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Self drive web resources.

Game Warden

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For those of you who self drive, what internet resources do you use for planning, logistics, vehicle rental, advice etc?


Please do feel free to link to other websites, whether they be forums, personal or business, (if linking to your own website please do state the fact), and likewise if they are country specific.



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Ha, great snooping-around, GW, or a great coincidence?




I recommended the OP post on here to see if anyone could point him in the right direction. The real reason, however, was to perhaps hear some of his stories after his camping in the Mara back in '79!

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I have already lead him to this place and he has already left some posts, albeit not about this particular trip

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Hi all,


I thought my ears were burning. I'm the OP of that thread Super LEEDs referred to and thanks to ice for pointing me to this forum yesterday.


Thanks also to GW for starting a thread here about my very interest, IE self drive and camping on the cheap in Kenya with a view to taking photographs.


As has been mentioned I was in Kenya in '79, the second I got off the plane and stood on African soil (well concrete, it wasn't that long ago) I knew this was the place for me. I spent about 6 weeks in the Mara, Naivasha, Amboseli, Tsavo W and E and Malindi. I also had a job lined up in Somalia but unfortunately that fell through. If not I'd possibly still be in Africa.


So I spent the next 30+ years in Oz instead, it could be worse :)


I've been asked to write a trip report, I wrote an article at the time, see here on my site for some really bad scans of the magazine pages (about half way down the page)




If I can find the original tear-sheets I'll transcribe the text. (I hated the title they gave the story, but as an aspiring wildlife photographer I didn't have the guts to argue the point)


So back OT for this thread...


Having done the self-drive seat-of-my-pants trip before I see no reason not to do it again. That and given that I'm now retired I can't afford anything else anyway, truth is I'm still not sure I can afford to do it on the cheap but that's the point of doing research and these days we have the web. Last time I just got on a plane and figured it out when I arrived.


It's only been a few days now but I am gradually piecing together a plan and have accumulated some information about car hire etc. I am also very experienced with travelling in the Australian outback and apart from the minor difference of large animals that eat you the two countries are very similar in terms of terrain and conditions for four-wheel driving. So hopefully I can bring that experience to bear and combine it with the thoughts of other's with recent local experience to arrive at a viable trip plan.


That's all for now, I'll try to put some information together soon.



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Hi Graynomad


Glad you're on-board! Would be great to put some words to those pics in the article.


Be sure to post in the planning forum when you've got more of a plan and I think more people will pick-up on it:



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Would be great to put some words to those pics in the article.

I'm pretty sure the tear-sheets from all those old articles are back home (read in our shipping container in the bush) and we won't be back there for 2-3 weeks. But I'll hunt for them as soon as I can.


Be sure to post in the planning forum when you've got more of a plan

Will do.



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Yes looks like it eh?


BTW thanks for your help over on TA.



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As has been mentioned I was in Kenya in '79, the second I got off the plane and stood on African soil (well concrete, it wasn't that long ago) I knew this was the place for me. I spent about 6 weeks in the Mara, Naivasha, Amboseli, Tsavo W and E and Malindi. I also had a job lined up in Somalia but unfortunately that fell through. If not I'd possibly still be in Africa.

I made almost the same trip a year (1978) before your - Naivasha, Nakuru, Mara, Aberdare, Malindi - with friends. Lately I have had an all-inclusive safari in a chalet. A selfdrive for a month or longer - mostly camping - is a very interesting alternative to the more comfortable luxury - and with shorter duration - camps.


Thinking of hiring guides or chefs etc the whole or parts of the trip?


I am keen on any information in this thread ...

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I made almost the same trip a year (1978) before your - Naivasha, Nakuru, Mara, Aberdare, Malindi - with friends.


Uh huh. Eagerly awaiting the long overdue trip report for this one Sverker...

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Sorry Sverker, I lost track of this thread.


Thinking of hiring guides or chefs etc the whole or parts of the trip?

