The difference between a safari and a game drive

2017-11-13 07:54 - Anje Rautenbach
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Picture: Anje Rautenbach

Cape Town - Imagine an outdoor bath tub sculpted from a rock, overlooking grassy yet arid plains where silhouettes of elephant herds roam against the backdrop of the African sun setting behind an acacia tree and a bottle of imported bubbles in an ice bucket next to a Superior 900 gram Egyptian cotton bath towel.

Do you think the caption would read, “Self-guided game drives are the best” or would it be, “Perfect day in Africa while on safari, #Blessed”?

Probably the latter, because let’s face it, a view from a bath tub, imported bubbles and a R1 000 bath towel do not sit on the same chair, around the same camp fire, as the self-guided game drives’ communal ablutions, box of wine and the old towel from home.

SEE: WATCH: A safe self-drive safari guide all bushwackers should check out

A safari and a game drive are like two peas in a pod, but the one got polished and the other one didn’t.

(Picture: Anje Rautenbach)

The polished pea got shipped off to a fancy store which sells imported goods and received a hefty price tag to its name while the unpolished pea stayed local, went to the shop, and sat on the shelf amongst affordable goods.

SEE: Cycling in the wild: Samara introduces mountain biking tracks

Safari and game drive, same same – it’s a trip or journey you take to observe animals in their natural habitat – but one is more expensive than the other. The one word is marketed to foreigners (usually) in fancy glossy brochures, as click-bait specials with pictures of khaki clothes, tents and outside showers synonymous with scenes from Out of Africa while the marketing of the other term is more a case of, “Here’s a map, do it yourself. Don’t die.”

(Picture: Anje Rautenbach)

Here are a few differences between a safari and game drive...

On safari you get escorted around a reserve or park in an open air vehicle, usually a green or khaki-coloured Land Rover or Land Cruiser with amphitheatre-like seats and fleece blankets in case it gets chilly.

On a game drive you climb into your jalopy and drive.

SEE: An Idiot’s Guide on How to Behave on a Game Drive

On safari the game rangers can talk to other game rangers or base camp via a two-way radio if there’s a flat tyre or if something happens to the vehicle.

On a game drive you climb into your jalopy and hope for the best.


(Picture: Anje Rautenbach)

On safari you stop for sundowners where chairs and a table are set up with gourmet canapés, Amarula on ice, gin and tonic while the sun caresses the horizon in the distance with animals making their way to the water hole.

On a game drive you sip on the warm drink that was once a cold drink a few hours ago, eat biltong from a brown paper bag and break a tooth on those breakfast sandwiches that turned into toast while keeping an eye on the watch and the waterhole to enjoy golden hour in the park without missing the closing time of the park’s gate.

Best you take these with a pinch of salt or a pinch of pennies, but whatever you do take some time out to enjoy SA's natural heritage. 

On a safari you eat roasted and salted almonds, macadamias, pecan and hazel nuts. On a game drive you stick to peanuts.

On safari you get an informative trained ranger, and often tracker, who can answer all your questions. On a game drive you pick up that dilapidated bird guide, printed in 1999, from under the seat and search for that big bird that makes a shrill sound, is a grey-ish colour, with a long beak but definitely not a hadeeda.

On a safari your guide looks like Indiana Jones as he stands with an antenna on the bonnet to find collared cheetahs which you might have to track on foot. On a game drive what you see is what you get because they said, “Here’s a map, do it yourself. Don’t die.”

On a safari Mr. Patterson from England might ruin your photo as he tries to get the winning shot. On a game drive you can say, “Hey boet, don’t be a poephol, let me take a photo without your head in the shot”.

On a safari you get a bowl of warm water to wash your hands in at the lodge upon return from your outing. On a game drive you march off to a public bathroom.

On a safari, the staff prepares your bath and you soak in bath crystals. On a game drive you march off to a public bathroom with your flip flops as shower shoes, your towel over your shoulder and a loo roll under the arm.

On safari you sit down, with a napkin on your lap, for your four-course citronella candlelight dinner. On a game drive you eat leftovers from the previous night’s braai and make peace with the fact that your body is now a feeding ground for mosquitos.

On safari you stay over in a fancy lodge with a postcard-perfect view. On a game drive you either sleep in a tent, a caravan, inexpensive accommodation or you simply go home.

On safari you fall asleep to the lullaby of night sounds. On a game drive you fall asleep to the lullaby of your next door neighbour snoring a hole in his tent.

On a safari you get room service. On a game drive you get up.

On a safari it is expected to tip the staff of the lodge as well as the game ranger. On a game drive you just buy more biltong.

On a safari you see animals in their natural habitat. On a game drive you see animals in their natural habitat.

Two peas in a pod. Same same. Almost.

Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram!

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