Minibus or Open Air Vehicle

Reply

May 13th, 2003, 09:38 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 94
Minibus or Open Air Vehicle

My hubby & I are spening a little under 2 weeks in Africa (still trying to decide between all Kenya or some Kenya and some Capetown / winelands). Anyway, we really want an open air 4 X 4 safari vehicle, but have been told that those are only available on private safaris in Kenya. We were told by an agent that the Kenyan government requires minibuses in their National Parks.

I wonder if we will feel like we are on a safari if we are in a minibus or feel like we are tourists in a bus being herded through like cattle. Any thoughts?

Jenny
twoinluv is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 10:03 AM
  #2
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
twoinluv-Cute name. The minivan is what you see in Kenya and I certainly never felt as if I was in a bus or anything. They have a pop up top and you stand up and stick your upper body out and watch from there. In Botswana they use open vehicles and they are colder, hotter and wetter, depending on the weather. More protection when you are riding along in the minivans. The animls are used to seeing the vehicles and do not bother you. One time in a minivan the driver had to close the top because a lion eating at a kill turned toward us and crouched as if he would jump in. Kind of scary, I wouldn't have wanted to be in an open vehicle then. In Botswana however, I never was frightened. I just noticed it was a lot colder early in the morning on the game drives in an open vehicle. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 10:23 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
I came face to face with a leopard at Singita, I mean within four feet away or as close as the leopard was to the tire and I was to the passenger door inside the open air Land Rover Defender.

It was an amazing experience and while I was literally petrified and could not even breathe for the brief 3-5 second encounter, it was an experience that I would not trade for anything.

Personally, I could not even imagine trading the open air Land Rover experience for that of one where I am inside a pop-top van. Also, I would think that there would be a tremendous handicap in attempting to take photographs while in a pop-top van than in an open air Land Rover.

I just bought a computer game recently called "Sim-Safari" where you get to build your own game reservesd. In the beginning all you can afford are the Land Rovers but after awhile when it starts to get crowded with tourists, you are forced to buy the pop-top vans that hold more people. Well, it is no coincidence that like in the game, in real life these pop-top vans only appear at the more crowded tourist lodges as opposed to the exclusive private lodges. I, for one, do not go all the way to Africa, to be surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other tourists. Guess its just whatever your personal preference is.
Roccco is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 10:58 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
I respectfully beg to differ with Roccco's view on a minibus. We had both a minibus and open Range Rover on our trip to Kenya/Tanzania last year. I have to preface this by saying at all times it was just my husband and I in the vehicle, having opted for a private safari. Anyway, the minibus did not impede our photography efforts in any way, shape or form. To the contrary, with the minibus, we were able to get virtually eye-level (using the windows all along the sides), which we never could get in the open air Range Rover. In fact, when we waited three hours for a crossing of the wildebeest, I was grateful for the comfort of the minibus. In Tanzania we had an open vehicle and, similar to Roccco, had a wonderful close encounter with lions. But it was hard to get eye-level with the lions, since we could not lean out of the vehicle. I guess it is totally subjective, but if you could arrange a combination of open-air and minibus, I think you would have the best of both worlds.
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 11:34 AM
  #5
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
SusanLynne-You were much nicer than I'm going to be. I am shocked at Rocco's insensitivity to others plans and feelings. Right now there are a number of us planning trips to East Africa. I still remember recently when he posted that anyone going to East Africa over South Africa had to be some sort of crazy.
Rocco-We do not trample on your dreams and please don't trample on ours. You make up these opinions based on I don't know what and off you go. Its your way or the highway. Well I have been to East Africa 4 times and Botswana two times. Lets see, how many times have you been to East Africa? Oh that's right, never!
Please keep your opinions to that which you have experience with and when the topic goes to someone else's trip, just do something else besides find fault with it if you haven't done it.
I will remind you that I have probably said more good things to you and thanked you more for your help than I have anyone else, BUT....
Thanks, Liz
 
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 11:47 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Liz,

I apologize if I trampled on yours and others dreams. The original poster was asking for opinions and I offered mine.

Admittedly, I have neither been inside a pop-top van nor have stayed at a lodge that housed 100+ people at any given time. I will stand my ground by repeating that I have no desire to stay at a place where there is such a logjam of people.

