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About Us
NEARLY 30 Years of Exploration

Our Story

Safari Drive was founded in 1993 by Charles and Meregan Norwood. Charles; a highly experienced expedition leader across vast swathes of Africa and Meregan, a race car driver and born adventurer. In 1993 they both flew to Africa to pick up a Land Rover that belonged to Charles and the birth of Safari Drive soon followed.

Our original concept was the “self-drive safari” - a way to discover Africa for oneself.

The original idea was to relocate the Land Rover back to the UK via the Sahara. Fate intervened and instead they drove South and West through Cameroon, The Central African Republic, The Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. A return trip followed to Southern African, and having enjoyed discovering these countries so much in their own vehicle, the concept - a self-drive safari - was conceived and Safari Drive was born.

Having decided to set up the ground operations in 1993, Charles and Meregan returned to the UK to market Safari Drive to the public and became the first Tour Operator to offer this type of safari package, and to this day is the only UK Tour Operating company that owns its own fleet of self-drive 4x4 vehicles across Africa.

Other countries soon followed over the years and we can now tailor self-drive journeys across all parts of Africa from Tanzania down to Cape Town.

Since those early days the company has widened its network and we now have seven fully staffed bases dotted across Africa and our HQ in the English countryside, where the passion and ethos continues strongly into the 21st century.

Charles and Meregan are still driving the routes of Africa today.

Our Team

Xandi Maculan

Xandi was introduced to Safari Drive in 2017 and bought the business of the founders 6 months later. Trained as civil engineer but equipped with a passion for travel, he ventured into local tourism and high end client experiences early on. Safari Drive gave Xandi the opportunity to turn his personal philosophy into reality: the more pleasure and excitement a client derives from a trip, the happier he is. He keeps a keen eye on the fitting of the vehicles and pays regular visits to the Safari Drive bases. Whenever possible he meets with clients and suppliers on the ground in Africa. Xandi’s vision for Safari Drive is to build on its position as leading self-drive outfit in southern Africa, to expand the Latin America operations and to support the growth of sustainable travel through partnering with carefully selected organisations.

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AJ Benzon

AJ was born in Harare and lived in Zimbabwe until he went to University in Cape Town. He then decided to move to Botswana where he managed several High-End luxury camps in and around the Delta. Since then AJ has moved to Victoria Falls where he runs a small guest house and our Zimbabwe base.

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Jens & Anneli Denk

Jens and Anneli head our flag ship base in Namibia, where the majority of our vehicles live. Jens is an expert in mechanics and has a long history with 4×4’s in Africa. He manages our fleet and does most of the client briefings. Anneli handles the bookings, liaises with our partners and prepares each trip in detail. They are at the heart of our operation and will always go that extra mile to ensure that our clients have an unforgettable trip.

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Paul Marsh

Paul, based in Cape Town, oversees our vehicle builds. We’re very lucky him have him on board as he has more than 20 years of experience in vehicle-based travel and has successfully led expeditions to some very remote areas of the planet. He has travelled the length of Africa multiple times and provided technical advice and mechanical support for numerous private world expeditions. Since he’s come on board, not a bolt has been left ignored in our vehicles and as new equipment comes available, he is the first to know whether to get it or not.

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Bruce & Barbara Cantle

Bruce and Barbara Cantle, who live in Maun, are extremely passionate about safaris in Botswana and are amazing at keeping our UK team up to date with the local conditions . This is essential to our operation as road conditions in Botswana change very quickly after the rains each year and the rains don’t always come when expected. This information always points our clients in the right direction so they will have a safe and enjoyable safari.

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Leopold Spiegelfeld

Leo entdeckte seine Liebe zu Afrika schon vor vielen Jahren, als er den Kontinent das erste Mal bereiste. Seine letzte berufliche Station war in Tansania, wo er gemeinsam mit seiner Partnerin Frankie als Lodge Manager tätig war. Nach seiner Rückkehr im Jahr 2019 machte sich der glühende Natur- und Afrikaliebhaber in seiner Heimat Wien als spezialisierter Fly-In Safari Veranstalter selbstständig. Seit2021 unterstützt Leo unser Safari Drive-Team als Berater für unsere Kunden aus dem deutschsprachigen Raum. Als ehemaliger Camp Manager ist Leo mit allen logistischen Herausforderungen und oftmals schwierigen Routenplanungen bestens vertraut.