Chefs :o How hard can it be to heat up some Spam?


No I don't like to hire anyone for anything, least of all somebody to do what I can do myself. As for a guide, I'm undecided as I did hire one before and all he did was point us in the direction of parked vehicles.


I may hire one for a day or so but certainly not for the entire trip, truth is I was pretty happy with the sightings we got on our own last time, of course I'll never know what may have been if we had a good guide for the trip.


A selfdrive for a month or longer - mostly camping

I'm currently working on 3 weeks but 4 would be better I think. It may depend on who goes with me as many people can't afford the time. Originally I wanted to go for 3 months, but that has it's own problems.



Edited by graynomad
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Sverker you are welcome to join Jochen and our group in May 2013 for Moremi ,Savuti ,Chobe, I got all the staff to make it worth our while and comfortable.Check with Jochen if you want I don't have a problem for any ST member to join us.Come on GW pack a rugsack and join us. :P

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Here is a quick attempt at a check list for self-hiring with a couple of links to hire companies.


This is very rough but I'll post it here in the hope of getting some feedback from those more in the know. Note that this is biased towards a trip with photography as the main goal, not socialising with the safari set. As such I prefer only two people per vehicle, breakfast is a muesli bar on the run, showers grabbed at a lodge in the heat of the day when possible etc.



I have contacted several car hire companies, at this point only three have responded. I asked for prices for a 3-week hire. I have bullet-pointed some of the features of each mob that I consider to be pertinent.


Wildways (www.wildways.biz)

  • From their email: “We no longer provide equipped vehicles to private hirers.”

Central Rent A Car (www.carhirekenya.com)

  • US$ 3780 ($180pd) – this rate is for 21 days inclusive of rental, collision insurance, theft protection and 4200 kms included .
  • Pajero which I’m not keen on but they are OK.
  • No roof hatch.
  • No recovery gear.
  • One spare tyre ?
  • GPS included.
  • New vehicles (good and bad, see below).
  • Two people only as rear seat removed (good and bad).
  • All camping gear included such as cooker, bedding etc.
  • Really good list of inclusions like GPS, fridge, inverter, local mobile phone, water tank, awning, rooftop tent.

Roving Rovers (www.rovingrovers.com)

  • $99pd off peak (Not December to Feb and June to August) for 3 weeks or more.
  • $132pd peak.
  • More to go outside Kenya.
  • Full range of camping equipment but is extra, eg. $2.70pppd for basic camping equipment.
  • Fridge, awning etc all available but extra, don’t know how much.
  • Landrovers, that’s good.
  • Old vehicles (good and bad, see below).
  • Some recovery gear.
  • Two spare tyres.
  • 24-hour backup team.
  • Located in Nakuru, $55 pick-up and another $55 drop-off to Nairobi.


Some thoughts (many affected by whether you have one or two vehicles)


Old vehicle – Many may think that an old vehicle is a bad thing, in fact I consider this to be a plus IF the vehicle is well maintained. An old vehicle can often be fixed in the field, you can drive an old vehicle with no brakes and no clutch, whereas if the ECU craps itself on a new vehicle or an ABS wheel-spin sensor throws a hissy fit you may as well leave the car where it stands.


Recovery gear – This is not a “four wheel drive” trip so we don’t really expect to get bogged, that said I did several times in 1979 so it can happen. I also got unbogged with no recovery gear I have to say, but some basic items make it much easier, digging a hole under a wheel with a spoon (as I did) is not the recommended method.

  • Wood blocks – At least four wooden blocks should be carried, they should be approx 2x6x20” in size. These are invaluable when jacking in mud or soft sand.
  • High-lift jack – This dangerous but very useful piece of equipment can be used to get out of a bog, just jack the vehicle up and push it off the jack onto firmer ground. (Note, probably can’t be used on a standard Pajero)
  • Two jacks or one jack and the hi-lift.
  • Shovel (preferably long handled) – Ever tried digging a 4x4 out of trouble with your hands? ‘Nuff said.
  • Tow rope and/or snatch strap.
  • At least a basic set of tools, but the more the merrier.

