Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Once you've arrived in a safari destination, you'll switch from airplanes to safari vehicles for road transfers and game drives. The design and purpose of these vehicles are specifically to enhance your game viewing experience, so you'll see features like extra-large windows and pop-up roofs. If you’re going on a specialist photographic safari, you’ll notice features like padded bars or sandbags to rest your camera on.

Safari vehicles generally vary depending on the type of safari you're on and the country you're visiting – some vehicles are completely open and others can close up to make longer-distance road transfers more comfortable.

On self-drive or fly-in safaris to lodges or camps, you'll enjoy game drives in specially adapted vehicles. Rugged and tough, these 4X4s are usually open-sided and seating six to eight guests on tiered bench seats to give everyone a great view. A word to the wise: the back-row bench is the bumpiest ride!

Game Drive Vehicles in Southern Africa

Game drive with Somalisa Expeditions in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.


  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Zimbabwe
  • Zambia
  • Namibia

In Southern Africa, vehicles tend to be more open unless they are used for road transfers as well as off-road game viewing. Open-sided 4×4 Land Cruisers and Land Rovers are mostly used with tiered seating. Although these safari vehicles have completely open sides, many of them have permanent sunshades (roofs) which will also help keep you dry during the odd shower.

Tracking lion in Motswari Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

Open safari vehicles allow you to feel ‘closer’ to the wilderness – sounds and smells are easier to pick up – and offer greater visibility and unobstructed opportunities for photography.

Some game drive vehicles in South Africa may have a bucket seat mounted on the front of the car for the tracker (don’t make the mistake of settling into his chair!), allowing this expert to watch the road for tracks and spoor, which he communicates to your driver-guide.

Game Drive Vehicles in East Africa

Spotting cheetah with Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara.


  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Rwanda
  • Uganda

Vehicles in East Africa are generally less open to the elements than in Southern Africa. This is mostly because in East Africa, open vehicles are not permitted in certain areas such as on the roads between the national parks and some areas of the parks (including the Ngorongoro Crater). This is all about safety – an open-sided game viewing vehicle is not suitable for normal roads, and in the parks where cheetah populations are thriving, these clever hunters like to hop onto a safari vehicle to scan the horizon for prey. It’s a thrilling encounter best enjoyed behind an actual car door.

Game drive with Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania.

Most safari destinations in East Africa have extensive road networks and therefore closed vehicles are usually the norm when doing long-distance road transfers between airstrips, camps and lodges. A closed game drive vehicle generally has three rows of seating and features a pop-top roof hatch which can be raised for game viewing and taking photographs.

In private wilderness areas, where the vehicles are used exclusively off-road, the more open vehicles are again common, often sporting a canvas roof and flaps that can be rolled down to cover windows.

Other Types of Safari Vehicles


Safari Minibuses

Airport transfers, scheduled safaris and day tours in Namibia and South Africa usually use standard minibuses or SUVs, while our scheduled Kenya tours are conducted in modified safari minibuses, with a driver-guide.

Although equipped with nine seats, these safari vehicles only accommodate seven people to ensure that everybody’s gets a window seat. A large pop-up roof is generally standard to ensure uninterrupted views and great photographic opportunities.

Mobile Safari Vehicles

Mobile road safari in Namibia.

Safaris in destinations such as Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe require all-terrain 4×4 vehicles. These either have pop-up roofs or open sides and often feature raised suspension and engine snorkels for river crossings, with convenient pouches or shelves for your on-safari necessities like a camera and sunblock.

Our mobile expeditions and camping safaris make use of these vehicles, seating up to eight or nine people, they have space for luggage – either on the roof or in a trailer – and their ruggedness means you can access wild and off-the-beaten-path destinations with relative ease.

Game drive with Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana.

If you are in any doubt which vehicle a specific safari uses, simply get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts for all the information you need…

Written By

Dominic Chadbon

Share with a Friend