Bushlore Review

Probably the biggest decision we had to make for our self-drive safari was which company to rent our truck from. The truck would be our transportation and accommodation for 25 days so we definitely wanted something reliable. We ended up going with Bushlore based on their price point and a few reviews we were able to find. Hopefully our review will help anyone trying to make a similar decision in the future!

Truck
The truck itself was a Toyota Hilux (like seemingly every other truck we saw out there). We think it was relatively new – only 27000 km (about 16000 miles) on the odometer when we picked it up. The tires were new as well.

We didn’t have any complaints at all about the truck over the course of the trip. It performed quite well and didn’t have any issues that required maintenance.

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Camping Setup
The bed of the truck was setup with all the supplies and a tent on top. This performed as advertised, with some complaints. Bushlore forgot to fill up the 40 gallon water tank so we had to figure that out on our own. Also, one morning the rope-strap combination that held down the tent travel cover just came apart. We were able to improvise a solution to get it back together using a tent pole, rope and duct tape.

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Accommodation
Bushlore provided a service that helped us pre-book our camp sites along the way. This was the part of their services that we were least impressed with. Twice along the way we showed up at a camp where they had pre-booked us and we were told they had no record of the booking. Luckily we were able to still stay, but it was frustrating to have to deal with this after having paid Bushlore to handle this for us.

We also noticed that maybe it wasn’t even necessary to have booked as much ahead of the time as Bushlore had us do. The national parks were definitely full, but other locations had plenty of empty space. So we’d recommend only booking a limited number of sites.

Final Review
It seemed like in general the issues with Bushlore stemmed from the fact that there are a large company, and we didn’t have the personal touch that we might have liked. The truck was really nice, but the service aspect was lacking, which we would have liked since we were so nervous. We’d probably say that if it’s your first time on safari, maybe look for a smaller company to give you a little more attention. But if you have experience, their equipment will definitely do a good job for you.

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Budget: Self-Drive Safari

We wanted to give you an idea (and figure it out for ourselves) of how much our self-drive safari cost. We knew that it would take us above our $100/day budget, but we figured that it would be worth it.

Total Cost of 25 day self-drive safari: $5,599.36

Throughout the safari, we used South African Rand, Botswana Pula, Namibian Dollars and US Dollars. We used the current exchange rates.

We divided this cost down into the following categories:

 

Transportation: $3785.89

 

The transportation includes the cost of our Bushlore Truck Rental ($3001.00), gas ($685.99), various road fees, and a ferry.

 

Accommodation: $860.25

We were actually quite shocked at the expense of our accommodation. We used our truck company to help us pre-book many of our campsites because we knew it would be high season for safari. We decided that it was a good choice for some of the parks in Botswana, but was probably a bit unnecessary for Namibia. We also found that the parks in Botswana were outrageously expensive, even though we were just camping. For example, there were park fees of about $28 per day. In addition to the park fees, we paid for camping. The camp grounds within the national parks are all private and they are amazingly expensive. You pay per person and they cost $50 per person, per night.

 

Activities (This includes all park and entrance fees): $448.73

These are the park fees mentioned above. They were much more expensive in Botswana than they were in Namibia.

 

Alcohol: $55.97

We purchased 2 boxes of wine for our camping and also purchased a couple of beers here and there in the lodges.

 

Food: $261.35

This mostly consisted of groceries for camping. However, we did end up breaking down and buying a few meals along the way.

 

Miscellaneous: $42.51

We purchased maps for all of the major parks. Again, the Botswana prices were much more expensive than Namibia. We also had to pay for the bathroom in a couple of places.

 

Souvenirs: $17.53

Our safari was 25 days, so this cost averages $223.97 per day. That definitely blows our budget. However, the good news is that because it was at the beginning of our trip, we did pay our deposits for the truck and accommodation prior to leaving. Therefore we feel as if we didn’t actually pay it now… Or at least that is what we are going to tell ourselves.

South Africa Self-Drive Safari Stops

The majority of our safari was focused on Botswana and Namibia, but we did pick up and drop off our truck in Johannesburg, so we stayed in South Africa for a few nights at the beginning and end of the trip

Safari Night 1: Waterberg Wildnerness Reserve, between Mookgopong and Polokwane

Getting There
We had just picked up our truck and were still adjusting to driving a large 4×4 truck on the left side of the road, so we were happy that this reserve was only a few hours away.