Spare tyres – Two spare tyres are a must.


UHF radios – Do the park guides use UHF radios? And if so do they speak English on them? Even if not two handheld UHF radios are very useful if two vehicles are used.


Rooftop hatches – Good for spotting and it’s nice to be able to stand up, however contrary to popular belief often not so good for wildlife photography because of the high point of view. Generally wildlife should be photographed at eye level, that’s often not possible but the car window is a lot lower than the roof. On the other hand a roof hatch does allow a very free range of movement. On balance the hatch is good; and you don’t have to always use it.


Rear seats removed – Good for storage, bad if you want more people and bad because you cannot sit on the rear seat. Although you may still be able to climb over and use the area to shoot from, that depends on what’s in the back.


Two or four people per vehicle? – The only plus to having four people in a vehicle is the price, assuming you are sharing the rental cost then with twice as many people you each pay half as much. At this point I can see no other reason to have four people in a vehicle, and a lot of reasons for having just two.

  • Storage – It’s not clear to me yet if it’s advisable to leave camping gear unattended for the day. Working on the assumption that it’s not (see below re using rental tents) then all the gear has to be piled into the car every day, add four people and a heap of camera gear and there’s not much space left. Obviously with only two people per vehicle there’s a lot more room for luggage, fridges, folded tents etc.
  • Camera gear – It’s important to have camera equipment ready to go, that normally means 2-3 bodies with lenses sitting on the seat ready to be picked up at a moment’s notice. Multiply that by four people and there’s nowhere left to sit. Note however that if some of the people are non-photographers that may be OK.
  • Statistically having four people means that at every sighting two of them will be on the wrong side of the vehicle. This is largely mitigated if a roof hatch is available because the people on the off side can use the hatch.

One or two vehicles? – This is a related but different issue to the last point. I’m a firm believer in redundant systems, when you get into trouble two vehicles are always better than one.

  • Bogged – If you get bogged the second vehicle can pull you out, that’s a 1000% better than grovelling in the mud with a shovel, although some digging is normally still required.
  • Breakdowns – If one vehicle breaks down and cannot be fixed you have two options,
    • All get in the good vehicle and head back to base for assistance.
    • One vehicle goes for help.

With a single vehicle you have none of those options and in a game reserve it’s not a good idea to get out and walk for help. Also despite the availability of a “backup service” it’s quite likely that you will be waiting for days to get a replacement vehicle, meanwhile your time is ticking away. If you have a second vehicle you leave the broken one at the nearest lodge or somewhere and continue with the safari.


Another reason for having two vehicles is flexibility – if some people want to stay with the sleeping lions and others decide to try their luck at the river crossing you can split up for the day. If you also have radios you can each inform the other party if something interesting happens.


Power – In these days of digital photography an on-board inverter is a must. While there are ways of charging batteries from small solar panels etc. as we will be in a car it makes sense to use the power plant available, ie. the vehicle’s battery which is in turn powered by the vehicle’s motor.

This allows batteries, laptops, backup drives etc. to be charged throughout the day.


12-volt multi adapter – What with fridges, inverters, 12v lights and whatever needing a charge during the day a multi adapter for the cigarette lighter socket is a good idea. This could also use clips to connect directly to the battery as cigarette lighter sockets are not designed for continuous high currents.


Camping gear – Generally-speaking I travel with people that are used to living for days with whatever they can carry on their back. As such having a large range of camping gear supplied is not a priority. That said it’s nice to have chairs and tables and you can’t normally take them on a plane; and a cold drink is very welcome when cooped up in a car all day. So the following is my first pass at a list of items that would be needed from the hire people.