I do think that others should not be offended by my comments just as I was not offended when people made their commentaries regarding my past potential trip to Zimbabwe this year. We are all entitled to our own opinions and I meant no harm towards others when I stated my own opinion.
Roccco is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 13th, 2003, 11:57 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 646
I can comment only as to using the mini-van. I never felt inconvenienced being in one while on our trip. And, my wife and daughter really appreciated having the roof down the very chilly and damp morning we descended into the N. Crater or during non-game drive travel. I appreciated the elevated position for viewing and photographing. I think Rocco despite good intent mixed "apples and oranges" when commenting on type of vehicle and number of tourist. Often while in our min-van we could not see another vehicle. At other times we saw many. Depends on time of the year and place. The one lunch spot near the small lake in the Crate was crawling with vehicles. I think I counted 30 or so when we pulled in. Fortunately, that was the major exception to what we usually saw elsewhere in Tanzania. The Crater is crowded regardless. I did not feel our safari was degraded due to being in a mini-van. If the vehicle makes the difference what about all the amentities at the lodges, etc?
rsnyder is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 14th, 2003, 04:51 AM
  #8
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 94
Hi SusanLynne,

I appreciate your post. My husband is a photographer and is worried about shooting in a vehicle without a tripod. Having the windows open and the window ledge as a makeshift tripod will probably work.

We are also interested in a private safari, so being in a minibus shouldn't affect us greatly. I don't want to be uncomfortable and wishing to be back that the lodge because an open air vehicle has no a/c or heat. This is a tough one. A 4 X 4 open air vehicle is so much cooler though!

Jenny
twoinluv is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 14th, 2003, 05:20 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Hi Jenny!
When we went both my husband and I brought our tripods. As it turned out, the only time we used one was when we were using the timer on the camera to take pictures of the two of us together. The windowsills or roof of the minibus will work fine, but I would also advise use of a "beanbag." People suggested we bring one, but because I did not want to add to the weight of our luggage, I brought a couple of plastic Ziploc bags and filled them with dirt once we arrived in Kenya. We had our makeshift "beanbags" which worked just fine. Please remember that despite much attention to the vehicles, that they go through a lot. We ran into one couple who complained the AC in their vehicle was not working. Ours did, but we ended up not using it at all. Another thing, diesel is an extremely valuable commodity and when the AC is used, it uses a lot of it. Remember, out in the bush there is not a Mobil/Exxon gas station every mile, so diesel is conserved as much as it can be. If you are extremely uncomfortable because of heat, I think it is appropriate to ask the AC be put on, however, don't be shocked or let it dampen your trip if it doesn't work. Those vehicles go through a lot of wear and tear! I agree that 4 X 4 open air vehicles certainly "look" more appealing, but you will have a blast anyway!!
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 14th, 2003, 10:12 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 53
I would like to add my 2 cents.
Twoinluv, you will have a great time regardless what vehicle you will find yourself in. In a completely open-sided safari vehicle, open-air Land Rover or mini-van. My personal experiences are based exclusively on two safaris in Kenya.
We had completely open-sided vehicles in two camps, Lewa and Delamere. They both are private tented camps.

Last year when staying in the Governors Camp we had Land Rovers with canvas roofs that were rolled back when the weather cooperated. We loved both types and actually I did not think about differences until I read Roccco's rationale. After all, his statement is based on only one type of personal experience and a computer game.

At first, we were really reluctant to stay at the Governors because it is a bigger camp than any others we stayed in before. We had this notion that small camps and open-vehicles are able to deliver better safari. But, guess what We loved every moment at the Governors, every second of every game drive in Masai Mara. Our experience was unforgettable because of our guide, animals, birds, scenery, a whole staff of the Governors Camp and ambience of this camp.

Was it ever crowded in Masa Mara or any other place during our safari drives? Never!
We were there on our first safari in mid-June and our second in the end of February/March. Masai Mara is so huge. One time we were watching cheetah dragging a gazelle she killed. After a few minutes another vehicle arrived then two more. So we left.

Anyway, would our experience be less enjoyable if we were in a mini-van? I don't think so. Saying that only open vehicles deliver true safari experience is like telling someone that only way to savor Alaska is to travel in Rvs or only way to travel in France is using trains or only acceptable way to visit Spain is by staying in Paradors

I dontt know where Roccco got his idea of being surronded by hundreds or thousands of other tourists. We never anywhere in Kenya not even once experience anything like that. Maybe there are more people in the lodges than in tented camps where we stayed but hundreds or thousands?