It was a little-nerve-wracking getting to the site though, because they were doing road construction and we had to take this pretty wild side path. Luckily one of the managers showed us the way or we might never have found it!

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Campsite
This was a very nice site. Nice trees isolating us from the other sites (although we were the only ones there this night). A nice stone table and fire pit with provided firewood that made an excellent fire.

The camp managers were also super nice and helpful. We had forgotten to buy matches at the store, so they gave us a full box plus some firelighters (excellent stuff that we are curious why it isn’t more popular in the USA). Also, we realized here that Bushlore forgot to fill our 40L water tank in the truck, and they were kind enough to give us a hose to hook up to the water outlet and fill it (and to help us tighten the connection).

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This was only the beginning of the fire!

Ablutions
Since it was our first night on the road, we didn’t have any expectations for how rustic things would be. We were pleasantly surprised at how fancy this one was, with a nice building with fancy fixtures and good hot water.

Activities
They have different 4×4 driving trails throughout the reserve, and one of the managers was nice enough to recommend a route for us. This gave us a very pretty view over the property for sunset.

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Safari Night 23: Red Sands Desert Lodge, near Kuruman

Getting There
If you’ll recall, night 22 was in Keetmanshoop, Namibia. This is quite a long distance away from Kuruman, so this was our longest driving day of the trip. By this point Eric had gotten a little more comfortable with the manual transmission, so he was able to do a few hours of highway driving.

We did also have a border crossing, but luckily again we seemed to be the only ones crossing at the time. Getting into South Africa was especially interesting. All the customs agent asked was about how big the states in the US were. The police officer ran our fingerprints, and told us that we were rejected… but we could clearly see the “No Match” on the machine and his partner was grinning and messing with his cell phone in the background – and the officer eventually admitted he was joking. The person that was supposed to inspect the car inside just wrote down our license plate and asked if she could ride to Johannesburg with us. Everyone there just seemed to be looking for some sort of entertainment!

Campsite
Not as nice as it should have been… When we arrived at Red Sands, they had no record of the booking that Bushlore had made for us there. We called Bushlore and they said we should just pay for it (again) and sort it out back in Joburg. But, there were no actual sites available. There was no other campground nearby, so we weren’t sure what to do. But then a manager stepped in and identified an area with a table that we could us as a site for the night. The site itself didn’t have much beyond the table, but it certainly beat sleeping on the side of the road.

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Ablutions
We were allowed to use the big ablutions block near the actual campsites. Since the camp was full this meant that the ablutions was somewhat crowded. We didn’t take showers, but heard others complaining of limited hot water.

Amenities
They had a nice reception area with free wifi… but only a 50 MB data limit. We burned through this in about 30 minutes :(. There was a nice restaurant as well where the we doing  braai (bbq) buffet, but we had enough food left that we decided to cook anyway. We did visit the bar to relax after the stress of driving and site mixups. Here we had the Castle Milk Stout for the first time, which was a nice change of pace from all the standard lagers we had been drinking.

Safari Night 24: Magalies Sleepy River, Magaliesburg

Getting There
For our last night we decided to go off the beaten path of what others do for their safaris. Instead of making the long drive from Kuruman back to return the truck, we decided to stay in this area just an hour outside of town. So we just looked up the campground on the Internet and found our way to it.

When we arrived, they seemed somewhat surprised to see us. It seems like they are mostly a summer operation and don’t really actually open in the winter. But, they were happy to take our money for the site.

Campsite
There was only one other person in the entire camprgound (a long-term caravaner), so we definitely had our pick of sites. The setting is very pretty, with lots of nice trees and hills surrounding.

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Ablutions
A nice big building with good hot water

Amenities
Looked like there would have been a lot more going on in the summer – pool, hiking, etc. They did have a beer fridge that we purchased a couple of beers from since our box of wine had run out the previous night.

Activities
This was right next door to the Cradle of Humankind area, which was another reason we chose to stop here.

Final Thoughts
It’s hard to really have much of an opinion on our South African safari stops since we didn’t spend much time at any of them. But one common theme was definitely the friendliness and helpfulness of all the employees that we interacted with!