  • Table
  • One chair per person
  • Engel-style compressor fridge
  • Gas cooker
  • Tent (see below)

It’s a pretty short list because as I said we normally carry everything. That said it may be easier to hire more stuff and carry less.


Tents – I’m happy to use my $600 1.6kg tent but I’m probably not happy to leave it unattended for the day. This means striking camp every morning and setting up again at night. There are two issues with this, firstly it’s a pain in the bum, and secondly when you return to the site you can find that during the day someone has grabbed your great spot. For this reason I am inclined to take my tent but use one supplied by the car hire mob. This can be left erected during the day and it’s probably some cheap crap not worth stealing. If it is stolen then I have my good tent as a backup.


Rooftop tents – I see little benefit in these and in fact they are worse in one respect, namely that you have to pack them up every day.


Before leaving – Before heading off into the blue check everything including the following items

  • GPS – Is it working and does it have the right maps?
  • Tyre pressure gauge – Does it work?
  • Wheel nuts – Can you undo them? If they were rattled on with a 400foot/pound gun you may not be able to remove them. In which case the number of spares you have is academic.


That's all for now.



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I would say in 90% of the cases I followed guides and rangers did NOT speak english when communicating via radio - this is to keep the customer uninformed about what was seen, simply to avoid disappointment if you rush to certain scene only to find out that the sighting is no longer there


also, I believe other folks have already pointed out that it might be wise to hire Masai guards both for day and for night time - they are not "expensive" and costs may be split with other travellers using that particular campsite, plus you would not have to pay a hiring fee for the car company's tent

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Don't forget the idea of this topic is talk about self drive resources in general, not relating to solely one specific park or location in Africa.

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  • 1 month later...

At stage my piece would be limited to a rental car option that I've used other than the normal Avis,Alamo, Europcar when driving around all over the world. I tend to use www.holidayautos.com they buy stock from the aforementioned, often at cheaper prices. The benefit is that you rent through them , still pick up from the normal hubs and then pay nothing extra.


My trips have only ever been to Kruger or Kgalagadi and this has worked well with.

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  • 8 months later...

There are references to our own company in this post.


When we are doing trip planning for our clients we generally use the Tracks for Africa resource in conjunction with several community forums like www.landcruiserclub.co.za as these generally have good advice from people who have actually done the route and have experienced the campsites etc. Whilst it is not always needed I would recommend that you take a GPS preloaded with T4A as well. We have traversed Africa without GPS many times in the past, it is a tool that is useful, especially when off the beaten track and you need to be able to trace your way back. As many people often travel with laptops and iPads these days I would also recommend a small inverter, either solar powered or linked to the car, this is especially useful for those who photograph as it can be downloaded immediately onto your preferred form of storage.


What is critical when doing a self drive is that you exercise patience and common sense when travelling around Africa as this not only makes your holiday an enjoyable one but also allows you to absorb the customs and cultures that you will experience. There is also no point in rushing as you are likely to make a mistake that could spell the end of your holiday. Prior planning of what you want to achieve is also a good thing, whilst animal sightings are never guaranteed, there are places which offer a better than average chance of seeing or doing something interesting, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe for example will give you a better than average chance of seeing Lion, but a very small chance of seeing Leopard due to the large population of baboons on the floodplain. Luangwa Valley in Zambia will give you a great chance to see Leopard etc


Having reliable equipment is a must and whilst we all tend to overpack, there are a few critical items that you should not leave home without, below is a list of items that we include with every vehicle:


  • First Aid Kit - always fresh and checked by a qualified individual
  • Potable Water - our vehicles have either 50l or 80l of fresh water
  • Flare - just in case we have a flare packed in the vehicle
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • 4x4 Rescue Kit - this contains a snatch strap, tow strap and a couple of shackles
  • MRE - we always pack a couple of MRE meals just in case
  • Puncture Repair Kit - Nuff Said
  • Compressor - all our vehicles have inbuilt compressors
  • Inverter - all our vehicles have 1300W inverters inbuilt for laptops, camera's, "Hair Dryers" :rolleyes:
  • 4 Chairs & 1 Table
  • 5 Kg Gas Cylinder
  • Gas Cooker
  • Crockery, Cutlery, Pots n Pans
  • Braai Kit
  • Basic Toolset
  • 80l Fridge/Freezer
  • Shovel
  • Axe
  • Machete