Enjoy every moment of your safari regardless in what vehicle you will be traveling.
GinaO is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 14th, 2003, 02:37 PM
  #11
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 94
SusanLynne & GinaO,

Both of your responses are very helpful. The cost of a 4 X 4 vehicle is more than $1000 extra for the trip. And it looks as though the LandRover is not an open air vehicle; it has windows & a pop top (like a minibus would have). So I can look "uncool" in a bus in order to save $1000. That money may as well go toward more time in Africa.

Again, your responses have been very informative and helpful. I think the key is to get a private safari no matter what type of vehicle we will be in.

Jenny
twoinluv is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 01:22 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,152
Thought I'd share my own experiences in this area...

When I went to Kenya and Tanzania (with my parents and sister) we went on a different kind of trip to the one I more recently experienced in Southern Africa with my husband. It was much more of a budget trip, and not an individually tailored itinerary.

We were in pop-top minivans for the whole trip. Negatives for me are mostly because of the numbers involved - I recall there being about 6-7 passengers in each of 2 minivans our group were travelling in. This meant that it was harder to get a good view in all directions, as we were not permitted to stand and look through the pop-top roof while the vehicle was in motion. I am sure that if you have one of these vehicles between just two passengers that this problem would be negligable. Another problem also related to visibility - even though our driver/ guide cleaned the windows each day the dust was such that the windows were often a little obscured after a few hours. I also found these minivans a little cramped y but again this would not be a problem when hiring a private car for a small party. Positives include the protection offered by an enclosed vehicule y this wasnyt so relevant during game drives but was much more relevant during the long long road transfers between lodges.

During the trip to Botswana and Namibia we were in open landrovers - by open I mean that there were absolutely no side walls or roof whatsoever. The landrovers were pretty large y 3 rows of 3 roomy seats y and Wilderness Safaris organised things so that there were not more than 6 guests travelling in one of these landrovers at a time. In reality it was usually only 2 or 4 passengers and we only went out in a group of 6 passengers for two drives at Little Mombo. These landrovers could also be equipped with metal frames on which to mount cloth roof panels y I expect these are used during hotter summer months. Positives for me are the incredible visibility y we could all look in all directions so easily and it really felt like being out in the open much more. There was nothing between us and the views and I liked that very much. Because we flew between each camp/ lodge y we never had to travel big distances in the landrovers so being enclosed for transfers, as in East Africa, was not an issue. Negatives are that it can get pretty cold during the winter y especially as game drives take in that time before sunrise and after sunset. This was ameliorated a lot by the immense, heavy and warm ponchos provided for each passenger. Another negative would be that clothing could get pretty dusty after a day out driving.

When I go back to Southern Africa I will always book at camps that use the open vehicules. I do prefer them. When I go back to East Africa I will make a decision dependent on our needs for the trip y if we have to make long road transfers than an enclosed vehicle may be a necessity. And of course, we may have no choice if certain vehicle types are mandated in certain parks. What I will ensure is that, if we need to use the pop-top minivans, that we book a vehicle just between the two of us.

Either way, I canyt imagine that the trip will be anything less than wonderful, whichever vehicle we book.
As for the volume of other visitors y I am sure this must vary depending on when you go, and where you visit. When we were in East Africa we certainly didnyt enjoy the way that a good find (cheetah, large group of lions etc) would be communicated out to so many others y we certainly came across occasions when several other minivans arrived in short order. Iyve also seen this phenomenon on TV documentaries of East Africa. However, I know that, with wise choice of parks, camps and guides, that we can negate this problem also.


Kavey


Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 01:25 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,152
Uugh - how weird that some of the hyphens came through OK but most were converted by Fodors to "y" characters!

Sigh!
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 04:23 AM
  #14
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 94
Kavey,

I appreciate your feedback. You mentioned lots of other minibuses showing up to watch the same sites. Are the roads one lane? Can you get around the other buses if you do not want to watch? Are you restricted to the road or lane?

Jenny
twoinluv is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 04:36 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Hi Jenny!

