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Safari: how to choose between a self-guided tour, a group tour, and a private tour?

The advantages of circuits and self-drive

The group circuit has the advantage of offering affordable prices, while benefiting from the expertise of a guide, and most of the time open cars during the safaris.

As for the private safari, it is tailor-made. “The advantage is that you are alone with your guide and you lead your safari as you want, with a guide. In addition, you have access to exclusive places, places much more remote, and suddenly you are less in the mass tourismexplains Thibaud Cheminant, safari guide and founder of Kolokwe Safari.

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As for the autotour, there too, the freedom is total. You can stay as long as you want to observe the animals. If you want to stay 5 hours in front of a tree waiting for a leopard to come down, no problem! It is also the least expensive formula of the three since “there is no guide, only the rental car”.

The inconvenients

For the private safari, the main drawback is its price, which is much higher than the other formulas.

“With the autotour, the problem that comes up very often is the absence of a guide, so people have difficulty finding the animals, says Thibaud Cheminant. In addition you are often in a rental car, and these are closed vehicles, so there is not the immersive side that you have in classic safaris with open vehicles.

Also pay attention to safety. “The problem is that people cannot interpret the language of animals. Many also believe they are in a zoo and get out of their vehicle. There are deaths every year because people have not respected the instructions, and were eaten by a leopard or attacked by a elephant. You also have to have self-control, for example if an elephant charges the car.” Finally, you have to be ready to have to deal with mechanical problems on your own, such as changing a wheel in the event of a puncture, in the middle of nowhere.

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As for the group tour, “You still have to be able to put up with people you don’t know during your vacation!” Added to this is the lack of flexibility of this type of trip, with imposed schedules and program. You will therefore be unable to do and go where you want.

How do I find the animals on a self-guided tour?

When you are on a self drive tour, without the expert advice of a guide, it can be difficult to find the famous animals.

“My advice is to leave early before sunrise because that’s often the time when the predators come home from hunting. That’s where it’s coolest. That’s why ‘we never go on safari between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. We do them at sunrise until 9 a.m. Or prefer the early evening, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., recommend the safari guide. Water points are also strategic places, especially during dry periods. There are fewer water points so the animals concentrate in the same place.”

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Which destinations should be favored for circuits or self-drive?

Some destinations are perfectly suited to self-drive. This is for example the case of Namibia, which has roads, and especially tracks, in good condition. Kenya is also suitable, as is South Africa. “It’s clearly the country suitable for self-drive: you arrive at Kruger Park, you pay your toll at the entrance, then you have a paved road. In addition, there are many animals in the park”, explains Thibaud Cheminant.

According to the safari guide, on the other hand, it is advisable to travel to Tanzania accompanied by a professional. “It’s still a track, over a huge territory. People don’t necessarily realize the difficulty of the track, with animals around. There are still herds of elephants, packs of lions…”

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As for Botswana, self-drive is not recommended at all. “It’s a completely wild country, says Thibaud Cheminant. There are very few roads. There are a few small towns, but otherwise they are private reserves, without borders. So if you go through that alone, you are in areas where there is no network, on the track. If you break down, you’re all alone in the middle of nowhere, so you better know your mechanics, and it’s populated by wild animals. For me, it’s a hostile environment, not at all suited to self-drive. On the other hand, it is my favorite destination, ideal to do with a guide!”

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