Zimbabwe and Zambia

6 reasons why game drives are never boring

Your Guide to Africa

Marina Barthez


Never a dull game drive

It’s early morning, the breeze is rustling the leaves of the many trees around me. Birds announce the day with their bright calls. I am holding a coffee in my left hand, my camera is sitting patiently in my lap and I am enjoy a stunning view over the Zambezi River and the Zambian mountains in the distance. I am sitting on the deck at Wilderness Ruckomechi, about to embark on a morning game drive, writing these words and thinking of the many reasons why I love Zimbabwe and its wildlife. 

My thoughts lead me back to a conversation I had some weeks into my first trip to Africa. “I hope I will never get bored with seeing wildlife”. The answer I got? “If you do, you do not yet understand the magic of the African bush”.


Since then, I see the wilderness through a different lens. It’s something I’ll never tire of. Does that mean I now truly understand the magic of the African bush? Or is it that Wilderness has brought the magic alive for me? Either way, here are my 6 reasons why I never get bored on a game drive.

1. Every guide is different 

Every Wilderness guide you’ll meet has unique knowledge – about wildlife, nature and birds, and a different point of view or speciality. For example, you might think that you know everything about elephants, but then you meet Eustace at Hwange’s Wilderness Linkwasha, and he shares secrets I never knew. 


On the next drive, you’ll meet a guide who is a bird encyclopedia, or a guide who knows just about everything about insects. Others live for the big cats, others for tiny mammals – you just never know who you’re going to get or what aspect of the wild they might introduce you to. 




2. Every national park has a unique landscape and biodiversity

I have visited more than 20 different national parks and reserves in Africa, spanning 10 countries. None of them can be compared to any other. Wilderness has camps in eight different countries in Africa, giving you the option to explore a wide range of biodiversity and unique landscapes.  


Animals also behave differently, depending on their habitat. For instance, did you know that the elephants in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe have adapted to standing on their hind legs when feeding, in order to reach higher branches in the trees. By lifting their front legs, and leaning them on the tree trunks, they can increase their height to pick tasty ana pods that would otherwise be out of reach. A sighting that is rare but unforgettable. 

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3. You may see something you’ve never seen before

One of the first things your guide will ask you on a game drive is if you are hoping for a specific sighting. I always say jokingly that I will not leave Hwange National Park until I see a pangolin. Now three months later, I am still here. Pangolins are very rare and therefore not seen very often, but still, every time I climb into the car, I secretly hope to see one. For you, it might be the anticipation of maybe seeing an aardvark, a wild dog, or even a giraffe, that has you returning again and again.


You might also be hoping for that million-dollar photo opportunity. After several game drives, endless pictures of elephants, lions, giraffes may fill your SD cards, but more game drives mean more opportunities to capture something that is really out of the ordinary. Remember that top wildlife photographers spend weeks, months, in the bush, trying to get that one shot. So, the more game drives you go on, the chances of getting a fabulous picture only improve.





If photography is not your thing, birding might be it. In Zimbabwe alone there are more than 700 species of birds. That number should get every birder excited, and the more game drives, the more chances for filling your bird-spotting app or notebook with species like the racket-tailed roller or golden-breasted bunting.

4. The sheer beauty of Africa

There is nothing better than embarking on a game drive as the sun rises. The air is fresh, the morning sky is taking on lovely pink hues. The sun shines shyly through the green trees. A blanket and a coffee cup in your hands keeps you warm. Each sunrise is truly special. 


On the other hand, when on an afternoon safari with Wilderness, your guide will stop at a unique location for a sundowner. You might enjoy a gin and tonic at Ngomo Plains in Hwange, overlooking the endless savannah; or, on a Zambezi River boat safari from Toka Leya in Zambia, you may bob beside watchful hippos while enjoying a cold glass of wine. No sundowner spot is ever the same. 




5. Meet interesting people

Unless you book a private game drive, you’ll always be paired with other guests on safari, and the teams at Wilderness always try to make sure you’re paired with travellers who share your interests. This means you’ll meet the most interesting people along the way, and possibly even make some friends for life.


It is simply impossible to remember all the people and names I have been on game drives with, but I do remember some personalities quite well. A woman, in her early 30s from London, travelling by herself who longed for peace, and loved the possibility of making all her decisions by herself. A couple from Florida who had been to more than 100 countries together. A German family from Hamburg travelling with their autistic daughter. A couple who got engaged at a sundowner spot. All of these interesting personalities, fascinating stories and unique backgrounds only serve to make the experience that much richer.




6. Just the right amount of stimulation 

Being abroad and travelling can often be challenging. Uncommon scents and sounds, foreign cultures and languages, unknown food and high temperatures, can all trigger reactions. For me, game drives offer just the right amount of stimulation, providing a safe space where you don’t have to overthink, worry, or experience the feeling of restlessness or anxiety. 





This is especially true with Wilderness, where the game drives are in some of the most untamed and calming places on the planet. Here, you won‘t find guides racing after each other and lining up for a wildlife sighting, so you will be able to enjoy the bush and the drives on your terms. Turn off your mind, experience nature’s television, and embrace the African magic. It will feed your mental health and happiness. It still does it for me. 

Expect the unexpected

An authentic African safari 

Explore Zimbabwe


Marina Barthez

Raised in France and Germany, studied digital media and photography in the US, Germany and Argentina. She was captivated by the beauty of the landscapes and the diversity of wildlife during her first trips to Africa. Today, she is a wildlife photographer, writer and creative mind who travels all over the world. She shares her experiences on Instagram @marinabarthez_.

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