Safari Vehicles

Reply

Jun 30th, 2005, 10:20 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Safari Vehicles

It has been a while since I posted on the Africa forum, but I am contemplating another trip to Africa, this time to East Africa. Our plans are to go in the February/March time frame.

Since I have only experienced the open vehicles in Botswana and Namibia, I am concerned about the closed, pop-up van type used in Tz and K. How many people are in these vehicles? Can you see and take photos if you are seated in the middle? Approximately how much is it to hire a private vehicle? Do different camps use different type vehicles? Is this something I should be concerned about, or are these closed type vehicles just fine?

We haven't decided yet who to book with and I certainly will ask these questions, but would like your feedback on the importance of the vehicle.

Hello to all of the people who helped me on my 2000 trip, and to the new posters, too.

evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 10:43 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Hi Evelyn

The closed vehicles work just fine - in fact due to the distances involved they work better than the open vehicles in East Africa.

We were recently in open vehicles in Madikwe and there was so much dust that I missed the closed vehicles of Tanzania! We had to wrap ourselves in blankets to stay warm and to prevent being covered in layers of dust! When the vehicle stopped the dust came flying in downwind from the back!

And some older ladies could not get in and out of the vehicles!

There are no middle seats in closed vehicles except for one in the back row that's rarely used unless you go with a real budget outfitter! To take pictures, you normally stand up and shoot pics from the 360 views of the pop-up roofs - another reason why I like closed vehicles. It is hard to take pictures from an open vehicle when the canvas roof is up or when the guides ask you not to stand up while all the wildlife is on the far side!

Different camps/lodges have different vehicles. Minivans, open vehicles, closed vehicles, pop-up roofs, roll-up roofs, side-doors that gets removed, etc.

The more important question is: 4DW or not. It is better to pay a bit more and get a 4WD vehicle. During a recent rainstorm on a game drive in the Serengeti the 2WD vehicles were rendered useless for hours while our 4WD Landcruiser just plowed on.

Actually, I got new respect for 4WD Minivans. They are lighter and do rather well in the mud - whereas our heavy Landcruiser go stuck quite bad due to its weight.

Private vehicle usage at camps will cost about $250 per day but are not readily available.


climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 10:57 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,727
We did a private safari traveling by road in Kenya and had a pop top van for the 2 of us. These vehicles can seat up to 6 which IMO would be too crowded. There were lots of times when we moved from one end of the vehicle to the other to take pictures and having our own vehicle meant we could spread our stuff out without worrying about encroaching on other people's space. The cost of a private trip isn't much more than a group tour if you have at least 2 people traveling.

I think most camps use open type vehicles. You won't be in a pop top van if you fly and use the camp's vehicles but you'll be sharing with other guest unless you choose to pay extra for a private vehicle. Rates for a private vehicle vary depending on the camp.

Since we took our game drives in the vehicle provided by our tour operator, I didn't really inquire about the difference except at one camp - Finch Hattons - where the difference between shared vs private vehicle was only $30 per game drive, but from reading other posts here I gather that's on the low end as far as price difference and not typical.
Patty is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 11:13 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,727
I also wanted to say I liked having the pop top for shade. And as Eben mentioned, the vans come in 4WD or 2WD versions.
Patty is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 12:29 PM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
My experience with open vehicles in Botswana/Namibia was that they had canvas canopies to block the sun. Since there were only two passangers per row (and my husband was the other person), we did not have to stand in order to get great photos. We used these vehicles exclusively for the game drives and not long driving days.

I questioned the tour agent about the TZ/K vans and was told that they were six passanger vans with two rows of three seats each so it was possible that someone would have to sit in the middle. Has any one had experienced 6 people in these vans? Do all the groups use the same type of van?

My goodness. I just checked the itinerary from my previous trip to Africa and it was in 2002, not 2000.
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 12:32 PM
  #6
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Another question about these pop-ups? How many people can be there at one time? Do you take turns?

