gagan

How to survive vehicle breakdown during safari (inside or outside the park)?

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Posted (edited)

Share your real experiences or tips to avoid such mishappenings

Edited by gagan

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TIP #1. Don't drive a LandRover...

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Find out the emergency road service number for the country(ies) you will be driving in. Especially someplace like Swaziland :-) Also what you need to dial, even to make a call "roaming". In Swaziland, it was "00"

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TIP #1. Don't drive a LandRover...

 

A landrover might have more frequent problems than an landcruiser, but those problems are usually easier to fix in the bush. If you want a good chance of being able to fix a break down, chose a landrover. If want a small chance of breaking down, but a good chance of not being able to fix the bread down in the bush, chose a landcruiser.

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I've been helping people set up self-drive safaris for the past 5 years and I drove safari vehicles in Zimbabwe from 91-95, then in Kenya from 04-08. Consistently Southern African safari vehicles were SIII, Defender, 110 etc safari conversions...life was tough for these vehicles and all had problems. Kenya, East Africa we used LCs - no problems. Older LRs can usually be fixed in the bush - in a day or two - however modern Landy's often need parts from a main dealer requiring more time and expense.

 

TIP #2. Drive a cruiser.

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Find out the emergency road service number for the country(ies) you will be driving in. Especially someplace like Swaziland :-) Also what you need to dial, even to make a call "roaming". In Swaziland, it was "00"

 

For most mobiles using a '+' in front of the country code will allow you to connect

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Find out the emergency road service number for the country(ies) you will be driving in. Especially someplace like Swaziland :-) Also what you need to dial, even to make a call "roaming". In Swaziland, it was "00"

 

For most mobiles using a '+' in front of the country code will allow you to connect

 

 

Call the AA? Inside a national park? Good luck with that outside of SA... You're more likely to get help from the Game Rangers - if you're lucky they'll tow you back to their workshops.

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A lot of it is down to guides and maintenance.

A lot of guides are renowned for driving the vehicles (sans guests) like they just stole them, breaking stuff and not mentioning it, not checking basics like jacks and wheel spanners etc. A lot also have zero mechanical empathy or ability.

 

Of course as a guest you will not see this (unless it does go wrong and you figure out the guide doesn't have a wheel spanner!). You will only see the fantastic, charismatic amazing bush guru!

 

My best experience was in SLNP with a grade 1 walking guide who had serious guiding skills (and is now head guide at a very very high end lodge in Zambia). He had reported that his vehicle was reluctant to start after the morning game drive and I deduced that the battery was dying. Heat and vibration and constant on-off kills game drive vehicle batteries. Anyway, it's a 5 min job and a new battery was in the store. I had stuff to do and the mechanic was out of camp, the said guide said no problem, he can do it.

 

Come afternoon tea time he pulls into the turning circle to come and join his guests. Looking back I should have immediately suspected something as he had left his vehicle running, but I thought he just wants to be sure the new battery is charged up nicely. For some reason I decided to joint the game drive and as we head off I asked him "confirm you changed the battery?" He looked very superior (as was his way) and said "no, I fell asleep and didn't have time". Ah. Okay.

 

Anyway, long story short after the sun downer we had a dry river bed to cross. I told him to go into 2nd gear low range and put the pedal to the metal and not stall it.... again he didn't, we stalled. The battery was so dead not even the radio would power up! So here we are 10kms from camp and the sun has gone down. This was not a busy part of SLNP and there are no other vehicles in the area.

 

So I grab my torch. Fortunately we also had a ZAWA officer with us. He and I set off on a rather nerve wracking night walk. I should also point out that a week before I had broken a bone in my foot. It was not a fun stroll back to camp.

 

Eventually the substitute/rescue vehicle arrives back with the guide and guests. I am more than a bit worked up at this stage and expect the guests to be pretty furious... There response: "oh no, we had a great time. We had another couple of G&Ts and watched the stars. XXXXXX is an amazing guide". Needless to say I did not really share the same opinion.

 

Tip # 3: check your guide!

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I fundamentally agree with @@bundu - avoid Land Rovers and use a Landcruiser if at all possible.

 

I have only taken Land Rovers into the bush twice...both times we had terrible problems.

 

I would add the word 'old' to the Landcruiser recommendation, on the basis that if an old 'cruiser does play up, it is more likely to be fixable in the bush than a more modern car with more complex (computer controlled) systems.

 

By way of example, we took a 60 series Landcruiser into Mana Pools last year - clock showing over 480,000km, though it stopped counting km's some years ago, so the actual distance it has covered is well in excess of this.

