourite - roll down windows - the best of both worlds.
In the Serengeti you can now find some specially adapted photographic safari vehicles. These are like a more luxury version of the cut in half century old land rovers you see wildlife filmmakers using. 360 degree swivel seats, no doors for lying down almost at ground level, exciting things like that. So, depending on what you’re looking for, it pays to know about what sort of vehicle you will be using on your safari and for how long you are likely to be in it. It goes without saying that poor quality and poorly maintained vehicles can potentially ruin a safari.
If you want complete flexibility, you must consider a private vehicle, where you don’t share with any other guests from camp. We use these on our privately guided safaris for groups and photographers. Come and go as you please, make your own schedule with your guide, and no compromising with other guests.