If you’ve never made an overland journey in Africa, you won’t have truly appreciated the vastness of this great continent, the raw beauty of its great plains and savannahs and the wonder of seeing some of the greatest wildlife on earth in their natural habitat.
Whether you are travelling on an adventure trip from Nairobi to Cairo, starting out in Kenya and finishing up at the Pyramids in Cairo or traversing from Nairobi between South Africa, the spectacles that you will see are simply indescribable.
The breath-taking power of Victoria Falls and the haunting beauty of a lion staring out over the plains are sights that deserve to be witnessed first-hand. Make sure you bring a memory card for your camera which has plenty of room as you’ll be leaving with it crammed full of incredible pictures.
Come to Africa and make memories like no other place in the world.
Undoubtedly one of the main attractions of Africa, there’s nothing that compares to seeing the wildlife in its natural habitat.
A lion staring sadly across a cage is a pale comparison to the majestic beast surveying his arid savanna kingdom from the shade of an acacia tree. Although the lion is one of the most popular animals that visitors hope to see, there’s a whole host of other wildlife which are also breath-taking.
The Big Five are all present in Africa; along with the lion this includes the rhino, buffalo, hippo and leopard. These animals are amongst the largest and most dangerous in the whole continent. There’s also elephant, giraffe, zebra, hyena, jackals, cheetah, wildebeest, gazelles, antelope and crocodiles.
Cheetahs, wildebeest just two of the animals on view on an African tour
You may see many of these animals incidentally as you travel by truck from one destination to another but the best opportunities to get up close and see the wildlife is by visiting a national park. There are many of these around the continent and it’s worth visiting several as you could find different animals in each one.
At Etosha Pan National Park in Namibia, you can watch the animals during the evening with the help of floodlit water holes. Wildlife often behaves very differently at night and you may see creatures who don’t venture out during the heat of the day.
In Botswana, close to the Okavango Delta, you can enjoy a walking safari, heading out on foot into the bush. Without the protection of a vehicle, it can be a very different experience, although you will of course have trained guides to offer protection if needed.
In Uganda and Rwanda there’s the chance to see the incredibly rare mountain gorillas by trekking in small groups up the mountain. Spending an hour with the family of gorillas once you’ve found them, the experience will be one that stays with you forever.
The Masai Mara is one of the iconic images of Africa and it is now a protected area in order to conserve its animals and plant-life. Still accessible by safari, there are far less crowds and some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife, particularly lion in the whole of the continent.
In the Jozani Forest in Zanzibar, the distance between you and the Red Colobus Monkeys will be far less as they like to approach tourists and have a very “hands-on” approach. If you want to leave with all your belongings you will need to keep a close eye on their nimble simian fingers!
The Red Colobus Monkeys will give you a warm welcome in the Jozani Forest, Zanzibar
Most people think of Africa as a continent with vast open plains and not much else of interest when it comes to the landscape.
However, although the immense savannah has its own golden beauty, there are many other contrasting landscapes, often in close proximity across Africa.
On the first leg of the Nairobi to Cape Town tour, you will visit gorillas in Uganda, climbing up through the mountains to find them. But this is no bare rocky trail; instead you will be trekking through lush rainforest with dense vegetation; a true jungle.
Uganda is not the only region to have mountains; these types of jagged peaks can be found in a great number of countries across Africa. Many people are familiar with Table Mountain in Cape Town and there’s even a cable car to take you to the top if you don’t fancy the ascent. But there are many more mountains which aren’t as well-known which offer everything from alpine lakes to wildlife watching away from the crowds of tourists.
The Simien Mountains in the north of Ethiopia are easily accessible, and there are trails which can be followed by vehicle for a considerable distance. The Naukluft Mountains in the eerie Skeleton Coast in Namibia are another example; part of the National Park they provide a source of streams and small rivers in the centre of a barren landscape.
Cape Cross Seals at the Skeleton Coast, Namibia
And of course there are the deserts which shimmer in the heat of the sun, with a scorched beauty created over millions of years. The Bayuda Desert offers jet black volcanic rock etched against the golden sands which stretch out as far as the eye can see whilst the fossil desert terrain of the Kalahari offers a shifting colour palette of red, brown and white. Dare to climb the thousand foot high sand dunes near Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast and you will be rewarded with an unbroken view of the landscape which stretches out over the distant horizon.
Places to go
Each overland tour will have a long list of excursions and places of interest for every country that you plan on visiting. In Africa it’s essential to keep an open mind as unforeseen problems such as floods and road closures can often mean alternative plans are needed. However, there will still be far more things to see and do that you could possibly squeeze into just one trip.
In Kenya, the Great Rift Valley is at its deepest point and the views over the gorge from the viewpoint are quite simply knee-trembling. An unexpected source of diverse wildlife, don’t forget to look up in the skies to see the eagles circling above.