 

Whilst out one afternoon the it started making the most awful graunching sound from the rear. Inspection showed that the rear prop shaft was loose as entered the rear diff and it was clear that the diff was now devoid of lubricant. With light fading and many km's to be covered to get back to camp we were in a fix - it was unlikely that the vehicle would get us back in this state.

 

At the point the problem became apparent, the vehicle was running in 2WD, which means RWD.....the propshaft to the rear was removed, vehicle put into 4WD, which without this propshaft, meant front wheel drive, problem solved!

 

I suspect if this was tried in a more modern vehicle, the computers would scream 'I'm not going anywhere without my prop-shaft....get me to a garage asap'!

 

The following morning, a little more bush engineering and the rear diff. was once again filled with a lubricant (though most certainly not one recommended by the factory!) everything tightened and the propshaft re-attached and everything held together for another 4 days in the bush and the long drive back to Harare towing a v. heavy trailer.

 

Old Landcruisers rule!

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I remember when I was at Lebala Camp last August and we had two problems with maintenance.One was that our first LandCruiser got stuck and another one broke down due to poor maintenance. I realized at the time that Kwando Safaris needed to spend more money on maintenance and if necessary raise their rates slightly. In retrospect, it doesn't make me angry because I enjoyed the wildlife sightings,the food and the company of the guides,trackers and fellow guests.

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From what I seen and more importantly have been told by experts, @@bundu and @Whyone are correct - if you want to play the reliability odds then definitely choose Landcruisers over Landrovers.

 

And as they allude to, older "analog" vehicles are easier to fix / patch up in the field than newer "digital" vehicles.

 

To add to points made by @@KaingU Lodge - lack of vehicle maintenance often includes threadbare spare tires.

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Posted (edited)

1) SAT PHONE

2) GPSR

3) The above is useless without contact numbers of people/companies that will assist you.

 

From my experience, most incidences can be avoided if you do the preventive maintenance on the vehicle, know your vehicle's(and yours) capabilities, have proper spares and tools, and drive intelligently.

Edited by luangwablondes
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I fundamentally agree with @@bundu - avoid Land Rovers and use a Landcruiser if at all possible.

 

I have only taken Land Rovers into the bush twice...both times we had terrible problems.

 

I would add the word 'old' to the Landcruiser recommendation, on the basis that if an old 'cruiser does play up, it is more likely to be fixable in the bush than a more modern car with more complex (computer controlled) systems.

 

By way of example, we took a 60 series Landcruiser into Mana Pools last year - clock showing over 480,000km, though it stopped counting km's some years ago, so the actual distance it has covered is well in excess of this.

 

Whilst out one afternoon the it started making the most awful graunching sound from the rear. Inspection showed that the rear prop shaft was loose as entered the rear diff and it was clear that the diff was now devoid of lubricant. With light fading and many km's to be covered to get back to camp we were in a fix - it was unlikely that the vehicle would get us back in this state.

 

At the point the problem became apparent, the vehicle was running in 2WD, which means RWD.....the propshaft to the rear was removed, vehicle put into 4WD, which without this propshaft, meant front wheel drive, problem solved!

 

I suspect if this was tried in a more modern vehicle, the computers would scream 'I'm not going anywhere without my prop-shaft....get me to a garage asap'!

 

The following morning, a little more bush engineering and the rear diff. was once again filled with a lubricant (though most certainly not one recommended by the factory!) everything tightened and the propshaft re-attached and everything held together for another 4 days in the bush and the long drive back to Harare towing a v. heavy trailer.

 

Old Landcruisers rule!

 

I've had a very similar experience with an old landrover. Taking the propshaft out is a bit of a 'standard fix' in a case like that, to make sure you get home. But indeed, older cars are easier to fix in the bush then newer ones with computer controlled systems.

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Robbie! Where ya been?!!!

 

Repeat TIP #1 and TIP #2 and TIP #3 (never drive with an arrogant guide) until the problem goes away.

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Hey Enzo

Got in a quick 5 week safari to Botswana, Zambia and Zim last year. Under impressed with the turn in direction that the safari business and wildlife numbers have taken. Otherwise, just contemplating new directions, away from all the tourists.

Robbie

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Spent 2 months in Zim last summer - literally spent weeks in Hwange - loads of ele and even Sinematella is getting a facelift. Top end camps getting very expensive though so we stayed at NP campsites/chalets. Not going back till Xmas this year though so all the game will be deep in the bush - will be nice to get out and about though.

 

Nice to "see" you about though!

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I should also add a few caveats. A land cruiser pick up (new) in Zambia with the costs of a really good game drive conversion means that you are talking about nigh on $80,000 once you are done and dusted. Who can afford that - well, not many is the answer.

