The Safari Drive Story

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In 1980’s Charles Norwood worked and travelled extensively in Africa including time in Sierra Leone, hitch hiking across the continent and then 6 years leading trans Asia and Africa expedition tour groups with the original overland company Encounter Overland. By 1990 he was running expedition support services for film crews and adventurers that needed support including journeys by Fire Engine from Cape to Cape (Nordkap to Cape Aguhallas) and by Taxi journeys from London to Sydney.

In 1992 Charles Norwood and Meregan Norwood flew into Kano in Northern Nigeria to pick up a Land Rover that belonged to Charles. The original idea was to relocate the Land Rover back to the UK via the Sahara. Fate intervened and instead they drove South and West through Cameroon, The Central African Republic, The Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.

A return trip followed to southern African countries and having enjoyed discovering these countries so much, they were a natural starting point for our original concept which was the “self drive safari” a different way to discover Africa for oneself. Safari Drive was born.

Having decided to set up the ground operations in 1992 Meregan and Charles returned to the UK to market Safari Drive to the public and became the first Tour operator to offer this type of safari and to this day is the only UK Tour Operating company that has its own self drive vehicles across Africa. Other countries soon followed over the years and we can now tailor self drive journeys across all parts of Africa from Ethiopia down to Cape Town.

 

Why Us

As much as we are uncomfortable about blowing our own trumpets we strongly believe that a self drive journey in Africa should not be undertaken lightly and that we are most experienced operator for the job. Whilst putting in place arrangements on the ground in Africa yourself is possible and the DIY approach can work if you are comfortable with the huge amounts of work and planning that is needed, the pitfalls are also numerous as well as the many hidden costs. However its our expertise in creating unique inspirational journeys as well as our in country back up and a fleet of well equipped vehicles that can travel across borders that makes us unique. Below are a few more reasons why we think that you should let us create your journey in Africa and beyond.

  • The Original Self Drive Safari Operator

    In 1992 we started the business of arranging and operating private self drive safaris as a more rewarding alternative to traditional safaris using Land Rover that were equipped to the highest standards for our clients to drive themselves in Africa. Our original concept of creating the journey and also supplying the vehicles and back up on the ground is still unique and it means that we can maintain the quality of you holiday from start to finish.

  • Your Safety and Security Comes First

    It’s the back up on the ground that’s important as we are incredibly aware of all the many problems that can occur in Africa. Simply put, we have been around longer and have the most experience in managing your self drive safari. The team at our bases have the experience to put it right with the minimum of fuss and expense. This is why we still include satellite phones in all vehicles as you can be sure that the cell coverage will not work when you are in a remote area. We also include free calls to Safari Drive and we are on call 24 hours a day to solve problems. We include flying Doctor services in our prices which mean that should you be involved in an accident on the African roads the Air evacuation medical rescue will take place immediately without having to check with your insurer that you have coverage.

  • The Inspiration For Your Journey

    Arranging a self drive safari is not just about some camping equipment, a vehicle and google research! Its about far more than that and if you get it wrong not only will you have wasted a lot of money and ruined your holiday, you will be left with a poor impression of Africa, its National Parks, its people and maybe put yourselves at risk.

    Every journey that we create is unique and adapted to suit individual needs and budgets. It starts with a discussion about what you are hoping to achieve and how best we can fulfill your dreams. We use our knowledge of 24 years of Safari Drive operations and combine that with all the many years of experience on the ground from our local teams that have up to the minute knowledge of the local conditions to create what we believe is the best self drive safari experience available.

  • The Best Vehicles & Equipment Available

    The equipment that we provide is unique to Safari Drive and specially developed to be sturdy and robust in the conditions that you will encounter. Our latest Land Rover and Land Cruiser vehicles have been developed and equipped as the best expedition vehicles in Africa and these are especially good for families with everything that a family might need for their safari adventure.

    We also include extras such as the electric tyre pumps and pressure gauges, satellite phones with free calls to Safari Drive, Garmin Sat Navs and discreetly track you vehicles for your safety.

    Uniquely we have our own fleet insurance policy that covers all our vehicles and if the worst happens we have a no quibble policy and will replace your vehicle quickly so that you are back on track with your holiday with the minimum delay.