Can you open the side windows to take photos from there?
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 12:48 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,727
Are you sure they said 2 rows of 3 and not 3 rows of 2? The latter is what I've seen and what we had. In other words there's no middle seat, both seats in each row are window seats. The pop tops extend over almost the entire passenger area so all 6 can stand up at one time. The side windows were operable on our van and we kept them open sometimes when traveling between parks to get some air.

If you travel by road, you'll utilize the same vehicle (which your tour operator provides) for both your transportation between parks and for your game drives, with the exception of certain camps which require that you take game drives in their vehicles. If you fly between parks, you'll use the lodge or camp's vehicles for your game drives.
Patty is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 01:29 PM
  #8
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Patty, I just called OAT to verify. It is definitely two rows of three seats in each row and they do try to fill up each vehicle. This might rule out the OAT trip for me.

How squished is it when all 6 people are using the popup at one time?
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 01:30 PM
  #9
sandi
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Like Eben, we were recently in Tanzania and Kenya and all of our vehicles were open (though covered on top to protect from the sun). This was so as we did a "fly-in" only safari and used the camp vehicles.

We did have a few days of showers at the beginning of our trip (but not while on game drives) and we were amazed at what these vehicles can do in the muddy and rutted roads. As Eben says - it's having 4WD that is important. Land Rover should have been filming a promotional commercial for their vehicles.

However, while the daytime temps were mild and with "wet" still evident, there wasn't much dust in Serengeti in Tanzania and the Mara in Kenya. So while the winds can usually chill you to the bone this didn't happen. That is, not until our late afternoon into night drives when we were wrapped in Masai blankets, wore gloves and scarves.

While I've always preferred the pop-top 4WD vehicles, this open vehicle experiences was pretty good. But I'd still go with the pop-top vehicles for the distances covered in both of these countries.

Photo taking has never been a problem in the pop-tops, so if this is a concern - it shouldn't be, especially if it's only two (max 4 people) traveling. If, however, you are going on a group tour, be sure to ascertain the specifics of the vehicle and the number of passengers. If a private tour - no problem.

As mentioned by Eben, to use a private open camp vehicle, expect to pay in the range of $200/$250 a day and one camp actually has the nerve to charge $400/$450 day.
 
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 02:18 PM
  #10
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Evelyn
Oh my! That's horrible! 3 seats in a row - I have not seen that or maybe I just never noticed because I thought it was impossible in a closed vehicle.

Yeah, forget them...
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 03:29 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,727
evelyntrav,
It's hard for me to say how squished it would feel, as it was never more than just the 2 of us in our vehicle. Having been in one though, I can tell you I wouldn't have liked to share with 4 others (6 total). I think 4 max per vehicle is still comfortable.

Also you have to consider the personalities of all of your fellow travelers. You'll be spending a lot of time in the same vehicle with them. Sometimes you hit it off great, sometimes not so great. After our one bad experience with a group sailing trip in the BVI, we swore we would never do the group thing in small confined spaces again!
Patty is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 30th, 2005, 03:39 PM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Between what has been said on this thread and on my other thread (OAT Tanzania and Kenya), I think I have eliminated the OAT trip from my choices. We'll see what the other groups I have contacted offer.

Thanks everyone for your opinions.
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 4th, 2005, 09:28 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Another question about the vehicles.
Does it matter whether the vehicle is the pop-up or the canvas roll-back type?
The pop-up might keep the vehicle and the people cooler, but could obstruct views and be crowded. The roll-back might give better views and more space, but could get hot.

