Why an open safari vehicle offers the ultimate game drive experience

After your guide, the vehicle used on your game drives is probably the most important factor in your safari experience. I don’t mean the make of vehicle – the Land Cruiser vs. Land Rover vs. other brands debate will seemingly rage on forever with no clear winner. It’s the Land Cruiser, for the record. Sorry Vusa!

The most decisive factor is the design of the vehicle itself. All safari vehicles are customised to some degree, but the main difference is between an open safari vehicle or a closed on with a pop-up roof.

When choosing who to work with for my clients, one of the first considerations is whether they offer game drives in open vehicles. This is a major priority for me and in this post I’ll discuss the reasons for this.

However, there are some occasions where a closed vehicle with a pop-up roof is the only option. In Tanzania, you’ll need an experienced tour operator to help you find alternatives.

There are sometimes good reasons why you may have no choice – for example if you are using the same guide and vehicle for your whole trip and the route includes proper roads between towns rather than just game drives in the bush, it is both impractical and often illegal to use open vehicles on the tarmac.

I then try to use camps and lodges that have their own vehicles – and guides who truly know the specific area – for game drives and keep the closed vehicle for the road transfers.

Here’s a few reasons why I believe that an open vehicle makes a huge difference on safari and is another aspect that I take very seriously while many travel agents don’t even know what you’ll be using. Make sure you ask!

Unobstructed views

One of the most significant advantages of using an open vehicle is the unobstructed views it provides. Unlike a closed vehicle with a pop-up roof, which limits your view to the immediate surroundings, an open vehicle allows you to take in the breathtaking African scenery and wildlife without any obstructions.  This means that you can see more clearly, and even spot animals that might otherwise be hidden from view.

Better photography opportunities

If you are a keen photographer – or a complete beginner – an open vehicle is the perfect option. The unhindered views from an open vehicle allow you to capture clear and stunning photos of the wildlife and landscape without any reflections or glare from windows. Moreover, with an open vehicle, your guide can manoeuvre easily to capture the best angles and lighting for your shots.

A more immersive experience

Another benefit is that it offers a more immersive experience. Without any barriers between you and the wildlife, you can experience the sounds, smells, and sights of the African savanna in a more intimate way. You can feel the wind in your hair, smell the fresh grass, and hear the roar of the lions as they hunt. Being in an open vehicle also makes you feel more connected to the environment, which makes for a more sensory experience that can help you connect with the environment and wildlife around you.

A Closer Encounter with Wildlife

One of the most exciting aspects of a safari in Africa is the opportunity to get up close with the wildlife. With an open vehicle, you can get closer to the animals without causing any harm or disturbance to them. You can watch them interact, hunt, and play in their natural habitat, all while maintaining a safe distance. This can provide a more intimate and authentic experience of the African bush, which is something that many people travel to Africa for.

Safer for Wildlife

Using an open vehicle is also a safer option for the wildlife. A closed vehicle with a pop-up roof can create noise and vibrations that can startle animals and cause them to run away. An open vehicle is less likely to cause such disturbances, making it a safer option for the animals and their habitat.

In conclusion, being in an open vehicle on safari in Africa offers many advantages. With better visibility, improved photography, a more immersive experience, a closer encounter with wildlife, and a safer option for the animals, it’s easy to see why many safari-goers prefer open vehicles. If you’re planning a safari in Africa, be sure to consider this aspect when considering who to book with – this is another way in which I go the extra mile for my clients.

Join Me in Zimbabwe in May 2025!

A unique adventure through Africa’s untamed beauty in May 2025. On this 9-night itinerary we will start with a stay in Victoria Falls and then explore two world-renowned areas of wonderful Zimbabwe: Hwange National Park and Lake Kariba.

Staying at two legendary camps, Bomani and Musango, we will get to experience the thrill of the wilderness in two very different ways.

“This small-group safari, limited to just six guests, is designed to ensure a truly immersive adventure for those with limited time but very high expectations.” – Andy Higgs

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