You didn't ask me, but I am going to barge in on this "conversation." When we were in the Mara - in our minibus, just the two of us - we saw some unbelievable sites. A crossing of the Mara River by wildebeests, two male lions fighting over a wildebeest carcass, a leopard with an impala kill, and on and on and on. Occasionally, we would come across other minibuses and vehicles, but there was never a huge crowd of vehicles. For the most part, drivers/guides are very courteous to one another and do not box each other in. The section of the Mara we were in, off-roading was still allowed so it was easy to navigate around vehicles, etc. The main "roads" in the Mara are wide enough, for the most part, for two vehicles to fit at the same time. As Kavey said, we did not experience crowds as have been described by other people, but again, we were focused on the north-western end of the park, where there are less vehicles to begin with. You simply don't get the crowds of vehicles in the north-western end as you do elsewhere in the park. This is people most people do not drive from Nairobi into the north-western end, where it is recommend you fly in. Please do not let the thoughts of crowds prevent you from going to the Mara. There is simply no place like it on this earth and it is as magnificent as you would imagine.
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 05:27 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,152
Jenny
On our trip we stuck to the roads but these are just dirt tracks a lot of the time so it's not difficult to overtake. And when something is spotted the drivers will often pull JUST off the road - not much - so as not to block it whilst parked. When others arrived they just did the same.
But as Susan says, I think if you do your research and choose your park and regions wisely, you can avoid this problem anyway.
Certainly I intend to read and ask lots and lots here before I ever book a return trip to East Africa.
So many people whose opinions I respect, including both Liz and Susan, have written about experiences that prove that it's possible to do things differently.
Just to remind, my experience was in the mid/late eighties and was a more budget package tour type itinerary.
Kavey
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 06:50 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,916
I have been on safaris in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and southern Africa (South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia), so I am very familiar with all manner of safari vehicles, and I do not understand Roccco's disdain for the "closed" vehicles used in East Africa. I use the phrase "closed" in quotes, because with the open roofs, you generally stand and shoot photos at roof level, and I found that I got my best photos this way. The minibuses are very comfortable and are much better when the rains arrive (just pop the top in). I also don't understand his criticism of the larger lodges in Kenya and Tanzania -- I have stayed at the Serena and Sopa lodges in East Africa, as well as the smaller Wilderness Safaris camps in Botswana and Namibia, and also (unfortunately) at the very stuffy camps in the private reserves near Kruger. I don't know, maybe its me, but I go on safari for the wildlife, and while I want a comfortable place with good food, I really don't care about the depth of Singita's cellar or the Christolfe silver at other lodges. For that, I go to Taillevant in Paris.
thit_cho is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 09:13 AM
  #18
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Twoinluv-
As much as I love East Africa, I think you would really be happier going to South Africa and Capetown. Most of the people in East Africa are there for the wildlife and they are not concerned with how they look. I'm not trying to be smart here. I've just never heard of anyone being concerned how they looked in a safari vehicle.
There is a different emphasis it seems in South Africa. It is more expensive and people have become more in touch with luxury than just the thrill of being there. You have a choice of big cities and more luxury camps. Both are nice, you just have to decide which type you want I think.
Sometimes I like Botswana, sometimes I like East Africa. They are different, but East Africa is just how it is. When in Rome.........you know how it goes.
Just my thoughts. In any event I hope you are happy with your decision. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 12:00 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,916
I'm a little confused at the post immediately above, particularly the reference to lack of concern by those visiting East Africa in "how they look." Frankly, when I'm on safari, I wear khakis and a comfortable shirt and may not shave for days on end. Its vacation, after all, and a chance to experience wildlife and a different culture. I have visited the private reserves adjacent to Kruger, and to me they seem, to a certain extent and some more than others, as attempts to soften the wildlife experience, with much more of an emphasis on lodging, dining and fine wines, than animal viewing.
thit_cho is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 15th, 2003, 01:46 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,152
Michael
Unless I've misunderstood, you're saying the _same_ thing as the poster above you - that visitors to East Africa are there for the game and not concerned with how they look and that lodges in Southern Africa may cater better in your opinion with those more concerned with other aspects such as dress, food, accommodation.
Whilst I agree with you that lodges in Southern Africa can offer more luxury I'd disagree that this necessarily means less of a safari experience.
It's that same inverse snobbery that some backpackers come out with - one can't possibly be a "proper" traveller if one pays to stay in decent hotels etc.
I'm also thinking that twoinluv's comment about looking cool was just a throwaway comment and doesn't at all mean she's looking for a fashionable rather than genuine safari experience.
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:48 PM.