Leo is based in Vienna, Austria and supports our SafariDrive Team with self drive inquiries from all over the world. Get in touch and benefit from his expert knowledge and experience in arranging tailor made safaris in Africa.

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Francesca Spiegelfeld

Frankie grew up in New York and has English roots, but is always most content when on an adventure in the African wilderness. After several years of living in Tanzania and working as a lodge manager with her partner (now husband!) Leo, they returned to Vienna where they founded a tour operator business focused on tailor made fly-in safaris. She believes that meticulous planning, extensive knowledge and a true love for the bush is essential for creating an effortless safari for her clients. As of 2021, she supports the Safari Drive team as a consultant for self driving safaris, sharing her passion for designing once in a life time journeys with a positive impact!

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Joanna Houlston

Jo has been in the travel industry since 2001 working for small specialist tour operators and travelling widely over the years. Joining the team in 2012 her first Safari Drive trip was in Land Rover ‘Bruce’ – an extended journey taking her to through much of Namibia, parts of Botswana and Zambia. Over the years she has thoroughly explored Namibia and Botswana in depth. Most recently (Nov/Dec 2022) she returned to Botswana’s Okavango Delta checking out some of the best fly-in lodges available, discovering new options for our many returning clients & camping at some of the wildest campsites you can reach on a self-drive. She has (at last) had an amazing leopard sighting!

She also has a huge passion for South America and the long-awaited sister brand, Latin Drive, will soon be something to shout about with destinations including Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador & Brazil.

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Gene Pecker

Gene Pecker is based in Livingstone and works at our Zambia base, found at Waterberry Lodge. Gene’s been a wonderful asset ever since she started with us and as our clients keep reminding us. She’s very good at detail and is passionate about making sure the clients have the best trip possible. Her tips and info will go a long way so be sure to listen carefully.

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Our initiatives

We recognise that in carrying out our work as tour operators, we have a responsibility to respect other peoples’ communities. We acknowledge that wherever a tour operator does business or sends clients, it has the potential to do both good and harm and we are aware that all too often the harm can outweigh the good.

All tourism potentially has an environmental, social and economic impact on the destination involved. To help us do so, here is a set of guidelines intended to help companies, customers and local suppliers recognise common responsibilities.

Supporting the local economy

Hiring and training talent on location.

Conserve natural resources

From office to destination

Protect the environment

Protect flora, fauna & landscapes

Respect local traditions

Uphold traditions, religions & built heritage

Minimise pollution

Through noise reduction, waste disposal & minimal congestion

Benefit communities

Supporting local charities
& social initiatives

Our Charities

The Mammadu Trust
in Windhoek

The Mammadu Trust was founded by Agnes Albrecht to care for and support orphans, children and minors who are living in extremely vulnerable conditions. Mammadu is a non-profit organisation for Other Vulnerable Children which was established and registered in Namibia in 2008 with the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services.

When we contacted Agnes Albrecht, founder of Mammadu, we found that the items most in demand for the children were warm clothes and sleeping bags. Many of these children live in tiny sheet-metal constructions, offering them little protection from the freezing temperatures that occur in winter. There is also a great need for underwear and socks, with children sadly very often going without - this was a particular request which we felt could be answered with our help.

Upon arrival in Windhoek you will meet Jens and Anneli Denk of Safari Drive Namibia for your briefing. You can arrange in advance with us to visit Mammadu or else we can take your items to Mammadu for the children on your behalf.

To Mamadu Trust Site

Community Project

In January 2015 Safari Drive completed a project in conjunction with Waterberry Zambezi Lodge to supply each of the seventy six children at Tukongote Community Pre-School with a school rucksack. The project was a real success with Safari Drive clients all pulling together to make this target a reality.  

Safari Drive now continues to support Tukongote Community Projects, founded by Waterberry in 2009, which helps to improve the educational opportunities in nearby villages. They began with one preschool class, and now support over 400 children in 3 preschools and 1 primary school.  The core focus is the newly built Tukongote Community Preschool with its 3 colourful classrooms, outside classroom, kitchen and feeding shelter. 75 little ones receive creative, fun and holistic free schooling, in what is probably the brightest school in Zambia.

They employ 25 local teachers and support staff, 14 of whom we are assisting to gain recognised teaching qualifications. Many of the staff live in these villages and you can experience everyday rural Zambian life as well as seeing the Tukongote projects in action if you join a village walk whilst staying at Waterberry. It is a fascinating insight.

to Tukongote Project site