  • The Combined Advantages of a UK Tour Company and An African Ground Operator

    We are a bonded UK tour company so your money is secured and protected through our ATOL and ABTOT licensing which ensures that you will never be left stranded on holiday. Because we are a ground operator in Africa you benefit from not paying middle man charges. The other benefit of this is that you will not be handed on to sub contractors and other suppliers once in Africa. Our ground team takes a personal interest in ensuring that you have the best and safest time possible and their briefings give you the up to date information on your route and road conditions. Our in country briefings and introductory vehicle driver training and key parts of your journey preparation with Safari Drive.

  • We Have a Fair Pricing Policy

    We are confident that we can match any prices for the package we offer. Our service is unique in its extensiveness so it’s important you know what you’d lose by not booking with us. Plus if you want even better value we can offer you discounts by either booking well in advance or traveling at a quieter time of year.

  • No Cross Border Charges & Availability Across Africa

    Uniquely we don’t make any cross border charges for our vehicles and even more importantly we allow one way journeys between countries. This enables amazing journeys to be created that can involve multiple countries.

  • We're Not a Vehicle Hire Company

    Using Safari Drive vehicles means more flexibility to your holiday plans and avoids the pitfalls of booking with an overseas car hire company that probably wont be financially bonded and who often have small print in the booking conditions that may include unwelcome clauses when things go wrong. Large damage deposits and additional charges for every small hired item are also common. In many of the countries that we operate car hire of our type of vehicles is not available and crossing borders with them impossible.

Meet the Team

  • Charles Norwood

    Charles Norwood

    Charles is a highly experienced expedition organiser and has participated in major overland expeditions since the 1980’s. These have included crossing the whole of Africa by road several times – once in a fire engine! He has driven between London and Kathmandu more times than he cares to remember and once escorted a black cab between London and Sydney. He is Managing Director of Safari Drive and looks after Safari Drive logistics and uses his wealth of expedition experience to advise on the more adventurous trips. His interests include paragliding (obsessively) and rock climbing.

  • Meregan Norwood

    Meregan Norwood

    Meregan has lived in South Africa and Saudi Arabia and has driven Land Rovers the length and breadth of Africa which gives her a greater understanding of the geography and location of lodges than most travel professionals. She is an ex-professional show jumper and motor racing driver. Being based in Lambourn, she rides out racehorses early every morning before coming to the Safari Drive office. She is an experienced safari organiser arranging self drive and lodge-to-lodge safaris as well as African weddings and honeymoons. Meregan and Charles got married in Kenya in 2004.

  • Ben Nelson

    Ben Nelson

    Ben is an Africa lover who will do anything to get himself out to this wondrous continent. Having self driven in Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa and parts of Botswana, his knowledge of the roads in Africa is extensive. Self driving aside he’s been to Zanzibar, where he likes to kite surf, and he often finds himself in Kenya’s Laikipia, as one of his closest friend manages Sosian Camp there. Keen and passionate, he looks forward to enlightening you with the different safari options on offer. He also runs a football and a cricket team, so keep an eye out for him on the sporting field!

  • Joe Hanlon

    Joe Hanlon

    Joe has several years experience in the travel industry, creating tailored itineraries. He has travelled widely in Central and Southern America, Australia and South East Asia, but has realised that Africa is his one true love. He first travelled to Mozambique and Zimbabwe as a teenager and since then the travelling never stopped. Years later he’s now one of the most experienced in our team, having been to almost every destination we operate it. Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe etc.

  • Joanna Houlston

    Joanna Houlston

    Jo has been in the travel industry since 2001 working for small specialist tour operators and travelling widely in that time. Her first Safari Drive trip was in our Land Rover, ‘Bruce’, an extended journey taking her to parts of Botswana and Zambia, along the Caprivi Strip & then all the way down through Namibia. A wonderful route! Since then the question is where has she not been! She also heads our Argentina programme, having single handedly developed it from scratch.

