Itinerary | Cape Town to Cairo – Nile Expedition
What’s it like?
As we will be camping and travelling for an extended period of time, you must be prepared for an adventurous challenge. It can be hot and dusty, and will sometimes be out of contact from the rest of the world. This means no telephones, shops or any other mod cons. We need you to participate and work with all members of the expedition. For the Trans we use sturdy purpose-built vehicles for these rugged off-road conditions.
Due to the nature of the trip, we do not have a specific day-to-day itinerary.
Cape Town to Cairo
Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain; plenty of cafes, pubs, clubs, markets and sights. You can climb the mountain or take the cable car to the top for some wonderful views of the city and the Cape Peninsula and visit Robben Island.
The coastal region running from Cape Town towards Durban. Bay after bay along the coast with other sites along the Wild Coast. Watch whales, visit the animals close up at Oudtshoorn, cross the Swartberg Pass, explore the Cango Caves, take a boat cruise in Knysna, stopover in Tsitsikamma National Park, see elephants in Addo National Park.
Week 1: South Africa…
In a Mediterranean climate, following the road north through mountain valleys and stony semi-desert, past Citrusdal a centre of the Cape’s many wine routes. A wine tasting makes for a great afternoon. Then on to Cederberg; the growing area and centre of one of the Cape’s many wine routes.
Week 1: …Namibia…
Cederberg to the Orange or Gariep River
We drive through mountain valleys and stony semi-desert, following the farmland north through the sparsely populated areas of the Western Cape. We camp on the South African bank of the Gariep River; taking a canoe trip down the river or relax by the pool enjoying the spectacular view.
We drive north to Fish River Canyon; 160km long and 550m deep; second in length only to the Grand Canyon. You can trek along the rim, to look over the canyon from the viewpoints.
We base ourselves at Sesriem, a good place to experience the starkness of the desert. Nearby is Sossusvlei and the highest sand dunes in the world. Great views of the desert can be seen from the top of these 300 metre high dunes. The stars at night are like diamonds on black silk.
We roam around the sands, taking time to summit the famous Dune 45. Then deeper in the desert walk to Sossusvlei River. It ends is a salt and clay pan, surrounded by high red dunes.
We cross the Tropic of Capricorn towards the Atlantic Ocean, via Walvis Bay, to Swakopmund; an old German colonial seaside resort, with lots of things to do for the energetic and German beer halls for those after a more relaxing time. Horse-riding or sandboarding on the dunes, deep sea fishing in the Atlantic or scenic flights over the coastline. Optional Activities: Skydiving, quad biking, sand boarding, scenic desert flights, dolphin cruises, fishing trips, golf, horse riding.
Namibia is a land of wide open spaces and we pass few inhabited areas as we drive towards Spitzkoppe; a group of massive granite peaks. Here you can take a guided walk with the San to their ancient rock art sites. To Brandberg Mountain [fire mountain] a massive mountain outcrop rising above the gravel plains, uninhabited and isolated, it’s the tallest mountain in Namibia.
Thousands of years ago this vast saltpan was a lake, till Kunene River changed course and deprived the lake of water. Now the pan and surrounding bush support large numbers and a wide range of wildlife. We view game from the truck and spend the evenings by the floodlit water holes at the park’s campsites. These waterholes provide an excellent opportunity to observe animals that are hard to find during the day, particularly rhino and also smaller animals such as the genet. Elephant, lion, giraffe, zebra, oryx, ostrich, springbok, jackals, hyenas and meercats are also likely to be seen here.
Week 1: …Botswana
We travel along the edge of the Kalahari Desert to Maun. A small town on the edge of the Okavango Delta, and the starting point for the Mokoro trip. A Mokoro is a traditional dugout canoe and your transport into the Delta. As you glide through the waterways, you will see a fantastic array of wetland wildlife, birds in particular and you are also likely to come across hippos or elephants taking a drink from the shore. You can go on a walking safari to look for giraffe, buffalo and rare antelope such as the tsessebe. This overnight stay is a great wilderness experience.
We camp by the Chobe River
Kasane. Here hippo, buffalo and crocodiles share the river bank and occasionally pay us a visit through the night. Here you can take a sunset cruise on the river or take an afternoon game drive through the park, and see some of Africa’s largest elephants and big cats.
