We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
129 posts
2 reviews
Save Topic
4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

I have looked at many different operators that run tours throughout Tanzania and some say they go by Vans and some say they use only 4x4 vehicles. Can anyone tell me the pros and cons of the two types. I've heard that the roads can jar the kidneys a bit and wondered which type of vehicle would be most comfortable.

South Australia
Level Contributor
163 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

The important thing for me is always which vehicle provides the best wildlife viewing. So it's no contest....fully open southern African 4 x 4s, no glass between you and the animals, not even a windshield, no standing up to look through roof hatches. I think you can get such vehicles in places like Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania, but east Africa mostly limits you to enclosed 4 x 4s or minibuses/vans. Go for the 4 x 4s. They're probably more comfortable (I haven't bothered to try a minibus), less crowded and more versatile.

Carmel, California
Level Contributor
4,292 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

The vans also come in both 4WD and 2WD versions and I would ask the operator what type they use. For the operators that offer 4x4 vehicles, I would also ask what type of top is on the vehicle, a pop up or one that comes off completely. Some people prefer the latter for the openess, but we prefer the pop up ones as the top provides protection from the sun and rain showers.

If you're 6 to a vehicle, it will be crowded no matter what type of vehicle you get.

Carmel, California
Level Contributor
4,292 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

The reason that most of the vehicles you see in northern Tanzania are enclosed is because the majority of northern circuit itineraries are conducted as driving safaris or one way drives, and you wouldn't want to travel in a completely open vehicle between destinations. Whereas safaris in southern Tanzania are almost exclusively fly-in, so you'd only be utilizing the vehicles for game drives and not to travel between parks. Also I believe only enclosed vehicles are allowed in Ngorongoro crater.

South Australia
Level Contributor
163 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

An excellent compromise is an open vehicle with a frame which will support a canvas canopy for protection against sun and rain. Most of my safaris have had such vehicles. The canopy can be fitted in minutes. Another version I've been in had a fulltime metal 'lid' but was otherwise open all-round . All such vehicles are no impediment to long-distance travel, whether it's 8 hours point A to point B, or 6 am to 9 pm game drives with nothing more than pit stops and picnic breaks in the bush. The elbow room is almost always greater, but obviously, they're not for you if you don't like the wind in your hair.

Dakar, Senegal
Level Contributor
376 posts
255 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

I run a safari company in Arusha and to be honest the northern circuit are not permitted to have open vehicles inside the national parks in this area...although recently they were going to allow a couple of operators in the top end of the market to offer some open game drives...mostly the tour operators donot have these type of vehicles...

With regards to Mini vans...really I donot think these are as comfortable, particulary on the rough roads in the Serengeti and the crater, with my vehicles, all landcruisers and landrovers I have to change the shock absorbers on a pretty regular basis, mostly I have seen budget operators who specialise in the "put as many people as they can" using mini vans..the pop-top roof landcruisers are really the way to go, and many of us are switiching over to Landcruisers because of the comfort to the client factor...air con, good seats, less dust inside the vehicle...anyway this is my view, and I have 23 vehicles in my fleet.

by the way this is in no way an advertisement for my company, just my experience.

South Australia
Level Contributor
163 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

wendyinafrica, I've long been aware that you can't have open vehicles in many parts of east Africa. But a couple of questions: can you tell me whether it's solely for safety reasons, and whether things will change in the foreseeable future? I had a 4 x 4 Landcruiser with roof hatches in Kenya, and can vaguely remember the guide saying it was because of safety regulations.

I found the 'cruiser to be quite comfy, no doubt about it. The roof hatches were OK, but not ideal for good photography because you're usually above the animals and often have difficulty getting at or below their eye level [the obvious exceptions are elephant, giraffe and treed leopard :)))]. The open vehicles which I am now used to are marvellous in that regard, as well as enabling closer focussing. Each row of passenger seats is also doorless on one side, so it's even possible to get on the floor and shoot through the open doorway from a prone or near-prone position. The experience of eyeballing a lion just a few metres away is awesome, though it probably wouldn't suit people with nervous dispositions and/or weak bladders. One disadvantage is that you're often not allowed to stand when you'd like to.

Arusha Tanzania
Destination Expert
for Tanzania
Level Contributor
1,749 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

Hi

Another point why the Tanzanian northern circuit would not be a good place for these open vehicles is, the distances between the parks, a accident in a open vehicle would not be good...........so that would mean one would have to have vehicles based in the national parks which also means workshop staff accommodation etc etc

South Australia
Level Contributor
163 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

I guess my question needs elaboration. After all, equally long and rough journeys from camp to camp are done in southern Africa in open vehicles without the kind of support achnab mentions, even in the rainy season. I've done an 8-hour journey in northern Botswana, in country much less 'safari-ized' than northern Tanzania.

Websites dealing with east African safaris make it quite clear that open vehicles are available, but it seems they are not widely used as they are in southern Africa. To use an auto industry analogy, open vehicles seem to be an optional extra in east Africa rather than standard equipment. I'm hoping Wendy or somebody else will be able to explain the history of this. Is it mainly a matter of government safety regulation (in parks), or climate, or something else, or a combination of things?

Dakar, Senegal
Level Contributor
376 posts
255 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

I have just seen a few open vehicles driving around Arusha, they seem to be owned by private safari lodges as a courtesy for their own clients, say for day drives, but as a safari company operator I would say that I know no company in the northern circuit that offers open vehicles as the vehicle used for an entire safari...Arusha/Arusha for example.

I often have world class photographers self-drive with me, and they have never said it was a problem, sometimes I fit the vehicles with spot lights and a couple of my landies have no centre panels inside the vehicle making photography easier, this is the safest way in Tanzania, I have seen many cheetahs jump on top of the vehicles and maybe we are just wilder and own animals arn't as tame as our South African friends :)

South Australia
Level Contributor
163 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: 4 x 4 vs Van Safaris

Thanks Wendy. Much appreciated. I'm getting quite a collection of answers now, here and elsewhere. Might be able to write a book someday :)))

Seems it's not so much a matter of safety regulation after all, though it probably would be in Ngorongoro, wouldn't it? I've read that there is, or was, a lion which used to jump on vehicle bonnets in the crater. Talking of which, the cheetahs I've seen in east Africa would have to be the tamest in the world outside captivity. They've even been known to use the roofs of vehicles as toilets...maybe that explains the closed vehicles better than anything else ;))