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Self-Drive versus Guided Game Drives – the pros and….pros

Self-Drive versus Guided Game Drives – the pros and….pros

If you’ve had a squizz around our blog, you will know that we are massive fans of all things nature. Give us a few hours off, and before you can say boo, we’ll be heading to where the wild things are. It’s no surprise then that we end up so often at Addo Elephant National Park, given that we live an insanely short drive away from this SANParks gem.


Usually when we visit national parks we do the self-drive thing, and when we go to private reserves we take a guided game drive. This week, we mixed things up and went on a guided game drive in Addo National Park, courtesy of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.


So, which is the best option?



Self-drive wins hands down here. Park entry fees are really reasonably priced, particularly if you are a South African citizen (Addo costs R58 per adult and R29 per kid). This humble price tag buys you hours of entertainment for the whole family. This week it’s even cheaper, as it is South African National Parks week, with free entry for South Africans until 16 September.

A two hour guided game drive at Addo will set you back R320 per person, in addition to the park entry fees. Still great value for money for an incredible experience, but not something you would do every day.

Using our Nelson Mandela Bay Passes to get into Addo

Using our Nelson Mandela Bay Passes to get into Addo


Guided game drives come up trumps with access to all those roads blocked with round red no entry signs. And the clever animals must know to hide out in these no-go zones, as this is usually where your guide finds remarkable game sightings.

You can be really lucky with self-drives too – there are those moments when an elusive leopard jumps onto the road in front of you and trots to the other side and into the bush with no-one except you around to witness it. But usually if there is something big to see, you have to fight for your patch of tar with a view.


Some bickering male elephants


Depending on which way you look at it, both guided and self drives have their pros. When you sit in a safari vehicle, you are raised up above self -drive eye level, allowing you to see over the shrubs and into the bushes, so you can see far more. But there is nothing like staring up at an elephant out of your car window to make your everyday worries feel so small and insignificant that they melt into nothingness.

A window with a view

A window with a view (and that is a trunk)


Once again, a photo finish. Guided game drives deliver a shorter, more intense experience, jam-packed full of a huge variety of fauna and flora. If you are pushed for time, this is the better way to go.

Self drives on the other hand are much slower paced and allow you to stop and smell the daisies for as long as you want. What’s the rush anyway? We love to park off in a breeding herd of ellies and just sit and absorb the feeling of peace and togetherness of these gentle giants.

Nothing like getting up close and personal to an ellie

Up close and personal with a gentle giant


Technically, the safari guide is the clear winner here. These guys and gals are like walking encyclopaedias and very rarely will a question go unanswered. No matter how many game drives we go on, we always learn something new about something. Like that you can’t touch a wild lion with your bare hands even when they are tranquilized, because they host larvae of tape worms in their fur that are deadly to humans.

But in a way, it can also be fun not to always know the answer. We have had many a colourful family conversation imagining the answers to questions like why are a caracal’s ears so pointy, or what’s with those radio controlled aerial warthog tails.

Its deadly to cuddle a lion in more ways than one

Its deadly to cuddle a lion in more ways than one


I think the self drive might be just ahead on this one.  There is something to be said for aircon and climate control. And car chargers. And lots of boot space. For guided drives, make sure you go prepared with an extra jersey, a windbreaker, beanie, gloves, cap, tissues, lip balm and sun screen. Then you should be fine.

game drive

Me in the centre much more comfy than Ralph on the right


On an open air vehicle, your senses of smell and hearing come into play. And boy do some animals hone. You can smell a buffalo way before you see it. Your nose will be twitching with the scents of the different animals and bushes as you drive through the park. With a self drive, it’s all about your eyes as you are on the move. Only when you open the windows and cut the engine will you unlock that world of smell and the sounds of the wild.


Some creatures love the smell of dung more than others

So there you have it. Lots of pros, no cons.


Whatever way you choose to explore a game reserve – in your own vehicle or with a professional guide in a safari vehicle, you will have the time of your life. The main thing is to get out there and be one with the animals. Be a part of our magnificent wildlife heritage.  And this is the perfect week to do it!


Thanks to Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and SANParks for inviting us to the launch of South African National Parks week at Addo Elephant National Park.


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