So what really are ''game drives'' in Masai Mara or during an African Safari, as anyone thinking of booking a Safari in Kenya for example will have seen gamedrives indicated throughout the itinerary. Well, the meaning of a safari game drive is an adventurous excursion by vehicle into a wildlife area such as a National Park or Reserve, for example Masai Mara, with the purpose of exploring the park and seeing a variety of wild animals in their natural habitat.
Tourist also wonder how long is a Safari game drive. Typically in Kenya, drives usually last from 2 to 3 hours each for morning and afternoon drives, with morning timings usually scheduled from 6.30am to 9am and afternoon timings being 3.30pm to 6.30pm, though travelers may sometimes opt for a Full day drive generally from 10am to 4pm, in which case the drive will include a packed picnic lunch to be had inside the Masai Mara reserve at a designated picnic spot, during lunch hours anytime from 12.30pm to 2.30pm.
Most road safaris include Private safari gamedrives while Fly~In tour packages where gamedrives are provided by the Camp or Lodge will usually have non-private drives, which basically means other hotel guests may also occupy the same safari vehicle. Seating capcity of the vehicles is generally a maximum of 6 to 8 passengers so it is not a large group and keep in mind not all vehicles carry these many tourists unless the hotel is full or has high occupancy. Private game drives nonetheless have their advantages as you have a higher degree of personal freedom and flexibility in terms of timings and convenience. Tourists with special interests such as Photography or Bird Watching are always advised to opt for private and exclusive game drives.
Night Gamedrives are also always a curiosity for many visitors to Masai Mara. Please note that night game drives are not allowed inside the main Masai Mara National Reserve. The only night gamedrives in the general Masai Mara eco system happen on private or group conservancies which border the main Reserve and the the timings range from 7pm to 9pm, varying depending on which camp or lodge offers these night excursions to their guests.
Vehicles used for game drives are mostly those provided by the Safari operator especially when you have booked a Road Safari from Nairobi. These vehicles could be Four Wheel Drive Toyota Land Cruiser Jeeps or non 4x4 Tour Vans also known as Minibuses. Both these vehicles have game viewing roofs and are safari customized.
However if you fly into Masai Mara and book game drives with the Lodge or Camp , then you may find some of these offer drives in 'open' sided 4x4 safari jeeps. These open side vehicles are not suitable for highway travel hence are restricted to ferrying tourists only in the reserve.
These Safari jeeps are almost universally used by all hotels ( camps and lodges) in Masai Mara as they tend to perform best in all-weather and all-terrain situations. These vehicles commonly seat 6 to 7 passengers and have multiple game viewing roofs or are open -sided. Reliable, robust and larger while also being marginally more confortable than the only other option, the Tour Van / Minibus - see below.
These vehicles offer the best value and unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Safari tourists to Kenya still do Less cosly than 4x4 Landcruiser or Land Rover Jeeps, minibuses seat 6 people in comfort each with their own window seat, though some vehicles are configured to take upto 9 passengers. Though not usually 4x4, these safari vans are agile, reliable and are perfectly capable of handling almost all road Safari trips available in Kenya. Only a few select locations in Kenya necessitate using a 4x4 Safari Jeep either due to road conditions or due to local conservancy rules which allow entry only for 4x4 vehicles.
Almost always only found stationed at Safari Camps or Lodges withing parks or reserves, these vehicles are popular as they allow an unhindered side view during game drives. Visitors to Masai Mara who absolutely require this type of vehicle are advised to bring this up with their Safari outfitter during the trip planning process and this would most likely result in the operator booking a ''Flying Safari package'' which simly means you take a short one hour flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara, where you will then be provided game drives in this type of vehicle, though you may want to note that there are certain lodges and camps which do NOT use these open sided vehicles and opt for the more common enclosed safari jeep with overhead game viewing roofs. Do check these details at time of booking.
Video footage of an exciting Safari gamedrive in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.