Do it matter?
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 4th, 2005, 11:07 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 646
Evelyntrav,

We toured in pop-up vans in Tanzania in 2002 and 2004 and in Kenya in 2004 and just returned from southern tanzania where open vehicles (with canvas canopy) were used. I have no problem with either type although I might lean towards the min-van with pop-up roof. I noticed the ones in Kenya had a extra seat and that was a pain. In the northern Tanzania and Kenya trips we had up to 6 in the vans with no problems. It just took a little time for everyone to figure things out and apply common sense. As pointed out earlier the vans would seem to offer more comfort particularly with bad weather. I appreciate your concern. I would be more concerned about the guide than the type of vehicle (providing it is a 4x4). Also, we noted the approach in southern Tanzania (as opposed to norther T and Kenya of only a driver/guide) of a driver and a guide seemed to be well worth it. There the guide could really focus on critters (including watching tracks along/on the road. He could not have given the same level of attention had he also been driving. Don't get me wrong we had the same great guide in T in 2002/2204 and I would travel with him again. But, give him a driver and he would have been even better. Sorry if I digress from your question. Hope I have been of some help.
Dick
rsnyder is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 4th, 2005, 11:45 AM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Dick, I agree with you that the guide is probably one of the most important factors in a really good safari, but how do you go about requesting a superior guide? I could request one from the provider, but there is no guarantee who will be assigned. Isn't is just the luck of the draw?
evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 5th, 2005, 05:38 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 646
evelyntrav,
I must apologize for the comments about the quality of the guide being more important than the type of vehicle. Didn't mean to add another variable nor possible cause for concern just as one gets serious about planning a trip. I doubt that most companies would not venture into the area of saving the "best" guide for one customer and the lesser quality ones for another. But, via this board one should be able to get an overall sense of the reputation companies have in regards to quality of their guides. After all this is a fairly competitive busines and they can not afford to have bad press. Thus, as you begin to focus on a particular company check out postings on this board. I was delighted when we got to Ruaha NP and "drew" Josephat as I had read an excellent report on him earlier this year from a fellow Fodorite. I could live with either type of vehicle and would rely on the company reputation and comments from this board as to guide provided. But I also would provide feedback to the company (and this board)if the guide was less than satisfactory in my opinion. Enjoy the planning.
Dick
rsnyder is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 6th, 2005, 01:31 PM
  #17
nkh
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 218
hi evelyn

I dont know if you need further help with your pop-up van question but if you go to our website

www3.sympatico.ca/thaynes

and look under tanzania you will find the photos we posted from our trip. There are 2 pictures of pop-top vans with us in them for scale/reference in the Ngorongoro crater section. We had 4 in our van and it was fine - we could all stand in the pop-top at the same time with no trouble and most of the time did not even have to move around to all get a clear view (note height - I could comfortably fold my arms on the roof in front of me and I am 5'6 so you really do have no problems when standing if taller than about 5'1) We did get along well with the other couple however

I think 6 would have been a bit of a squeeze with everyones stuff, but all travellers would have had a window seat and it would have been doable. Our tour guaranteed a window seat for everyone and was in the 3 rows x 2 seats configuration.
nkh is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2005, 01:49 PM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
My friend and I just booked out trip to Tanzania with OAT. I finally got hold of someone who checked and confirmed that the vehicles had 3 rows of two seats each just as you thought. That was really good news. The other salesperson I spoke to really gave me wrong information.


After much talk and reasearch, my friend and I decided that we would be better off going on a group tour rather than on a private tour. In addition, Roy's did not have space in Ndutu. That narrowed it down to 2Afrika or OAT. OAT has a smaller group and has two really nice extensions (we have to think about these). In addition, there were only 6 spaces left for February and my friend is leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow so we bit the bullet and signed on. I'll ask my experts on this forum their opinions about the options of these extensions on a new post.

I asked the questions suggested by this board. OAT uses Kibo which has good reviews, they use 4WD vehicles with guaranteed window seat. The camps used for this Safari also received good comments on this forum.

Cooncat, have you made a decision?

evelyntrav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2005, 02:04 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,727
Glad to hear you finally got the correct information on vehicles from OAT. That other configuration just didn't sound right.

BTW I think that both the itinerary and accomodations offered by OAT seem like better choices than what 2afrika offers on their group tours. Hope you have a fabulous time!
Patty is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2005, 02:07 PM
  #20
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 330
Patty, thanks for you help through this. I suspect if it weren't for you doubting the original information I had on the vehicles, I never would have pursued the question. Many thanks for your help.
evelyntrav 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 03:21 PM.