4x4 Safari Jeep vs. Minibus in Kenya's National Parks

photographic safaris kenya 4x4 safari vehicle

The Kenyan National Park authorities decided to ban minibuses from the parks effective from 2014. What does that mean and why are they doing it.
There are two sorts of
safari vehicles one can spot in the Masai Mara, the 4x4 Jeeps and the (mostly) Toyota minibuses or minivans. The minibuses are the cheaper safari transportation comparing to the 4x4 jeeps. They are just like the minibuses on the roads in any place in the world except from their hatch roof for the people to stand up for a good look at the wildlife. For the rest they are the same. From the technical point of view that means that they struggle on wet black cotton soil roads after the rain in the Mara (and other places) and get stuck easily. They are also not made to drive off road and on safari roads, which makes them not as comfortable and safe as a vehicle that was made for these conditions. Besides that the drivers are often not trained to drive in the bush and miss the knowledge of a safari guide. The minibus is the budget safari vehicle and that makes it a problem in two ways. They cause problems in the parks and they cannot deliver the safari experience a 4x4 can, but they enable more people to go on safari, because they are cheaper. This is a dilemma. People should be able to go on safari to experience this genuine beauty and nobody knows for how long it will be there. On the other hand a safari in a minibus is not quite a safari. A minibus feels like a minibus no matter where it drives, on the streets of Hamburg or in the Masai Mara, it does not allow the Africa feeling one actually comes for.
For all these reasons its good that the minibuses are banned from the parks, but what with the budget traveller? It can be better to safe money on the accommodation rather than on the vehicle. There are great camping safari opportunities with a 4x4 jeep that have even the advantage of having your own private 4x4 for the whole stay. It’s a great and genuine safari experience and it doesn’t have to cost much. Think about it when planning your safari trip to Africa.

Ute Sonnenberg, www.rohoyachui.com