Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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If you’ve always wanted to go on safari to Africa, you’ve probably been dreaming of it for ages. But there’s an expanded version of the safari, called an overland tour. This is really something interesting, intriguing, and well worth experiencing. 

Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

An overland tour (sometimes referred to as an Overland Safari) is a group tour done on a large, off-road truck. On an overland tour, you’ll visit multiple countries – and cover great distances. How cool is this?!

Overland tours combine the advantages of a small group tour (generally with a maximum of 20 people) with the exhilarating aspects of an adventure tour. 

I asked Cal Heyburgh, Manager at Ashanti Travel Online, for details. He was a wealth of information and made me want to plan that bucket list trip to Southern Africa. Cal noted that, “the main difference between a safari and an overland tour is that a safari is generally done in one park or one country, while overland tours span many countries and many parks.

Talking with Cal Heyburgh about Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

A short overland tour, for example, would run from Cape Town, South Africa to Windhoek, Namibia. Our longest tour is 58 days and goes from Cape Town all the way up to Nairobi, Kenya. One of the most popular overland tours is our 20 day Cape Town to Vic Falls Overland Tour. This trip includes South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. It passes through beautiful mountain ranges, the world’s oldest deserts, Deltas, Rivers and one of the world’s biggest Waterfalls. This makes it a very unique and exciting tour.”

Namibia. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know
Namibia

Want to go on an overland tour?

Cal gave us the lowdown - here’s what you need to know:

Accommodations

These tours can be done as camping trips or accommodated trips. All trips are semi participation, which means you will help with the setup of meals, etc.

Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Where to go

The 20 day Cape Town Vic Falls is truly an amazing trip. I think it's very popular because Southern Africa is a lot easier to travel through than East Africa. Southern Africa still has its creature comforts, like Wi-Fi in lodges and plenty of charging points, shops, etc. Whereas in rural East Africa, clothes washing is done by hand, electricity can be scarce, and Wi-Fi is almost unheard of. Not that any of that should scare people off... East Africa's wildlife, beaches, and jungles are once in a lifetime experiences. Walking with wild gorillas in Uganda or witnessing the wildebeest migration in Tanzania definitely makes it all worth it!

Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

So to break it down for you, the 58 day tour is basically a combination of 3 tours:

The 20 day Cape Town To Vic Falls - South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe
Head along the West Coast of South Africa, starting in Cape Town, through the deserts of Namibia, and to Etosha National Park. Then, explore the waterways of the Okavango Delta and Chobe Rivers, with a stunning finish at Victoria Falls. 

The 21 day Vic Falls To Nairobi - Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya
This is the flagship route of East African Overland Adventures. You’ll see Victoria Falls, Lake Malawi, Dar es Salam, and Zanzibar. Then you’ll head up to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, and finally finish in Nairobi.

The 14 day Gorillas and Masai Mara - Kenya, Uganda (this tour starts and ends in Nairobi) 
Want to view the Big 5 Game (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino) and experience gorilla trekking? This tour visits Masai Mara National Reserve to view the wildlife, as well as Lake Nakuru (flocks of flamingos!). Then you’ll head to Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda, to witness gorillas in their natural habitats.

pink flamingos at Nakuru. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know
Pink flamingos at Nakuru

Out of these three tours, people with shorter time are also able do only parts of the route. For instance, if you can't do the full 20 day Cape Town to Vic Falls, you can do a 12 day Cape Town to Windhoek, or an 8 day Windhoek to Vic Falls trip. Within the above three tours, there are plenty of smaller trips, ranging from approximately 7 to 15 days. 