A feature of the Chobe National Park is its huge concentration of Elephants. This Park supports the largest surviving Elephant populations in the world, estimates at over 120,000.
Week 2-3: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi
Here the Zambezi River plunges 100 metres down a mile wide chasm, creating one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. The local name for the Falls is ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ which means ‘the smoke that thunders’ and you’ll soon find out why. When the river is in full flow, the falling water causes a huge roar and sends a cloud of spray up to 500 metres into the air.
For a few days, as there is so much to see and do. Adventure activities abound – you can bungee jump, white water raft, take a Microlite flight above the falls, sky-dive and go game-viewing on horse back. More sedate excursions include canoeing, light aircraft or helicopter flights over the falls, and the sunset cruise on the Zambezi. Of course, the falls themselves are the main attraction and you can walk through the rain forest along the cliff opposite for an excellent view.
We soon reach the shores of its huge lake. The campsites and small resorts along Lake Malawi offer sandy beaches, swimming and snorkeling, water skiing and walking in the surrounding countryside. You will also find markets selling beautifully carved Malawi chairs, tables and other souvenirs.
Week 4-6: Tanzania
Through Mikumi National Park
We may well see giraffe or pygmy elephants grazing along the roadside.
Dar es Salaam; take the ferry to Zanzibar
We arrive in Dar to our campsite on the beach of the Indian Ocean. If you decide not to go to Zanzibar, the campsite at the beach is an ideal place to have a few lazy days.
From Dar es Salaam take the ferry to Zanzibar and the old stone capital of the Omani Sultanate. Sandy beaches, spice tours, snorkelling, diving and trips to other nearby islands. Zanzibar is a fascinating place to visit and to take it all in. Over a thousand years trade between Africa and Arabia has resulted in the blending of Arabs and Africans into a beautiful Swahili coastal culture with; wooden sailing dhows crossing the ocean, coconut plantations and fishing villages with mosques on the beaches. Nungwe beach resort on the north of the island has the most beautiful beaches.
Stone Town in Zanzibar Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old slave market, the spice growing areas, Jozani Forest with Red Colobus Monkeys and in the evening the seafood cafes on the wharf side.
Heading inland we pass Africa’s highest peak; Mt Kilimanjaro.
From Arusha we hire Landrovers to visit the Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti National Park, which has the heaviest concentration of plains game found all over East Africa.
Cross the Athi Plains to Nairobi
Passing gazelle, giraffe and troops of baboons on our way to Nairobi. Leaving Nairobi we pass the dramatic landscape of the Rift Valley to the highlands of Kenya.
Week 7: A week’s break in Nairobi – you can take the train to the coast
Take a fast daytime SGR – standard-gauge railway newly built, by Chinese, from Nairobi to Mombasa. Leave just after 8am and arrive in Mombasa at 1.30pm, just 4 1/2 hours to cover the 500 kilometres to Mombasa on the coast. You’ll arrive at the right time for a late lunch by the Indian Ocean. Look out for big game while you ride the rails through Kapiti plains and Tsavo National Park. Find out more about this side trip – railway journey with The Man in seat 61
Mombasa Island connected to the mainland by a causeway
On the island is Mombasa old town and Fort Jesus overlooking the bay; first built by the Portuguese who were the first Europeans to invade the Indian Ocean coast in the late 16th century. North and south of Mombasa town are beaches with low key resorts, they are perfect to hang out at for a few days.
On the Indian Ocean Coast of Africa. It dates back to 18th century, when the Portuguese and the Arabs came to the East African Indian ocean shore for the spice and slave trade.
Week 8-9: Uganda
From the border at Malaba we drive through rain forests
We pass through tea and sugar plantations to Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Crossing the equator we camp on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, the deepest crater lake in Uganda.
We climb through lush terraced hills to Kisoro, from here we trek the famed mountain gorillas or you could visit Mgahinga National Park for a day hike up a volcano or a guided nature trail. We meander back to Lake Bunyonyi to relax, canoe, mountain bike and swim.
See the National Museum, the Kasubi Tombs of the Buganda people. Crossing the Owen Falls Dam we arrive at Jinja on the shores of Lake Victoria. Spend an action-filled day white water rafting down the Nile, bungee jump, fish on Lake Victoria, take a guided village walk; or give up a day of your holiday to volunteer for the local community education project.
