How difficult is it to get into and out of the safari vehicles?

We are scheduled for this trip in Sept of 2020. I am a short lady and my husband has some difficulty with stepping down out of vehicles far off the ground. Maybe we should reconsider??

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  • We did this tour and there were people of varying physical abilities and all were able to use the safari vehicles. The staff was very helpful with those who needed assistance. At one of the lodges they had loading platforms which made it even easier. You will love this experience.

  • I would disagree. I’m a fit but short person and I think some of the vehicles are quite tricky to get into. You have to figure out which is your lead foot to make it easier. While it is sometime since I took the Elegant South Africa tour, I remember the Botswana vehicles more clearly and having to clamber up the sides of the vehicles on small stepping places diagonally up the vehicle. I could manage it, but others had difficulty and there was not always help at hand or platforms or steps. The vehicles are like the base of a Ford F-150 with a platform placed on top with seats is how I can best describe it. Also, getting out is difficult for some. The vehicles in Kenya and Tanzania are much easier, just like getting into a regular SUV. Try googling for pictures of safari vehicles in SA. I bet Alan S has photos, I’ll try to look for some

  • edited August 4

    I haven't been on the Elegant Adventure so don't know how often you will stop, and whether you will be allowed out of the vehicles at those stops- K&T almost never, Botswana once for morning or afternoon snack and maybe one other time to examine an elephant skull. But I suspect you will not be leaving the vehicles on the Elegant Adventure, especially after the unfortunate incident last(?) year. I'll post some photos of vehicles used during K&T and Botswana. Vehicles and outfitters can change between tours and during tours/between camps. I'm sure your TD and or driver can assist. They can also assign one of you to the front passenger seats. You can also go to a dealer and see how difficult it is to board one of the bigger trucks. These are not "monster" trucks.

    K&T (Tanzania) (vehicle provided by previous outfitter):

    My wife is 5'3" and had no trouble climbing aboard the vehicles in Kenya.

    Botswana vehicles at Khwai River Camp.

    There were steps and a process but some physical contortions were needed to get to the back two rows of some of the vehicles in Botswana.

    especially if you wanted the best seats in the house!

    You won't have one of these on a Tauck tour! :o

  • Alan - What is the "unfortunate incident" to which you refer above?

  • Choc-
    Below is a picture of one of the safari vehicles (taken at the airport, the canvas roof is removed when on safari). When you board and unload at the lodges, there is a raised boarding platform, so that is no problem. Boarding is easy from the platforms. These are also the vehicles that they pick you up and take you to the airport in. There are no platforms there (although they may be able to make other arrangements there - talk to the TD). There is one seat next to the driver that's normally unoccupied, but the view isn't quite as good. The running board would make getting in and out of that seat a little easier. The only other time you get in and out the vehicles is when they stop for coffee (am) or cocktails (pm). You could stay in the vehicle if climbing in and out is a problem. Height should not be an issue. My wife is 5'1" and had no problem. As to your husband, it's more like climbing a ladder than stepping down from an SUV. Note the running board and steps on the side of the vehicle. That's what you use when the platforms are unavailable.

  • edited August 4

    maximgr, 12:03PM. Alan - What is the "unfortunate incident" to which you refer above?

    In 2018 a (non-Tauck) tourist was outside of her vehicle roaming one of the enclosures at a private camp run by the "Lion Whisperer." Through miscommunication Richardson released lions into the enclosure where they started after an impala before being side-tracked when they came across the woman. If you Google Lion attacks you will easily find them because they are "newsworthy." but there are probably many more dog attacks in the US. There was another incident in 2015 when a tourist rolled down the car window, supposedly prohibited, and leaned out to take photos. Other vehicles who saw what was about to happen honked their horns but to no avail. Another incident closer to home involved a volunteer at a wild animal preserve in North Carolina.

    The only Tauck guests I ever remember hearing about being injured by animals in Africa were head/neck butted by an ornery giraffe while on the grounds of the Royal Livingstone hotel. I don't know if they got too close (Impala, Zebra, monkeys and giraffe roam the grounds which are within the Mosi OA Tunya National Park), but they got battered pretty well and were medevac'd.

  • In response to the question about the safari vehicles on the Elegant Adventure tour, Ken from Vegas' picture of the vehicle is very helpful. As indicated, at one of the lodges there was a raised platform which eased entry and egress. Also as noted, during the morning drives there is a stop for a coffee/tea break. Likewise, a stop for a sundowner during the afternoon/evening drives. In addition, we left the vehicle during one drive for a short hike to an overlook to observe hippos in the river below us. Our TD assigned us to vehicles at each lodge, so that we had different companions at the second lodge. At both lodges, our vehicle group implemented a seat rotation so as to be fair as to who sat where. For the second drive, those in the first two rows moved back and the couple in the rear moved to the first row, and so on. It worked out very well, like the seat rotation on the land tours.

  • If you look at Alan”s very helpful picture, you can see how narrow the steps are over the back wheels and this is how you climb into the vehicle. Some people on our tour found it tricky. A man with big feet and not so mobile may find it harder. The best way to climb out is backwards and you really have to place your feet carefully. Getting out backwards and stepping down from the last step to the ground is rather higher than in most SUVs I’ve been in even higher vehicles. People are expected to take turns rotating seats. The tour director often sits in the empty seat of one of the vehicles. You can’t guarantee that you might always have the front seat available to you. There only needs to be a couple of people on the tour with difficulties to make the situation awkward. There was not always people to help on our tour. I always got down with both hands free and got Mr B to hand me my camera when I was out. It needs some concentration

  • edited August 4

    British-
    Just for clarification, none of Alan's pictures are from the South Africa tour, although your comments apply somewhat to my picture. On our tour the TD never went on the game drives, although that would only affect one vehicle out of many. The only thing I ever saw on the front seat was the driver's backpack. The front seat idea was mostly for the ride to and from the airport. The loading platforms at the lodges make climbing in and out of the vehicle using the step on the vehicle optional, since you can just stay in the vehicle during the refreshment breaks. Loading from the platforms should not be a problem.