  • Ben Oxley-Brown

    Ben Oxley-Brown

    Ben has been visiting Africa for over twenty years and is slightly obsessed with packs of Painted Dogs. So far, travels have lead him through vast swathes of Southern and Eastern Africa but with a continent like Africa – there is always so much more to discover. He is shortly setting off on a drive through Namibia looking for desert adapted elephants. When not travelling he is most likely to be found on his beloved bicycle, playing squash or walking his own pack of dogs to a pub.

  • Jens and Anneli Denk

    Jens and Anneli Denk

    Jens and Anneli head our flag ship base in Namibia, where the majority of our vehicles live. The two of them make the perfect team, as Jens – who is an expert in mechanics and has long history with 4×4’s in Africa – manages and cares for our vehicles, whilst Anneli prepares for each trip and it’s requirements. That said, it’s hard to separate who does what as they really are a team, and will always go that extra mile to ensure that our clients have a great time.

  • Carly Robb

    Carly Robb

    One of our longest serving and most passionate team members, Carly heads Safari Drive’s administration. Having lived in South Africa and the Middle East, Carly has a real passion for travel. Not only travel, but adventure travel. She has rafted down wild Turkish rivers and driven across Namibia just for for starters. Her Namibia trip saw her spend 3 weeks driving into the remotest parts of the country, with her daughters. She combined driving with riding and other family activities, which was the inspiration behind our now very successful family self drive programme.

  • Emma Hunter

    Emma Hunter

    Emma’s true passion is horses, hence living in Lambourn ‘The Valley of the Racehorse’ where our office is located. Her partner Brendan is also a local racehorse trainer. Since first being introduced to Safari Drive a couple of years ago, Emma has quickly become a key member of the team. Her enthusiasm is a joy to be around and her efficiency and attention to detail, like Carly, is simply incredible. An ideas girl (and there’s plenty), she also plays an integral part in improving our systems internally.

  • Nick and Nat Harrison

    Nick and Nat Harrison

    Our Tanzania operations are managed by the highly experienced Nick Harrison and his wife Nat. Nick and Nat have always had a love for Africa and moved to Arusha to build their dream home/ lodge. They now live here with their two boys and four dogs! The property very much reflects themselves. You can really see and feel the family touches, which sets it apart from any established lodge; their love for Africa, their English background and passion for horses. This combined with the house’s striking features, stunning views and array of activities makes it the perfect place to enjoy the beginning or end of your safari.

  • Paul Marsh

    Paul Marsh

    Paul, based in Cape Town, oversees our vehicle builds. We’re very lucky him have him on board as he has more than 20 years of experience in vehicle-based travel and has successfully led expeditions to some very remote areas of the planet. He has travelled the length of Africa multiple times and provided technical advice and mechanical support for numerous private world expeditions. Since he’s come on board, not a bolt has been left ignored in our vehicles and as new equipment comes available, he is the first to know whether to get it or not. 

  • Kate Naidoo

    Kate Naidoo

    Kate Naidoo, has a back ground of African overland travel after which she settled in Livingstone (not far from the Victoria Falls) like many of the overland crew. She runs our base at Waterberry Lodge, which is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, and its her high standards that ensure every detail for your safari is seen to. Kate also has the enviable role of checking out safari routes and properties which enables her to give you the latest information in your briefings.

  • Mark Geraghty

    Mark Geraghty

    Born and bred in Zimbabwe, Mark Geraghty was raised into the safari world and has seen it all. He’s a great man to know as he knows literally everyone in the travel industry there. He also has an abundance of experience in the safari world and with 4×4’s, particularly Toyota Land Cruisers, making him a perfect fit for Safari Drive. No matter where you are or what you need, Mark will always know exactly what to do.

  • Bruce and Barbara Cantle

    Bruce and Barbara Cantle

    Bruce and Barbara Cantle, who live in Maun, are extremely passionate about safari’s in Botswana and are amazing at keeping our UK up to date with the conditions down there. This is essential to our operation as road conditions in Botswana change very quickly after the rains each year and the rains don’t always come when expected. This information always points our clients in the right direction so will have a safe and enjoyable safari.

OUR BASES

Safari Drive - Our Bases

We have bases in each of the countries that we operate in for your briefing and also support whilst you are your safari. This means that we are never too far away from you when you might need help. Our team on the ground are there for you from the moment you get off the plane to the moment you get back on it. They will brief you on all the equipment, your route, and will give you every tip in the book before you set off on your self drive safari!

