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  1. #1
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    Default Self driving in November, where?

    Apologies if this has been answered somewhere (or many times) before.

    I want a quick idea of how feasible it might be for less-experienced self drivers to visit parks and reserves without issues in the wet season. Specifically, we have time booked off work in November that isn't moveable but our planned self drive in South Africa looks like it won't happen (UK Gov rules) so I'm looking at what reasonably-affordable alternatives there might be. Our priorities are areas that have fewer visitors and more of a bush feeling / avoid queues of vehicles. We are happy to compromise on the density of wildlife and big-ticket species for a quieter experience. But we also don't want to get stuck!

    Are there National Parks or reserves where you can self drive that don't have black cotton soil tracks, where the roads/tracks are murram or red sand?

    We may only have 7-9 days of car hire from Nairobi. Our experience of 4x4 is limited, we've driven tracks through northern Botswana (Moremi, Khwai, Savuti) and off-road in South Africa but only in the dry season. So I was thinking of one of the following options, would be glad of opinions / suggestions particularly of places to avoid in the wet season:

    1) Amboseli - Kimana Sanctuary - northern Tsavo West (between Severin Kitani bandas and Mtito Andei / Nyika bird sanctuary).
    2) Meru NP - Samburu / Buffalo Springs / Shaba reserves - Ngare Ndare Forest.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Konagirl

    Karibuni Kenya.

    My first thought is that it might be more cost-effective to go on a camping safari with one of the many safari operators in Kenya. I can ask my friend in Kenya who he recommends for a low-ish budget safari operator.

    The cost of hiring 4x4 vehicles in Kenya is really very expensive and there are only a few reputable ones - and even then their vehicles are not at all at the standard you have experienced in the southern African countries. The currently active thread on this forum from Dutchie has me very concerned that he has been scammed or that the vehicle will be in an atrocious state, but I could be wrong and I await with nervous anticipation of his trip report.

    To answer your questions. Yes, you are right to think about the Kenyan short rains in November and black cotton soil. However, in most of the main national parks that you are thinking about visiting (Amboseli, Tsavo West and Meru NP), the main roads within those parks are made of murram and ought to be all-weather. Amboseli is not really black cotton soil, but a sort of volcanic ďsludgeĒ (Iím not a soil scientist!): the main tracks are murram and are raised above the swamp and/or the surrounding soil.

    Tsavo Westís main tracks are also supposedly all-weather. You just donít want to slide into the drainage gullies, but someone will come along to tow or help you out.

    If you venture off the main tracks in Meru NP, then you will encounter black cotton or another type of clay soil. The main worry about Meru NP is that you must be very wary of crossing the concrete drifts through rivers: check the depth beforehand as they are fast flowing in the rains. A friend of ours was swept away in a Land Rover going through a drift as they hadnít checked the water depth beforehand. They were fine, but they had a long walk in the dark. The vehicle wasnít fineÖ

    Samburu is not a national park. It is much drier there and black cotton is not a problem unless you find a swamp. It is sandy gravel. I have however, been stuck in a dry lugga (riverbed) in the sand, but that was in a Peugeot 104 many years ago. Someone will always come along, but it is not a busy park.

    My other concern with your plan is that it is pushing it hard to do all that in 7-9 days. That is a lot of driving big distances.

    Hope this helps.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    The cost of hiring 4x4 vehicles in Kenya is really very expensive and there are only a few reputable ones - and even then their vehicles are not at all at the standard you have experienced in the southern African countries. The currently active thread on this forum from Dutchie has me very concerned that he has been scammed or that the vehicle will be in an atrocious state, but I could be wrong and I await with nervous anticipation of his trip report.
    The adventure will start at the airport!

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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Thanks so much for the rapid reply WW. Very much appreciated. And it's good to hear that many of the NPs that I am considering have all-weather (main) roads. I'll certainly take on board your note about distances and plan to visit fewer places for longer, we are definitely 'drive slow, take longer' type people.

