What to expect on an Overland Adventure

Landmarks & Icons

An overlanding group at the Dead Vlei, Namibia
Typical tent used on overland trips.
Typical tent used on overland trips.

For those travelers on a budget who are looking for an adventure, like off- the-beaten track travel, don’t mind roughing it, welcome the idea of traveling with like-minded people, and who believe that the journey is as important as the places visited, then the Overland Tour is the trip for them!

While travelling on an overland experience is great fun, it can also be challenging! An overland tour is usually participatory in nature (e.g. you need to chip-in and help) and the clients will help set up camp each night and assist (usually on a rotational basis) with the various day-to-day campsite duties. These include shopping for food, cooking and keeping both the truck (this ain’t no bus!) and camp tidy. It’s not hard work and it is a great way to meet the local people and to get to know your fellow travelers. Most of my travelers find the greater their involvement, the greater their enjoyment of the whole trip.

12-seater_safari_vehicleAn open mind is a must. Africa is not always predictable so be prepared to “expect the unexpected’ in difficulties, challenges or delays which might come your way. A client’s sense of adventure and flexible attitude will ensure that he/she will enjoy the overland experience across the amazing continent. The diversity of the African landscape, the wildlife and the communities make the long-driving days worthwhile. Remember that Africa provides an ever‐changing environment and sometimes power failures, water and fuel shortages, temperature fluctuations, and other uncontrollable/unplanned situations can occur. This is where humour, adaptability and understanding ‘African time’ go a long way towards embracing the challenges as part of the adventure.

In booking an overland tour, there is usually a Local Payment to be paid in addition to the tour fare. What is this, and why?

1. By paying locally, nothing is lost on bank charges or currency fluctuations. The amount is clearly set out in advance, and one simply brings US cash which is handed to the tour guide at the pre‐departure meeting. The amount brought is used by the guide to pay for food, accommodation and park entries on tour.

2. Typically the money goes to park fees and selected local operators and suppliers for the services they render the group. It is paid at the time or immediately following the service provided. The money paid therefore stays in Africa with the people who have provided the service.

3. The local payment gives the flexibility to save money right up until the time one leaves for Africa. No need to pre‐pay 60 days beforehand (the usual rule for pre‐paid items) ‐ and because of this, if one did have to cancel the tour for any reason, the local payment is not affected by cancellation fees.

An overland group arriving at Etosha N.P. Namibia
An overland group arriving at Etosha N.P. Namibia

Why visit just one country when you can see 2 or 4 and even 7? Africa is blessed with stunning landscapes, diverse cultures, big game, and vast wilderness complete with big open skies. Overlanding will take you through numerous countries, across remote borders, and deliver a sense of adventure across this fascinating and magnificent continent in just one trip through one company.

What about travelling solo? Most overland tours offer a Twin Share Guarantee. If single travellers are prepared to share, they will pay the twin price and be paired with another single traveller of the same gender. It’s important to note that the accommodations on a camping tour are often 2-man dome tents.

The trips I’ve described above are the accommodated camping overland tours which are a fun, economical and exciting way to gain a genuine insight into Africa. They are popular with the young-at-heart who are reasonably fit and active. Note that there are also overland experiences for those that don’t want to rough it as much and moderate lodge/hotel accommodations are provided instead.

David Wong, AFRICAExpert, has cruised down the Nile in Egypt, journeyed on the luxurious Rovos Rail from Zimbabwe to South Africa, flown around East Africa in a small plane, travelled across Namibia on a bus, not to mention less traditional forms of transportation (elephant, camel and donkey!). He obviously knows a thing or two about travelling in Africa, so here’s his advice when considering a completely different type of vacation – an overland trip in Africa!