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Tulips

Safari Vehicles

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In researching it seems different countries have different styles of vehicles.  I sort of wondered if this varied depending on price or where one is staying, but it seems to depend more on country.  Perhaps people could shar their experience with vehicles.

 

In Uganda and Tanzania it seems to be pop tops.

in Kenya, it seems to be open vehicles, but with posts and a roof with canvas that can or cannot be removed.

In South Africa, my experience was totally open vehicles with no posts, no roof and a wind shield that went down so as not to block a view.

in Botswana, I saw vehicles that were open, but had posts and a roof.

 

 

Am I right that it is by country?  I fear I've been spoiled by the vehicle I had in South Africa providing totally unobstructed views.

 

 

IMG_8775.jpg

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I have wondered about this too!  Zambia was totally open vehicles too, although I used only Robin Pope and Remote Africa Camps.

 

Something I noticed during my last trip to Kenya was that they brought in a pop top vehicle when I was moving from Ol Pejeta to Meru.  They explained that the long drive over difficult roads through villages makes a closed vehicle more preferable.  In thinking back, it seems that when I flew in to Botswana Camps, they were open.  When we drove from one camp to another, it was closed.  So maybe it partially depends if you are primarily using the vehicle for game drives or transport.  Just a theory.

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As a short woman, pop tops don't work well for me (at least in the couple I have been in.)  I have to stand on the seat to get high enough to see out and assume others do too; evidenced by the wonky seats inside the vehicles!  Looks like your South Africa vehicle is a winner!  

 

Transport between camps; I can see why a closed vehicle would be desirable... dust and wind.

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My experiences... Botswana is roofed/open. I've never driven between camps so only know what is in camps. Namibia- roofed/open. Kenya- pop tops (was mostly driving to/from camps so that may have been why).  Tanzania was a mobile camping trip so pop top as we were driving in between camps. Zimbabwe- permanent camps so roofed/open. Zambia- all open. Personally I appreciate the roofs just for the shade. I baked in Zambia (it was end of Oct early Nov so it was brutally hot) so I really missed the roof. I do prefer the open sides and didn't find posts to be of any more inconvenience than a body of fellow traveler.

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Posted (edited)

Tanzania - companies like Asilia use Open vehicles for their safaris (just like the ones in Southern Africa) ...... So too other operators like Ikuka, Serian, Sanctuary etc etc.,

 

They might however use the closed/ pop tops for longer transfers ......

 

Other companies based out of Arusha will however use the pop top vehicles (usually) ...... 

 

Re posts/roof in the open vehicle.  I'd imagine game drives in the Sabi Sands in SA are usually pretty short (3-4 hours) given the smaller tract of land they traverse compared to say, parks like the Serengeti or the private Concessions in Botswana or Kenya.  Where people would prefer a roof over their heads for longer drives.......

 

I think in the Kwando vehicle in Botswana, you have the option to remove the roof or to keep them on! (during the height of the dry season or during the rains I'd like to keep the roof on) ........ 

 

 

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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there is some variation of vehicles as mentioned above

 

it is best to take  photos  from eye level , using the hatch gives a looking down on things appearance which is not very desireable 

 

only use the hatch if you really   can't see out from eye level  

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11 hours ago, Tulips said:

in Botswana, I saw vehicles that were open, but had posts and a roof.

 

Although I too like totally unobstructed views, believe me, when visiting Bots, Zambia & Zimbabwe in the hotter months a shade cloth roof over those open vehicles can be a godsend.

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I may have dreamt this, but I thought the use of closed/pop-top vehicles in Kenya and Tanzania was a requirement of driving in the National Parks - conservancies/concessions are presumably private land and so able to use open vehicles. This may or may not be an additional reason for the use of closed vehicles for transfers if they enter NP territory. As I say I may well have this wrong! 

 

Having driven in all three. I prefer open ones with a roof for shade, closely followed by fully open. 

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1 hour ago, ld1 said:

I may have dreamt this, but I thought the use of closed/pop-top vehicles in Kenya and Tanzania was a requirement of driving in the National Parks - conservancies/concessions are presumably private land and so able to use open vehicles. This may or may not be an additional reason for the use of closed vehicles for transfers if they enter NP territory. As I say I may well have this wrong! 

 

Having driven in all three. I prefer open ones with a roof for shade, closely followed by fully open. 

 

This is kind of what I thought.  Otherwise, why use the pop up vehicles unless for transport between camps as mentioned in other posts?  

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3 hours ago, Tulips said:

 

This is kind of what I thought.  Otherwise, why use the pop up vehicles unless for transport between camps as mentioned in other posts?  

 

Transport between camps - Dust, rain, Tse Tse flies, need to drive on regular highways etc etc., 

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I don´t think closed-up cars are mandatory in the National Parks - I´ve seen lots of open ones in the Mara (main reserve).

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Posted (edited)

Having driven open vehicles considerable distances (Jo'burg to Kafue National Park being the longest) I can fully understand why closed vehicles but with a pop roof are used for transfer type journeys.  