Our bases enable you to do one way journeys across the countries at no extra charge. Just give us enough notice so we can make a vehicle available to fit in with your plans.

Safari Drive journeys can start or finish from Cape Town, Windhoek, Maun, Livingstone (next to the Victoria Falls), Lilongwe or Arusha which gives you the choices of some amazing journeys and routes across Africa. Also by special arrangement we can place vehicles anywhere in Africa for you.

Giving Back

We recognise that in carrying out our work as tour operators, we have a responsibility to respect other peoples’ communities. We acknowledge that wherever a tour operator does business or sends clients, it has the potential to do both good and harm and we are aware that all too often the harm can outweigh the good. All tourism potentially has an environmental, social and economic impact on the destination involved. We accept that we should aim to be responsible in all our dealings on each of these levels.

To help us do so, here is a set of guidelines intended to help companies, customers and local suppliers recognise common responsibilities.

PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
Protect flora, fauna & landscapes

RESPECT LOCAL CULTURES
Respect traditions, religions & built heritage

BENEFIT LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Benefit them both economically & socially

CONSERVE NATURAL RESOURCES
From office to destination

MINIMISE POLLUTION
Through noise reduction, waste disposal & minimal congestion

Stopping for breakfast in Ngoma, Kafue National Park

GIVE A RUCKSACK, LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA

Tukongote Community Pre-school was set up four years ago by Waterberry Lodge, who sponsored a teacher for the local village’s youngest children, who could not walk the 8-12km to the then nearest pre-school.

This is a massive success story, with 73 children now attending pre-school here taught by four teachers. Pre-school has recently become compulsory in Zambia for any child who wants to attend primary school, so it is vital that the country’s youngest children have access to these in order to continue their education.

When we got in touch with Tukongote one of the things we were told would be most useful was school rucksacks. Over the course of 16 months we asked all clients visiting Livingstone to take these out with them in their luggage. Finally in January 2015 we had collected enough and were able to hand them out to the children.

Because this worked so well, we have decided to continue this project, this time for Big Tree Pre-School, another community pre-school supported by Waterberry. There are 36 children currently attending class here. By clicking here you can help us support this school by taking out a children’s rucksack with you to Livingstone in Zambia.

Tukongote Community Pre-School in Livingstone

GIVE WARMTH AT THE MAMMADU TRUST IN WINDHOEK

The Mammadu Trust was founded by Agnes Albrecht to care for and support orphans, children and minors who are living in extremely vulnerable conditions. Many children that Mammadu currently care for are runaways, whose parents may be alcoholics, abusive, or affected by HIV/AIDS.

In 2010 Agnes acquired a block of land in Otjomuise, one of the poorest areas in Windhoek and began to build the centre. Mammadu meet the financial and pastoral needs of the most vulnerable children in this area by paying school fees, providing suitable clothes and shoes for attending school, cooking nutritious meals and providing health and hygiene care. In addition Mammadu have an officially registered pre-school and run extra classes for all ages to supplement their education.

When we contacted Agnes, she reported that the items most in demand for the children are warm clothes and sleeping bags. These children live in tiny sheet-metal constructions, offering them little protection from the freezing temperatures that occur in winter. We would be very grateful to all future travellers to Namibia for supporting Mammadu by taking out warm clothes for the children here in their luggage.

Agnes Albrecht and children at Mammadu

In the Media

FAQ's

  • How Do Your Trips Work?

    We supply every thing that is required for a complete and safe self drive holiday in Africa, including the flights, the vehicle, National Parks reservations and importantly the back up. While we tailor ever holiday to fit with your plans you can also select one of the special trips that we have already put together or start from scratch. Generally we supply: The inspiration & itinerary for the holiday, International flights, Airport transfers, Briefings, A fully equipped Land Rover, All camping equipment including: Linen & towels, Cooking equipment, A starter kit of food, Lodge, hotel & camp accommodation where requested, Camp site bookings, National Parks bookings, The back up including free use of a satellite phone to contact us in the case of an emergency. We also supply many other parts that you probably won’t see such as vehicle insurance, flying doctor service, servicing, preparing and equipping of vehicles and even bonding your holiday so that you have financial security.