  • edited August 4

    Ken Sabi Sabi is on the Elegant South Africa tour. Ah , I see that was your picture.

  • “Just for clarification, none of Alan's pictures are from the South Africa tour, although your comments apply somewhat to my picture. On our tour the TD never went on the game drives, although that would only affect one vehicle out of many. The only thing I ever saw on the front seat was the driver's backpack. The front seat idea was mostly for the ride to and from the airport.”

    I find that your TD ‘never’ went on the game drives very strange. I’ve been on eight Tauck trips including three safaris, and at least one TD was always with the larger group. Sometimes we had five vehicles, but the TD was in one of them and the drivers had radio communication. What if someone became sick or injured, or a vehicle broke down? The ‘driver/guide’ was supposed to handle that?? The Kruger experience must be very different than K&T, or B, Z, and SA. On our last trip a woman fell and broke a shoulder, required surgery and evacuation. The driver was going to handle that?

  • At the Kruger, we were never too far from the lodges, and the vehicles did not stay together as much as on the K&T trip, so a TD could be summoned quickly. On our tour, however, our TD did go out on the drives with us, except for one drive when she stayed behind to assist 5 or 6 of the group who were not well.

  • Cathy, as you and your husband are, we are adventurous travelers. Tauck does a great job in keeping its guests safe. Things can happen no matter where in the world you are visiting. We felt very safe and cared for in our Africa adventure. We believe with the appropriate precautions and common sense, any risks are greatly minimized. We can't wait to read about your incredible trip when you return!!

  • Alan-
    I have no experience with the other Africa tours, but in Kruger and Sabi Sabi the TD staying at the lodge makes a certain amount of sense. The safari vehicles spread out over the park/reserve area and much of the time it's just your vehicle. That's good because you don't have to eat someone else's dust. So if the TD went out in one vehicle, odds are you'd never see them anyway. The only time the vehicles gather is when someone spots a big five animal. Then 3 or 4 may come together, but odds are only one or maybe two of the other vehicles will have Tauck people in them. The driver/guides are extremely well trained and certified. They are better equipped to handle an emergency in the bush than a TD. As to evac, the guides are in contact by radio and you would have to go past the lodges on the way to the airport.
    The drives are about 3 hours long, but I'm guessing that you're never much more than half an hour from the lodge.
    The only negative I see is that this left some people questioning whether the TD was earning their gratuity those days. Bear in mind, too, that the safari portion is only about half of this tour.

  • On both South Africa Elegant Adventure and the K&T safaris our TD went out on all safaris. They rode in a different vehicle each time. The only time our TD didn’t go out was one time she stayed back because several people were sick.

  • Cathy - you will love your Africa trip and I predict that you will want to go back, like we did. I think it is even more important to research and prepare for these types of trips in order to know what to expect and be prepared for the unexpected (a bad cold, stomach issues, etc). Those things can happen anywhere, but in Africa it is more difficult to run to the drugstore! (Although I did buy some interesting cough drops in Johannesburg - cough drops are now part of my medicine bag).

  • Cathy is very well prepared for this trip. Choc seems to be satisfied with the info she got here.
    Ken, I’ve been on 4 different safari trips with Tauck. The tour director always went on every Safari, going in different vehicles each time. Who was your tour director? I know Rachel ( had her twice) Chris and Susan. I know at least Chris is still on the tours.

  • Our TD was Zach. He was a native South African (grew up speaking Afrikaans). He was very good and shared a lot of insights as to the local culture. He definitely let the lodge staff handle much of the safari part, but they were so good, I can't complain at all. Athough he didn't go on the drives, he did touch base with us at the lodges. I believe he's been working for Tauck for a few years, but had extensive experience in the African tourist industry. He mentioned doing so of the other Tauck African tours, but I don't remember which ones.

  • British suggested I post this picture here. You may encounter different types of Safari vehicles as Tauck changes the providers occasionally. We had better vehicles on our first K&T than on the second as the original provider priced themselves out of the business. I did critique the vehicles on our second K&T so I don’t know if that had an effect. The new company had one of the ‘old’ vehicles from our first trip, and that’s the one everyone wanted to be in. It was beige colored and much more comfortable. On the last trip, all the vehicles except the one beige one were green, and had less leg room for a tall person. I suggested they find a supplier that could provide the better vehicles. This was a vehicle on the Z, B, and SA trip. It was more difficult to board than those on K&T.

  • These were the vehicles from our first K&T. They were much nicer and easier to board.

  • Ken from Vegas. August 5. Alan- I have no experience with the other Africa tours, but in Kruger and Sabi Sabi the TD staying at the lodge makes a certain amount of sense. The safari vehicles spread out over the park/reserve area. . . .

    Aimed at the wrong cowboy. :)
    Regardless, one of the main tasks and reason TD should go along on the game drives (or on any excursion on any tour) is to provide quality control over the operation of the Driver/Guides (and local guides) who can come and go more often than you might expect. On both K&T and Botswana, SA, Z ,SA our TD's rode along to also bridge the language gap if needed or ask a question/stimulate the discussion when necessary, and collect data to complete his daily summary to send to HQ. The TD can't do this from the lodge.

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