Written by Trevor Myburgh – Trainer at Bushwise Field Guides
To emphasise the above title, the writer is by no means an expert in the field. However, having spent many hours behind the wheel of a 4×4 safari game drive vehicle, along with experiences that have taught me how best to operate a vehicle, hopefully this will help the reader achieve a similar if not better level of confidence and expertise.
First and foremost, one must start off with the right mindset!
A guide’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of himself, his guests and the wildlife he encounters whilst on a drive. Therefore, do not be fooled into believing that driving a powerful 4.2 litre Landcruiser, or top of the range Land Rover, makes one invincible and attempt to take on terrain or obstacles one would otherwise avoid whilst attempting to enter a sighting or observing wild animals.
Such behaviour produces Ferrari safari guides, ultimately ending up damaging both the vehicle and reputation of the guide – something one would wish to avoid as the guiding community is a small and close-knit one, thus a label such as the aforementioned will seriously impair chances of advancing within the guiding industry.
Secondly, preparation is half the battle won!
It should go without saying that being equipped with the correct gear is of utmost importance. This does not mean one should have a an entire mobile workshop loaded in the vehicle, but items to consider carrying include the following: working hi-lift jack, wheel spanner that fits the wheel nuts, a tow rope or “snatch” rope with suitable shackles, spade, a working spotlight, an inflated spare wheel, a size 10/11/12 ring spanner, a pair of pliers, 5 litres of water for the radiator, a bottle of brake and clutch fluid, and my personal favourite – a roll of duct tape!
One will be amazed at the array of uses a roll of duct tape has, from quick fixing a burst radiator hose to keeping a rowdy guest quiet (just kidding!).
Thirdly, let common sense prevail. Here are some points to remember:
• Check the depth of that water crossing first;
• Drive over other vehicle tracks in sandy areas as the sand would have been compacted enough to allow your vehicle traction, if none, then ensure you engage the correct gear before proceeding with caution – remember: slow and easy wins the race!;
• Do not off-road unnecessarily and especially after heavy rains. Leave at least a three to four-day period for areas to dry out;
• Keep speed to the absolute minimum;
• Do not drive over dead branches in roads as elephants love to leave half-chewed thorny sickle bush branches lying randomly in the road! In addition, avoid driving over fresh lion scat since a tyre that has gone over it is inevitably the same one that will get a puncture after driving over a sick bush branch…Try changing a tyre with the smell of lion scat pervading your nose – you will need a cast iron constitution (which the writer did not have at the time!);
• And lastly, if in a bind, do not panic as panicking makes for unwise decisions. Calm yourself and your guests, and take time out to think about a plan and proceed calmly with everyone’s safety at heart.
Happy and safe driving fellow guides!