Week 10-11: Kenya
Lake Nakuru & Nakuru Town, the capital of the Rift Valley Province
We visit Lake Nakuru, viewing game in a park famous for its soda lake surrounded by thousands, sometimes millions of pink flamingoes. We move on to camp on the shores of Lake Naivasha where hippos come to graze in the evenings.
Close by is Hell’s Gate National Park and Elsamere
Once the home of Joy Adamson and Elsa the lion of ‘Born Free’ fame. From here we return to Nairobi with the chance to feast at the renowned Carnivores Game Restaurant.
We visit the base of Mount Kenya and continue north through the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, a restricted area; semi arid with a spectacular diversity of people, wild game on the road side and a warm dry climate
Mt Kenya sits almost in the geographical centre of Kenya. It’s the highest mountain in Kenya, at just about 5,200 meters (so some two thirds the height of Mount Everest, but 400 meters higher than Mont Blanc) and the second highest in Africa; Kilimanjaro being slightly taller. To reach the two highest peaks is a technical climb, so most visitors are happy to get to Point Lenana at just under 5,000 meters.
A great mountain to walk, or scramble up. Two to three nights in the park, or three to four days trekking, are the minimum one needs to reach Point Lenana. The track passes clearly defined vegetation types which quickly change as you ascend.
Starting in the fertile farmland of the Kikuyu, walk through; jungle forest, bamboo, heath, alpine moorland, desert tundra and high mountain glaciers to the rocky peaks.
Trekking on the mountain for a week is a rewarding experience. From the peaks, on a clear day, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, on the horizon to the south.
Northern Kenya – the NFD Northern Frontier District
Coming off the slopes of Mount Kenya and heading north out of the East African highlands and cross the wide open dry hot rocky plains of the NFD – the frontier district between Kenya and Ethiopia. This savage and beautiful land, some 600 north to south, kept the peoples of the Kenyan and Ethiopian Highlands separated for millennia.
Before roads were pushed through this area, the only way travel here was by camel, and with the tribes of the region; the Turkana, Rendille, the Gabbra, the Samburu, the Borana and others. All these peoples are semi nomadic pastoralists who have survived in a harsh land herding their sheep, cattle, goats and camels. Their style of living, colour, form and traditions are strikingly beautiful.
In the middle of this dry barren landscape is an old shield volcano – Mount Marsabit it sits 1,000 metres above the surrounding desert. The hills have their own insulated eco-system. There is evidence or recent lava flow throughout the hills, with enormous crater lakes and old volcanic cones dotting the landscape.
Week 12-14: Ethiopia
In Ethiopia we climb the mountains into the highlands
We follow the Rift Valley Lakes to the capital; Addis Ababa. In Ethiopia the roads we travel on are often in mountainous areas, travel is slow. Ethiopia has a lot more visual & indigenous history than any other sub Saharan country.
Into the Omo Valley
This region is home to some of the most colourful ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The friendly Hamar people are noted for their ornate, interesting hairstyles and the Mursi people are famous for the clay lip plates and earlobe decorations. An optional day tour will take you into the Omo National Park.
We spend a few days in the capital Addis Ababa
Here we have the chance to indulge in some authentic Ethiopian coffee or explore ‘El Mercato’ – one of East Africa’s largest open air markets. We also spend the next few days organizing our Sudanese and Egyptian visas.
Visit Djibouti by train or see the Danakil Depression
While in Addis you could take a side trip by train to Djibouti. A rail journey on the new train from the Ethiopian capital to the Djibouti and coast through the desert, well off the tourist track.
Bahir Dar is based on the southern edge of Lake Tana – you can organise boat trips to some of the small islands which have Monasteries dating back up to 900 years, and which are still looked after by monks who live from subsistence farming, or take a trip to Blue Nile Falls. Lalibela, famous for its 11 monolithic rock-hewn churches is our next destination where you have the option of a guided tour of one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities.
Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 until 1868. There are seven Emperor’s castles In Gondar. We spend a few days where we can organise overnight trips to the Simien Mountains National Park, home to the Gelada Baboon. Hikes are available in the area. You may also wish to arrange a trip to the holy city of Axum dating from the 12th Century have been kept alive by generations of dedicated priests who guard their precious religious icons. The border with Sudan is not far from Gondar and the first towns after the border are Gedaref & Wadi Medani.
