Travel

These lodges offer silent safaris on solar-powered electric game drive vehicles

Business Insider SA
An electric safari vehicle oeprating from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. Image: Supplied.
An electric safari vehicle oeprating from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. Image: Supplied.
  • Lodges around Africa are increasingly using electric safari vehicles to replace traditional petrol and diesel vehicles.
  • They're easier to maintain, and after the substantial initial investment, the lodges can avoid high fuel and fuel transportation costs.
  • Electric vehicles also offer guests a unique experience with so-called silent safaris.
  • And budding photographers will appreciate the absence of frustrating juddering associated with traditional safari vehicles.
  • Many lodges are still building up their fleets, but several have at least one available for exclusive use.
  • Here are some lodges around Africa where you can request a ride aboard a solar-powered electric safari vehicle.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.com.

Although electric vehicles have been slow to infiltrate the consumer market in Africa, the safari sector is starting to see an increasing prevalence. 

What started out as a neat marketing trick and handy PR message around sustainability and the environment for exclusive lodges has expanded into an increasingly practical offering. 

Electric safari vehicles are often lower on maintenance and free remote lodges from fuel deliveries and spiralling petrol and diesel prices. Many now run exclusively off solar energy, making them entirely off the grid and independent from traditional supply lines.

They have a positive spin-off for guests, too. A safari on an electric vehicle is unlike that on a typical fuel-guzzling machine, and as a result, lodges are increasingly dubbing them "silent safaris".

Besides feeling better about the zero emissions - long-haul flights and overland journeys to get there notwithstanding - custom or converted electric safari vehicles do away with the noise of growling multi-litre V-8 engines. And they're a particular boon for photographers who struggle with juddering engines and unexpected ignition stops and starts.

Much like the rise of high-tech electric vehicles in the consumer market, custom-built or converted electric safari vehicles consider various features that will further enhance the vehicle's functionality. In the case of a safari, features like heated seats and personal USB charging ports are growing increasingly common.

For now, most electric safari vehicles in Africa are somewhat Frankensteined converted petrol or diesel vehicles, meaning their comfort levels aren't likely that much different. And given the cost of these conversions, most lodges operate just one or two. But that shouldn't stop you from seeking lodges with electric vehicles and requesting them upon booking. 

Here are the African lodge currently offering safaris in electric vehicles:

South Africa

Cheetah Plains

Luxury Sabi Sands lodge Cheetah Plains has one of the better-publicised fleets of electric safari vehicles. All vehicles on the property are converted Land Cruisers that run off solar and have zero emissions. The custom electric vehicles seat eight guests in style with tailored backrest recline, personal heating, and USB charging ports.

Zambia

Chisa Busanga Camp

Chisa Busanga Camp in Busanga Plains is a camp run entirely off the grid and is proud of its sustainable safari offerings. Central to this is their electric safari vehicle offering, a first for the region, which also runs entirely off the camp's extensive solar infrastructure. They also offer a complimentary electric mountain bike activity that allows guests to explore the plains while leaving an even smaller footprint.

Shawa Luangwa Camp

Shawa Luangwa Camp in the South Luangwa National Park is a pioneer of silent safaris in this Zambian park. The camp uses an electric Land Cruiser to explore the park quietly, and it's an excellent complement to the abundant bird and wildlife.

Ila Safari Lodge

Ila Safari Lodge has taken the electric safari vehicle concept one step further by introducing a solar safari on the Kafue River. The luxury lodge in Kafue National Park offers both activities to guests, and each is entirely off the grid thanks to an extensive solar farm that keeps batteries charged.

Botswana

Chobe Game Lodge

Chobe Game Lodge was one of the first lodges in the world to offer silent electric safaris on land and water. Since its first electric vehicles in 2014, Chobe Game Lodge has expanded its on-land fleet and introduced more solar-powered boats, all of which are charged by its impressive solar station.

Kenya

Ol Pejeta Bush Camp

Kenya's Ol Pejeta Bush Camp is located in the rhino-rich reserve of Ol Pejeta, home to the last two northern white rhinos. It is operator Asilia's first foray into electric safari vehicles, and guests can hop aboard the quiet 4x4 to experience traditional Big Five safaris or visit the last two northern whites in the unique reserve.

Lewa Wilderness Lodge

Lewa Wilderness Lodge, in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, offers guests access to a wildlife-rich part of the country, but with none of the crowds often associated with other reserves. Adding to the serenity is the opportunity to take a drive on the lodge's new electric game drive vehicles. They're powered by solar, and with limited vehicles allowed at each sighting, a peaceful safari experience is guaranteed.

Campi ya Kanzi

Campi ya Kanzi has an advanced solar setup that powers the entire camp - and its new electric safari vehicle. In 2019 the camp completed a conversion of a Land Rover into a silent electric 4x4 perfect for exploring the 114,526 hectares of wilderness in the reserve.

Kicheche Mara Camp

Kicheche Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy offers unparalleled game viewing in Kenya. It's a tented camp that offers an authentic experience and has recently introduced an electric vehicle into its fleet to add to this. They've called it EV1, and it's one of the first electric vehicles to drive in the famous Mara.

Emboo River

Emboo River was the first East African operator to have a full fleet of electric vehicles available to guests. The silent 4x4s are fully solar powered and are equipped to take guests on full-day drives throughout the pristine surroundings.


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