  • Are Flights Included?

    Flights are not included in the prices listed on our website. If you would like us to give you a quote for flights we would be very happy to do so. We provide tour operator fares which are very competitive and in supplying the flights ourselves we can more easily coordinate connections, local flights and airport transfers.

  • Who Owns Your Vehicles?

    Safari Drive owns, operates and runs its own fully equipped Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rovers Defenders as we have generally been unable to source vehicles of a high enough standard elsewhere. In some countries we have found suppliers of high quality vehicles and equipment that match our own standards.

  • How Old Are The Vehicles?

    Most of our vehicles are under three years old, importantly they are regularly serviced and prepared for your holiday.

  • What Happens If We Break Down?

    We will send you a replacement vehicle. Usually, this is within 24 hours but it does depend on when we get your call and where you are located at the time. We can’t guarantee that this will be the same type of vehicle or standard of equipment as you originally had. However we do have reserve vehicles for such occasions.

  • Will We Be Reimbursed For Loss Of Vehicle Hire Due To Breakdowns Or Accident?

    No. Due to the very high costs of repair or replacement of vehicles in the bush we are unable to reimburse you for any days lost usage.

  • What Happens If We Get Lost?

    We all get lost from time to time and discovering the correct route is part of the holiday. However to make things as simple as possible, we provide you with directions, maps, sat nav and a satellite phone in case of emergency.

  • Are Transfers Included In The Price?

    Yes all airport transfers are included in your holiday.

  • Why Are Your Prices Higher Than Other Car Hire Companies?

    Because we believe in including everything that makes up a complete and safe holiday our prices may seem higher than the same number of days with a car hire company. However, once you cost out all the individual elements our prices become very competitive.

  • Can I Just Hire A Vehicle With No Extras?

    No. We believe that for a safe self drive holiday you need to be fully prepared.

  • How Does The Insurance Work?

    The vehicles are fully insured on a fleet basis. From our clients we ask to freeze a sum of £3000 on a credit card. In the event of an accident we ask for an excess amount to be paid. This figure can be reduced by paying a daily amount. These options will be explained to you during the booking process. In the event of the car being rolled/crashed or considered an insurance write-off the full £3000 will be payable. Click the booking form tab for full details.

  • Can I Do A One Way Journey With Safari Drive?

    Yes we specialise in one way journeys, that means you do not have to back track. If this is booked far enough in advance we will not charge you for the relocation of the Land Rover.

  • What Are The Dangers?

    Every adventure holiday carries an inherent risk and you should be aware of the risk assessment document that identifies the possible dangers on a self drive holiday.

  • Do We Have To Camp?

    No we are happy to plan your itinerary around lodges and camps that suit your tastes and budget.

Open Day

After the success of our March 2016 Open Day (see video below) we are planning our third Open Day in 2018 and to help us gauge interest and plan a perfect day please contact us to let us know if you would like to come as we are limited on numbers. Nearer the day we will send you an invitation and directions to the Sheepdrove Eco Conference center. If you are thinking of a family safari, we would also love your children to come too.

A full day of Safari Drive activities and talks are planned including driving Land Rover Defenders on a 4×4 course around the Organic Farm with B.O.R.D.A off road instructors. Enjoy campfire cooking demonstrations, with Katherine Marland of Kather’s Kitchen. Katherine worked for Safari Drive before leaving to set up her own catering and cookery school. Listen to a talk about self drive safaris from Charles Norwood MD of Safari Drive and take part in a Q&A sessions with our Safari Drive experts, plus spend time with them on a one to one basis.

Last time, the inspirational Andrew White opens the day with his audio visual presentation on why we love to drive ourselves across the African bush, followed by a talk on wild life film making by past client Mark Fletcher. Mark is a zoologist and award-winning wildlife film maker. He has written, edited and produced programmes for the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery among others, and has edited natural history feature films and four IMAX films, most recently on the centenary of the US National Parks (coming out early in 2016)

START PLANNING YOUR adventure NOW

Our expert team are on hand to answer any questions you have about our safari holidays. Simply fill in the form below and one of our team will be in contact.





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