Leopard. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

When to go (this will vary from area to area, of course)

Kruger National Park, South Africa
Best time to visit: May to October
High season: December to January and July to August
Low season: April to mid-June and September to November

Etosha National Park, Namibia
Best time to visit: July to October
High season: July to November
Low season: December to June

Okavango Delta and Chobe River, Botswana
Best time to visit: April to September
High season: July to October
Low season: December to April

Northern Tanzania parks
Best time to visit: June to September
High season: July to March
Low season: April and May

Wildebeest migration, Tanzania/Kenya
Best time to visit: June to September
High season: July to March
Low season: April and May

Giraffes. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Average cost per day

Every overland tour price comes as two parts: the tour cost and the activity package. Sometimes the activity package is optional, and sometimes it’s mandatory. Even though it’s optional, it is always highly recommended that it be taken, as it includes the top highlights of the trip that you surely don’t want to miss.

The average price for an overland is around R1200 per day for the camping option or R2300 for the accommodated version. If you choose the camping option, you are still able to upgrade to accommodation while on tour, if you feel like a night or two in a private room. This price estimate includes the activity package, so your safaris, excursions, included activities, almost all meals, and accommodation are all included. There are some optional extras along the way, like skydiving or bungee jumping. These can be decided on the day, and paid directly to the operating companies.

Overland truck. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know
Overland Truck

Budget per day for additional spending

As most your costs are already covered, your additional spend per day is quite low. You will need to pay for your own drinks, road snack, souvenirs, and any optional extras you might want to do. The cost of any optional extras on tour will be given to you before you book so you can easily decide what you would like to budget for. 

Exploring cave art. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Unmissable sights and activities

A bucket list for Southern Africa would include:

* hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town

* searching for the Big Five in Kruger National Park (and seeing a plethora of other wildlife and birds)

* climbing Namibia’s Sossusvlei sand dunes (the world’s largest and oldest!) 

* exploring the Okavango Delta via mokoro, a traditional wooden dugout canoe

* taking a river safari on the Chobe River, Botswana – getting up close and personal with elephants, crocodiles, and water birds

* seeing Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world (bring a rain coat!)

* swimming or snorkeling in Africa’s 3rd largest lake, Lake Malawi (which is in the middle of three countries: Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique)

* relaxing on the beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania - the pearly white silky sand and clear blue waters will entice you to stay 

* watching the wildebeest migration in Tanzania, where over 1 million wildebeests, antelope, and zebra migrate through Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara

* gorilla trekking in Uganda, which has the largest gorilla population in the world (alas, less than 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild)

elephant herd. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know
Cape Town. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

What to pack

I would say the one thing to not forget is a sense of humour. TIA - or This is Africa! Things can go wrong, trucks do break down occasionally, roads can flood or close, borders can be difficult to get through. But it's all part of the adventure and the guide will always have your best interests at heart when making last minute tour changes.

Other things to pack, besides your sense of humour and adventure? I have an extensive list here. And, don't forget your camera.

Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Vaccinations Required

When traveling to the continent of Africa, you should always check with your local GP or travel doctor on what kind of vaccinations or prophylactics you will need. Every country has different requirements regarding these medications.

Most importantly to note is the Yellow Fever Vaccination. If you are traveling to a country that has Yellow Fever, you will not be allowed to enter the country without your International Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. Likewise if you are traveling from a country that is known to have Yellow Fever, you will be required to show the certificate to get into a country that does not have Yellow Fever.

What to expect

Expect adventure, wildlife, beautiful vistas and some of the oldest landscapes in the world. Expect long drives, new friends, a bit of frustration, but most of all, something to take your breath away at least once a day…

Campfire at sunset. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Cal’s Top Tips

Book in advance. Doing an overland trip is not a last minute decision - there is a lot to take into consideration before departing, and many of these areas have peak season where they fill up/book out.

Also check first on availability of the tour before booking flights or taking time off. These trips don't run every day. Usually they run once a week and some only once a month. You don’t want to book your flights only to find out that there is no tour that runs at that time.

Lions. From Africa Overland Tours: What You Need to Know

Here’s how to go

Learn more about Overland Tours to start planning your trip.

And, you can get in touch with Cal at Ashanti Travel Online – he’s awesome!
Tel: +27 21 202 3471
Skype: ashantitravelonline
Email: travelonline[at]ashanti.co.za

All photos courtesy and copyright Ashanti Travel online

 

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