 

Certainly Southern Africa the tendency is to use open vehicles with or without roof.  Generally 'properly' converted vehicles will be such that the roof can be removed in a few minutes with a couple of spanners.  We sometimes do this (generally on request).  As our game drives in the morning can be very long we tend to leave the roofs on for shade.  

 

Fully open is great for a few hours, but once the sun has some real sting in it then the roof is vital.  Travelling at highway speeds in a row of elevated seats in one of our gameviewing vehicles is frankly terrifying.  Did it with friends going to Liuwa and swore never again!  

 

But overall an open vehicle is a far far better experience than a pop top with sliding windows.  

 

Edited by KaingU Lodge
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the open vehicles   which make it much easier to see things  are often utility vehicles or pickup trucks  with the seats added in

 

there are 3 rows with often 3 , sometimes 2 seats per row
 

the roof is good to stop rain and sometimes wind 

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Open vehicles  in Southern Africa  almost always have a fold down or missing windscreen , and often no front doors

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Must admit when there are just two of you in a vehicle I think the pop up roof vans are brilliant. You have a virtual 360º view, you can use the roof and a bean bag for camera support and you have shade from the pop-up roof too. What I didn't try was to have the sliding door open to get a lower perspective on a shot ( depending on the subject of course). They wouldn't be suitable for off roading though and can struggle on some official roads after rains etc. Useless with a few people though as a bit like sardines trying to escape a can.

On the other hand your typical shared safari transport is far from ideal too, the idea of sitting in the middle of a row of three would be a complete no no for a photographer, it's bad enough having your clear view restricted to one side of the vehicle.When you consider the overall cost of a holiday hiring your own private vehicle where available is probably not that much of an extra cost in overall percentage terms and well worth the expense. You are no longer dictated to by others on how long to stay at a particular place etc.

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Posted (edited)

 

  • they are a prime bad choice for anything other than tar or gravel tracks  with any possibility of rain in areas of black cotton soil like the Mara, this soaks up moisture and it is easy to get bogged

 

  • taking photos regardless of the vehicle should be done at eye level

 

using the roof hatch  gives the looked down on appearance

 

this is the advice Jonathan Scott gives

Edited by COSMIC RHINO

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49 minutes ago, COSMIC RHINO said:

 

  • they are a prime bad choice for anything other than tar or gravel tracks  with any possibility of rain in areas of black cotton soil like the Mara, this soaks up moisture and it is easy to get bogged

 

  • taking photos regardless of the vehicle should be done at eye level

 

using the roof hatch  gives the looked down on appearance

 

this is the advice Jonathan Scott gives

 

I did say that Pop up top vehicles were only useable on "official" roads and then in the right conditions.

Couldn't agree more about the ideal position being at eye level to your subjects and  good luck in your pursuit of doing so when in any vehicle as there are not many species that fit the bill. If you have a big telephoto lens it helps level things off somewhat as the subject doesn't need to be as close but it's still far from ideal. Some parks that don't allow you to drive off road sometimes have banked up sides to prevent you doing so and that can be good for the likes of birds and smaller mammals that happen to be at an elevated height and not all subjects are actually on the ground either.

As for Giraffes, best taking a Cherry Picker methinks.

 

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On 8/21/2017 at 5:31 PM, Tulips said:

 Otherwise, why use the pop up vehicles unless for transport between camps as mentioned in other posts?  

 

And pop-top vehicles can be locked for security.

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@Dave Williams - not all pop-top roof vehicles are white minivans.   Many in east Africa are like this, which I can assure you gets through gnarly off-road challenges with no trouble:

 

32639563932_6ee29fda55_o.jpg

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@offshorebirder That looks like a near perfect choice providing the windows are OK to use. They do look as if they might be a bit too narrow but as they slide at least you don't have the problem so many cars/SUV's have where the window glass in the back seats won't fully retract because of the wheel arch.

I would still think that a maximum four people could use it in comfort for good photographic viewing.

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You're right @Dave Williams - four passengers works quite well in such a vehicle, with driver and guide up front (with their own flip-top roof.

 

Another thing that is nice about such vehicles is that if you keep the windows closed, you can keep the pop-top open even in dusty conditions and the dust is not drawn into the vehicle while driving or having other vehicles pass you at a sighting.  

 

And pop-top vehicles are the best option if you want to use optics or cameras in a light rain.  

 

The first row of passenger seats has a larger window than normal (compare it to the driver's window) that rolls down all the way.  

 

No vehicle is perfect, and as you say - the narrowness of the rear windows is not optimal.   

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With regard to open vehicles and Tanzania, open vehicles are not allowed in Ngorongoro Crater any longer.  Serengeti and other national parks yes.  The first time we went to Tanzania we had a vehicle with a pop-top but it also had canvas sides with plastic windows.  The entire canvas side could be rolled up so you pretty much had an open vehicle with a roof.  Once the Ngorongoro Crater rules went into effect, the car got sold.  So you will see open vehicles used by camps that never do transfers but not by safari companies that go to multiple areas and parks.  I like the pop top roof but I look for a vehicle that has roll down windows for the seat behind the driver and extra large custom made windows that slide for the back two or 4 seats.  This gives you much greater ability to photograph from your seat when you don't have the option of a completely open vehicle.

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