We offer a choice of Landcruiser or Hilux vehicles that are all less than 2 years old. We have found these to be the best vehicles as they are commonplace in Africa and relatively simple to understand and drive.


If anybody requires a more comprehensive list of equipment for their own trip then do not hesitate to ask.


Happy travelling

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Satellite phone - Satellite phone - Satellite phone


The most useful of ALL equipment

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Satellite phone - Satellite phone - Satellite phone


The most useful of ALL equipment

Sat phones are not a std item on any hire 4x4 .

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Sat phones are not a std item on any hire 4x4 .



I didn't say they are. If people know their cellphones will be having signal or that someone else in their group will have a satphone, they don't need to hire one. But in cases where there's not adequate cellphone coverage, satphones should be available at least as an extra option.

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@@SelfDriveAfrica no bush toilet or shower ?

Solar showers are included in the vehicle but toilets are not unfortunately. We also have satellite phones as an optional extra if required.

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armchair bushman

I have probably mentioned this elsewhere in another thread.


if you're coming to Kenya, one of the best self-drive outfits is Central Car-Hire. They have several 4x4 options for hire, and one specific camping one with a roof tent and fridge etc (all accessories listed below):

King Size Eezi-Awn Roof Tent for 2 persons.

- 12 Volt Engel fixed refrigerator/freezer with independent second battery.

- 50 litre fixed water reservoir for washing.

- Eezi-Awn side awning for shade and rain protection.

- ONLY 2 SEATS (rear seats removed) + AMPLE luggage.

- CD + MP3 + AUX (3.5 mm) input player.

- All vehicles purchased brand new from Mitsubishi Kenya (Simba Colt Motors), then modified with extras by Schuhmacher 4x4. No second-hand imports.

- The ultimate car for 2 people to explore East Africa.

Camper Options that are available FREE OF CHARGE but are NOT covered by insurance:

- Single hob LPG gas cooker.

- Cutlery, crockery and washing basins.

- 2 x camping chairs and 1 x camping table.

- Hammer, mini-axe and foldaway spade.

- Garmin GPS with Tracks4Africa East Africa maps (turn by turn directions).

- 175W micro inverter to convert 12V from car to 230V (not 110v/120v) for small electronics (laptop/phone/camera chargers etc).

- Osram 12 Volt rechargeable lantern (recharges in cigarette lighter socket).

- 12 Volt yellow LED light with long wire for multi-purpose use (connects to cigarette lighter socket and can reach up to the tent).

- 2 x LED head mounted torches/flash-lights. Essential in the Kenyan bush at night. Also has red LED that can be used to provide light without attracting insects.

- Mini camping cooking set (small kettle, small pots, small pan).

- Sleeping bags, blankets and pillows.

- Simple mobile phone and car charger with activated lines on Safaricom and Zain networks.

24hr road-side assistance, full 3rd party insurance, KATO bonded, etc.

They'll meet you at the airport, take you back to the office and give you a full briefing on the vehicle and equipment, usage etc. First hand experience and advice about major safari routes.

website in case you want to learn more: http://carhirekenya.com/aboutus.html

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Thanks for that info AB, they look like they have all the bases covered. My idea of another Kenyan self-drive is slowly receding but at least it's still on the horizon.


It's mostly receding because I'm about to build an overland vehicle (on a Landcruiser) and that will eat all my cash. But at least I can go places in Oz :)

Edited by graynomad
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@@graynomad I'm expecting you to post a build topic with photos detailing the new beast :)

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