    After your comment about employing a driver I had a quick look at some tour websites and yes we will certainly consider it, it may be similarly cost-effective and simpler/easier to have a driver/guide.

    Thanks again for all the input and invaluable information given here.
    Asante sana and safari njema to DutchieGoingAfrica!
    Last edited by konagirl; 2021/09/29 at 09:14 AM.

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by konagirl View Post
    Thanks so much for the rapid reply WW. Very much appreciated. And it's good to hear that many of the NPs that I am considering have all-weather (main) roads. I'll certainly take on board your note about distances and plan to visit fewer places for longer, we are definitely 'drive slow, take longer' type people.

    After your comment about employing a driver I had a quick look at some tour websites and yes we will certainly consider it, it may be similarly cost-effective and simpler/easier to have a driver/guide.

    Thanks again for all the input and invaluable information given here.
    Asante sana and safari njema to DutchieGoingAfrica!
    Most companies I know who rent out vehicles offer drivers for 30/40$ per day.

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    I think WW has already pointed out most of what I could say. If you are going for 7-9 days I would choose 1-2 parks or reserves and focus on those. The northern ones can be a sensible choice during rainy season, I never had any troubles there. Hiring a driver will take away a bit of flexibility, I would then just book a complete package through one of the many tour companies. Generally keep in mind that compared to a country like SA everything in Kenya will be more expensive and the quality available will usually be significantly worse.

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by konagirl View Post
    :

    1) Amboseli - Kimana Sanctuary - northern Tsavo West (between Severin Kitani bandas and Mtito Andei / Nyika bird sanctuary).
    2) Meru NP - Samburu / Buffalo Springs / Shaba reserves - Ngare Ndare Forest.

    Thanks in advance!
    1. Amboseli main tracks are fine in rain, submerged areas on the main tracks have markers to guide on road and depth of water. The volcanic sludge WW talks about is what I would explain as quick sand for a car, so main tracks only.

    Tsavo main tracks esp on the more nothern side are easily do able.

    2. I wouldn't do meru in the thick of the rains if you are worried about getting stuck. Samburu also gets technical if rains are heavy, many tracks can be submerged so take extra care to stay on main tracks submerged or not. Watch the river. There is a few km of off roading to ngare ndare but lots of 2wd cars make it there even when wet.

    To echo on WW you say seven days but I see 2 to 3 days spent just driving if you do that circuit.
    Perhaps stick north of Nairobi and add ol pejeta or sangare to your itinerary?

    Enjoy your safari!

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  12. #8
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    Talking Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Also I'm pretty sure getting stuck in black cotton is an important part of going on safari!

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    Wink Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Also I'm pretty sure getting stuck in black cotton is an important part of going on safari!
    Haha!
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2021/10/02 at 12:32 AM.

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  15. #10
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Also I'm pretty sure getting stuck in black cotton is an important part of going on safari!
    Can relate, didnít experience such mud yet. Drove in and made a 90 degree turn right away. After some struggles got out quickly tho.

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  17. #11
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Also I'm pretty sure getting stuck in black cotton is an important part of going on safari!
    A great way to meet people - memories of 4 days to get 109 km around the north of Mt Elgon to reach Suam : )

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  19. #12
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Also I'm pretty sure getting stuck in black cotton is an important part of going on safari!
    Ha ha! I appreciate the replies and info. If we had a longer holiday and could persuade friends along to travel in convoy ... but for this time we are just looking at an 'easy' getaway into nature / 'the bush' so we'll stick to one area, probably the Samburu region, and take it slowly.

    Thanks all.

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  21. #13
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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Quote Originally Posted by DutchieGoingAfrica View Post
    Drove in and made a 90 degree turn right away. After some struggles got out quickly tho.
    Ha! Canít wait to hear more about your trip.

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    Default Re: Self driving in November, where?

    Me too, Dutchie, how is it going and where are you now? Did you hire George?
    If life is a journey, be sure to take the scenic route!

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