Overland trips in Africa: this is what to expect on the road less travelled


It’s fair to say overland travel isn’t for everyone. You hop in a purpose built vehicle, with about 8 other people, a few guides and all your camping gear, then point it at the horizon and let ‘er rip.

The next few weeks are mostly off road. There’s a lot of camping. It’s pretty hands on. The rewards though, well, it’s probably one of the last serious ways to have a true adventure. And there’s no better place to do it than Africa. Sure there are long travel days, and there’ll be times when you’re uncomfortable, but I’m here to say these are the BEST things about travelling on an overlanding adventure. This is why:

Long Travel Days

When did you last allow yourself to spend hours daydreaming? And not just those few minutes on the train wondering what the next season of Game of Thrones will bring. But long, meandering daydreams set to a backdrop of open savanna, wild animals and endless blue skies.

Yes, it takes time to get between places, but this is a wonderful opportunity to daydream, meditate on life’s big questions, groove away to all your favourite albums or make up crazy games with fellow travellers and laugh yourself silly. Now that’s time well spent.


Image c/o A.Davey, Flickr

Roughing it while camping

This hurdle is all about perspective. Yes, it may be a little rougher than you’re used to, but let’s face it, you’re only there for a short period of time (and you get to go home). How rough you think it will be is often worse that it actually is and there is something liberating about doing without your hairdryer or electric razor. Plus the payoff for any discomfort is you get to TRAVEL IN AFRICA!

It’s also exhilarating to see what we are actually capable of – plus anything uncomfortable makes for the best tales on your return!


Image c/o Rod Waddington, Flickr

Here are some tried and tested ways to help you cope:

  • Bring thongs (flip flops) for the shower
  • Wear shoes and bring a head torch for any toilet trips (don’t dwell on the toilet thing, you’re not there for long!)
  • Use hand sanitiser (even if it’s just for psychological reasons)
  • Bring baby wipes. They are fantastic to wipe your feet before you enter your tent or to freshen your face and hands before bed
  • Make sure you have long sleeves/trousers and insect spray for the bugs (or soak your clothes and bedsheet with pyrethrin if the thought of bugs freak you out)
  • Pack plastic bags to separate dirty or wet clothes and to wrap your shoes in
  • Bring a silk bed sheet. They are great for when it’s hot or if you are a bit suss about the bed you’re sleeping in.

Image c/o United Nations Photo, Flickr

Helping out at camp

Some people balk at having to pitch in and help chop veggies, wash the dishes or erect their own tent. But I wager that these events will become some of the highlights of your trip. These tasks give you the chance to hang out with people in a different environment and get to know them in a way you wouldn’t while simply sitting around a table. Plus by contributing in this way, you feel you’re part of a tribe rather than just in a travel group.

So don’t let a fear of discomfort stop you from travelling through Africa – these concerns fade far into the background once you’re confronted with the beauty and profound nature of this incomparable continent, which is definitely unlike anywhere else on earth.

Ready to get in a truck and point it at the horizon? Check out our overland adventures for all the info you need. 


About the author

Jacqueline Donaldson - Melbourne-based former nomad, Jacqueline has been writing and travelling for more years than she cares to admit. With over 45 countries under her belt and a weird penchant for never fully unpacking, she works as an editor and copywriter for Intrepid – the one company she knows of that accepts (if not encourages) her quirks and wanderlust.

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Hi, I really found your post interesting however the thing i’m most afraid of wasn’t mentioned. WILD ANIMALS. I keep imagining a snake will get in my tent or a lion will terrorize the camp and eat us in our sleep or we will be trampled by wild elephants. Please give any insight or experiences you may have with these concerns.
Thanks much !!

Thanks Bev for your kind words and you’re right, I should have mentioned something about the animals! First of all, the leaders that take our trips are savy, experienced people and they know where to camp and where not to camp. We always camped in protected areas, even when bush camping, and I doubt an elephant would have wanted (or been able) to come anywhere near us (plus they are pretty smart creatures). I overlanded for over 3 months and never encountered a snake (at all) or creepy crawly in my tent (but we all made sure they were zipped tightly at all times). In regards to lions, I was told by our very experienced guide that lions are wary of things they don’t know, and especially things that are bigger than them. So being in a tent is actually a safe place to be as they don’t know what it is. I guarantee that any fears of Africa and its animals will disappear once you get there – even my sister, who has a morbid dread of anything dirty or crawly, has become addicted to travelling in Africa and is currently camping in Tanzania. If she can love it, anyone can!

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