Week 15: Sudan
Khartoum is our next stop and it has a fantastic setting on the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. Our stay here is on the banks of the Nile at the quirky but interesting Blue Nile Sailing Club. It houses one of General Kitcheners old Gunboats, a relic from the British military campaign against the Mahdi over a century ago. For such a large city, Khartoum feels quite laid back. Here you can visit the Hamed al Nil Tomb or take a trip to the daily camel market or viewing the confluence of the two Niles are also an interesting ways to pass the time.
The hospitality in Sudan can be surprising and very genuine. For such a country with so many recent problems the Sudanese are often too willing to invite you for a meal or a cup of ‘Sudanese whisky’ – better known as tea.
The pyramids are to the north of the capital Khartoum. Our drive across the Nubian Desert will see us either hugging the banks of Nile as it snakes its way north or possibly experiencing the vast open desert plains which is dissected by the main train line from Khartoum – making this our only real point of reference. Whether passing through sleepy Nubian villages, resting in tea rooms, pottering around the local souqs or experiencing total isolation in the middle of the desert – a unique experience awaits you along this not so travelled route to Wadi Halfa.
Week 16-17: Egypt – Abu Simbel
We enter Egypt and board the ferry to Abu Simbel – one of the ultimate destinations on our expedition. We arrive into the small village of Abu Simbel. The massive stone monuments built by the greatest of all pharaohs, Ramses ll, after spending the night we will travel in convoy to the city of Aswan.
You will notice one of the many cultural changes on this trip. The Nubian people lead a more relaxed and less hectic pace of life than their Egyptian countrymen, while more urban than their Sudanese counterparts.
Take an evening boat cruise to a Nubian village and a walk through the colourful souk, is a great way to spend your days here. Above Aswan between the Aswan Dam and the High Dam is a lake with an island and the The Ancient Egyptians built a beautiful and magnificent Temple on this island for the Goddess Isis. It was submerged after the first Aswan Dam was built in 1906. To save the temple they had to wait until 1971, and the completion of the High Dam, which stabilised the level of the water.
You can also take a 2 day felucca boat cruise to Edfu and Kom Ombo to Luxor.
Temple, Colossi of Memnon, Valley of the Kings, Tutankhamen’s Tomb
Luxor, we visit Karnack Temple the Colossi of Memnon and the Valley of the Kings with Tutankhamen’s Tomb. We do a big day trip to the monuments on friendly happy donkeys. They tend to walk off home alone after we arrive at the Valley of the Kings leaving us free to do the rest of the day in a bus.
Visit the Valley of Kings and Queens. Here, the remarkably well preserved tombs of the ancient rulers -namely Ramses ll and Tutankhamun, with coloured paintings and hieroglyphics – fresh even after 3000 years. Karnak and Luxor Temples are both in easy walking distance from our camp – as is the local souq where you can pick up the last of your souvenirs.
The Red Sea Coast
The following day we drive out towards the Red Sea Coast. You will have time relax on the beach for a couple of days or try your hand at various watersports such as snorkelling, windsurfing or scuba diving in the cool clear blue waters.
Cairo, Pyramids & Sphinx, Mohamed Ali Mosque, Old Cairo
Cairo is only a day drive away. Visiting the great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx with an Egyptologist guide, Egyptian Museum, the best mosque in the Middle East, a fortress citadel and Old Cairo
Alexandria on the Nile Delta & the Mediterranean Sea
We cross the desert to Alexandria on the Delta of the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea, originally a Greek city founded by Alexander of Macedon. Not over visited by tourists, it has some great sites to visit; including its city beaches. Other must sees are; the rebuilt library of Alexandria, Fort Qaitbey, a Mamluk fortress on the harbour, Montaza Palace gardens and many museums.
Just one hundred kilometers west of the Alex is the railway halt of El Alamein. In the WW2 this was the site of two decisive battles between Commonwealth and Axis forces. It is considered to be the turning point of WW2.
We return to Cairo, the end of our trip.
For an updated dossier and information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, optional excursions and other useful information please contact us.
Of all the trips we run this is the most likely to have a change of route due to local conditions and visa requirements.
Africa is an unpredictable continent. We do not have a fixed itinerary so please treat the information given as a guideline only. Although our information is written in good faith at the time of printing, our route may vary at any time due to weather, politics or road conditions.