The self drive safaris are becoming very popular with in Rwanda. To many tourists most especially first time visitors, driving in Uganda is so challenging due to the old cars, insecurity, poor and narrow roads among others. The tips below are the ones to guide you through your self drive safari in Rwanda.
Plan your day around bush time
During a 24-hour period there are four main activity times in the animal world – early morning, day-time, late afternoon and night-time. Much of the “action” happens either early in the morning or late in the afternoon and one should plan one’s game drives around these times, and rest when the wildlife rests, which is during the middle of the day.
Make use of get-out points
Make a point of stopping at the ﬁrst get-out spot after entering the park. Spend at least a quarter of an hour walking around, listening to the sounds of the bush, feeling the temperature, looking at the landscape. What trees are in ﬂower? What kind of birds are around? What is the weather doing? This is the best way to start adjusting your body clock away from the rush of the outside world. While in the park, plan your self-drive journeys around get-out points – either at picnic spots or Rest Camps. It breaks up the time spent in your vehicle and sensitizes you to the different environments and scenery.
There is one uncontested truth about enjoying your self drive – the slower you drive, the more you’ll see. Avoid the temptation to go fast when nothing much appears to be happening in the bush around you. Wildlife blends naturally into the environment and can easily be missed if you are speeding.
Switch off at waterholes
Stop at waterholes, on river banks or shade points and switch off the engine. These are often the most rewarding moments as one witnesses the passing pageant of animal life and the central role that water plays in governing their relationships.
Ditch the “checklist mentality”
It’s great to see as much as you can. But the beauty of your safari is that it allows you to experience the rhythm and cycles of the natural world in its entirety. Good sightings should be events that punctuate your experience of the Park rather than be an end in themselves.
Use Rest Camps as education centres
There is a wealth of information in every Rest Camp, from the names of trees to environmental and archival displays. Each bit of information enhances your subsequent drive. Rest Camps are a good source of information as to what to look out for in an area. Most of them have at least one sightings board which can help you plan your route in the direction of the last observed kill. Remember that Lions will probably be at a kill hours after it has happened and scavengers may linger in the area for days.
Get creative about Impala
As one of the most common large mammals in the park, you may see up to 30 different Impala herds in a day – start differentiating between them – how big are they? How many ewes are there in relation to rams? Are they huddled closely together, which often indicates their awareness of danger? Or are they spread out. Are the impala grazing or browsing? What other animals are with them?
Other guidelines include the following;
- Always check the car; check the car thoroughly well before starting your journey. The tires must be in good conditions and always make sure the spare tyres are in good shape. For the long trips, we recommend 2 spare tires and it’s also worth checking the water levels, oil, wiper blades and for any leakages. The service tag will show you when the car was last serviced.
- Always don’t drive at night; Most of our roads don’t have street lights in Rwanda and some areas have got high way robbers which means some places are not safe. You might also fail to get assistance in case of any problems at night.
- Always use the road maps and the GPS; since you are driving in a foreign country, we also advice that you use a road map and GPS navigation system. The credible car rental companies like the 4X4 vehicles since they provide cars with GPS and road maps at an extra charge.
- Always follow Traffic laws; these will save you from dangers on the roads, like the read road signs, don’t drink and drive, always wear a seat belt and get your passengers to wear their to avoid charges.
- Take breaks, eat and always fuel the car; you should take breaks to refresh, eat, buy enough supplies and fuel the car. Don’t leave town without filling your gas tank since you may not know the distances to the next gas station. There are no fuel stations in the national parks. This means that you need to go to the park with enough fuel.
- Don’t drive when tired; Always avoid driving when you are tired. You can either park and rest or switch with a colleague if he or she has got a valid driving permit.
- Take care of weather changes; the driving speed will change with the weather. Always control your speed when it’s raining since the roads can be slippery. The murram roads are the worst, very dusty with potholes and so impassable when it rains. That’s why we recommend a 4×4 wheel vehicle.
- Always pay attention to other road users; Rwandan roads are so narrow and some don’t have pedestrian walks. This means the drivers should be attentive to observe other road users like the boda boda riders, cyclists, students and cattle crossing among others.
- Always know the park rules and regulations; you must observe park the park rules and regulations for your safety, don’t feed animals, don’t walk alone in the park, stay inside your tent because, animals like hyenas and lions can smell it. You will pay a fine of 100.000 for over speeding in the park, and $150 for off track driving.
- The Mobile networking coverage; Some parts of the country don’t have clear network coverage