Tanzania is a spectacular country with many delights but stepping off the edge of the coastline and into the exotic spice island of Zanzibar is like entering a secret kingdom. An integral part of the centuries-old spice trade, many are still grown on the island today and the sweet aroma will fill your nostrils the minute you step off the boat.
Zambia has a multitude of compelling attractions to visit but the sheer spectacle of the Zambezi River hurtling downwards in a powerful curtain of water at Victoria Falls is difficult to beat.
Botswana attracts vast numbers of wildlife where the waters in the Okavango River swell after the floods, but being taught how to propel your mokoro with a pole and catch fish the traditional way are lessons which are far more difficult than your guide will make them look!
Pleasurable adventures wait at the Okavango River, Botswana
The ethereal qualities of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia are one of the defining images of the country but at Cape Cross, it’s the Cape Fur Seal that’s the centre of attention. One of the very few places in the world where they can be found, there are up to a quarter of a million of these seals present in November and December after the adults have bred.
South Africa is a popular holiday destination and Cape Town has much for tourists. Robben Island is a must-see attraction, not just to pay respects to the many years that Nelson Mandela and other prisoners were held captive for, but to see the 140,000 penguins which now live there.
Moving slightly northwards, Ethiopia is a country which has much to see and do but Lake Tana is an important place in the continent’s topography. The source of the Blue Nile, the tributary that contributes more than half the water to the Nile, Lake Tana also has many hidden islands with ancient artefacts held away from prying eyes.
Egypt is the final destination for the Nairobi to Cairo tour, and the Valley of the Kings is an impressive place to visit. With many tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, it’s possible to enter into their mausoleums and view the hieroglyphics and paintings on the walls completed many thousands of years ago.
Visit the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings
Activities to try
There are many reasons why you may have wanted to come to Africa; it may have been the chance to see animals in their home environment or it could be the opportunity to experience a different way of life and see other cultures. Whatever your reason, there are also many activities to try along the route which you may not have ever dreamt of!
At Langata Giraffe Centre you can experience feeding giraffes by hand, and see how they use their prehensile tongue to curl around the leaves like an extra pair of hands. In the Okavango Delta you can learn how to move along the water in a dug-out canoe known as a mokoro, and there’s water-skiing, scuba diving and sailing available in many of the rivers along the route.
However it’s at Victoria Falls where the action is really intensified. You can opt to fly right over the top of the crashing waters to get a bird’s eye view, or white water raft through the swirling rapids. Those looking for a real adrenaline thrill can either bungee jump over the edge or bathe in a small natural pool just one metre from the top of the Falls! There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed for those who aren’t faint of heart!
But not everyone is seeking out hard-core challenges to make their heart thump and there are plenty of gentler activities to enjoy too. An evening cruise around Victoria Falls is a far more relaxing way to see the waters up close – but you may still end up rather damp!
South Africa is one of the major wine-producing regions of the world so taking a tour of some of the wine estates is an opportunity not to be missed.
Time to relax
Travelling overland by truck can be quite a tiring experience at times and although you will be fed well, and have plenty of time to sleep; the chance to relax in style and comfort is a welcome luxury.
The good news is that although Africa has plenty of activities, there are also lots of places which are perfect for simply kicking back and taking it easy, with luxury facilities to help you relax.
Lake Malawi is famed for its wildlife and is known all over the world for its fish, especially its unique cichlids. However, a section of the shore has been set aside particularly for bathers. Kande Beach has soft white sands and shallow waters which are warm and crystal clear. There are no obstacles or rocks so it’s perfect for swimmers and anyone who wants to snorkel.
Kande Beach, Malawi
There are hammocks slung between trees so you can have a snooze in the shade, whilst a waterfront bar is perfectly placed to provide liquid refreshment of all kinds.
Dar es Salaam is another place which offers the hustle and bustle of a city centre, but on the outskirts a stunning beach where visitors can wind down and enjoy the gentle lapping of the Indian Ocean on the shore. Immaculately clean, with clear warm waters, Dar es Salaam is the perfect tropical retreat.
Leave nothing but your footprints…and a bit of your heart.
Visitors who tour overland around Africa are captivated by the people they meet, the stunning landscapes and the wildlife which surrounds them wherever they go. The bustling market towns, desolate plains and Rocky Mountains create a countryside which takes your breath away around every corner. Expect the unexpected and forget about the problems of modern-day living; Africa will seduce you with its natural beauty and simplicity.
When it’s time to go home, you will have some of the most incredible photos to show family and friends and memories which are simply irreplaceable. You may have many other destinations on your wish-list but you will find that a return trip to Africa is now high on your agenda too.