 

Vehicles used on game drives are punished hard. The weight of 6 pax, hard terrain and constant stop starting is very wearing on a vehicle. Stuff does happen and cannot always be prevented by good maintenance and a safari camp cannot stock every conceivable spare part. I have seen guests absolutely throw their toys because a vehicle had a puncture. Stuff does happen when you drive around the bush.

 

As for the L/C Vs Landrover thing, ask any big fleet operator that has run both and the answer will be crystal clear......

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Posted (edited)

- Get a full service and have your mechanic have a thorough look over your vehicle before you set out on any major safari (no matter what car you drive).

- Check all fluid levels at regular intervals on a long safari.

- Keep some basic spares on board if you're going to really remote areas (shocks, bulbs, fan-belt, tyres, fuses, etc.) Even if you're not knowledgeable enough to fix that stuff yourself, others will be, and having that on board saves you waiting for hours (or days/weeks) for the correct spare to arrive from the nearest town.

- Always have tools on-board. Spanners/wrenches, screw-drivers, pliers, duct-tape, lubricants, a jack, a tow-rope, reflective triangles, tyre-repair kit (especially if using tubeless tyres), first-aid kit, chewing gum, etc.

- Know your vehicle. Get to know the little leaks, squeaks, and rattles. If they're not a major issue (have your mechanic advise), then all you have to worry about is the NEW leaks, squeaks, and rattles that show up along the way.

- Drive carefully and mindfully of your vehicle. Listen for new/different sounds, feel new vibrations - and most importantly, DON'T IGNORE THEM!

- Cellphone/SATphone. Keep it charged and make sure you have enough airtime. Save a few important numbers before you set out.

- GPS is good, but plenty of people still do without them. Maps and a compass (if you know how to use it) are also effective.

- Plenty of drinking water in the vehicle at all times!

- Plenty of snacks.

- A sleeping bag (you never know when you might have to spend the night in the middle of nowhere).

- A good dose of patience and a sense of humour.

Edited by armchair bushman
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- Plenty of snacks.

- A sleeping bag (you never know when you might have to spend the night in the middle of nowhere).

- A good dose of patience and a sense of humour.

 

Well we had snacks, water and a sense of humour-eventually-when i manged to get our honda Ballard 2 wheel drive stuck in a dry river bed in Damaraland and had to spend the night many years ago. entirely my own fault as Jane kindly pointed out fr about an hour!!!

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Posted (edited)

 

 

TIP #2. Drive a cruiser.

 

Though this is probably neither the time nor the place, I respectfully disagree.

 

Cruisers are good, and far more dependable than Landys, but there's something even better. And it's cheaper too, especially second-hand.

 

post-24763-0-80366000-1467999812_thumb.jpg

 

post-24763-0-57888600-1467999937_thumb.jpg

 

post-24763-0-89085600-1467999976_thumb.jpg

Edited by Peter Connan
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What I've heard of, the best 4x4 vehicle is a mercedes G-class. But very expensive to purchase and maintain, and not easy to get parts for in Africa, but very durable.

 

OKA's were pretty good too, and of course don't forget Unimogs. But I don't know how regular they break down.

 

@@Towlersonsafari Did you deflate your tires? I Liuwa I've seen many selfdrives struggling in sand on 4 low, where they could drive pretty easily with half the tire pressure in 2wd.

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To my mind the G-wagon's reputation is mostly hype. It stems from a time when it was the only vehicle available with diff locks in both axles. It also had simple, reliable engines.

 

Nowadays, many other vehicles have diff locks in both axles, and the modern G is a fully-electronic car. Great when it works, but nearly impossible to repair in the bush when it stops. And as @@egilio said, incredibly expensive.

 

Unimogs are undeniably capable, but if you manage to get that thing stuck, nobody is going to get you out again.

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Sometimes shit happened in the bush.

Somewhere in the nowhere in Namibias Susuwe Triangle on the way to Nambwa Community Rest Camp.

 

post-50522-0-48619100-1468062053_thumb.jpg

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Hello @@egilio actually my tale has no place in a serious discussion as it was entirely my fault.We were on gravel roads but in a hurry as we had spent too long at the Cape Cross seals We no I saw the dry rover bed too late and then instead of keeping going I slowed down and as it was getting late the sand was very soft and we got stuck I then lost my temper and buried the car up to its axles.We had no spade and so my attempts to dig us out with a monopoly surprisingly failed.the rocks and wood I put under the wheels were puny in comparison with the stuff the very helpful guy we met the next dawn and who knew we had a jack? So yes when in the KTP we lower the tyre pressure and Jane still refuses to agree to a self,-drive in Botswana!!!

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My first trip to serengeti had a vehicle breakdown problem near ngorongoro.First trip of ol doinyo lengai and selous were also disastrous like that where i was stuck in the jungle and the help arrived after several hours in the form of rangers.

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