Tag Archives: on-the-go tours

Overlanding Tours (in Africa)

ATC TruckOverlanding is touring a country (or countries) by vehicle. Usually a bus or truck style. If you are considering an overlanding tour, then there are definitely many pros and cons worth considering.

My experiences and comments relate specifically to Africa. I toured Eastern Africa down towards Southern Africa with a company called Nomads, through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I continued further South with the African Travel Company (ATC), through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

The main benefit of doing an overlanding tour is that you get to see so much of your environment. You can see it change as elevation, as well as latitude and longitude change. You drive through local villages and see how people live. You also can spot a great deal of wildlife from the truck.

View from the ATC truckThe truck rides also provide a great opportunity for you to get to know your tour buddies better, play games, chat and sing songs. On my nomads tour we had such a fabulous group of people, there were constantly games being played, we voted on our team name, we had a team tour playlist and you could regularly hear us singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata”. Even when our truck Morrison got bogged in the mud, we were all outside the truck dancing and singing in the mud as we waited for our tow truck. The camaraderie that you build on this style of tour goes beyond a standard group tour in my opinion.

The camaraderie you develop with your tour buddies is a key factor in enjoying an overlanding tour, because honestly there are many less glamorous aspects to an overlanding tour.

Nomads group photo together with our crew and truck Morrison

Long Drives

A roadside lunch stop on the Nomads tourTravelling by road is time consuming. African roads aren’t often very smooth and are riddled with potholes and speed bumps, some aren’t sealed roads. In addition to the road hazards you have to slow down when passing through villages, and also many roads have restricted speed limits. Larger cities are very densely populated and can over an hour to travel even just a few kilometres.

Many roads have regular police checkpoints which require you to stop. Border crossings between countries can take up to three hours dependent on the country, time of day and level of corruption.

All of this things are in addition to the fact that the travelling distances are large. Be prepared for the occasional 12 hour drive, and often the roadside lunch break.


My TentYou can typically sign up to the tour as a camper or pay extra to be accommodated.

Camping is obviously cheaper. Putting up and taking down a tent almost every night can be a bit of a chore. The worst case is when you have late arrival or early departure and you are working in the dark. To compound that, you are sometimes working in the rain and mud.

My home away from home, my tentThere were occasions where I upgraded to accommodation for a night here or there (whenever you arrive to a new overnight stay, you can enquire about upgrading to accommodation) some of the cheaper options still had shared bathrooms, and worst case scenario there were a few occasions where the beds had fleas. At least three times I woke up with legs covered in flea bites, which grossed me out completely!

One of the frustrations we experienced on numerous occasions was leaking tents, so be mindful of what you choose to bring into the tent. In the nomads truck we had lockers and could leave most things in the locker overnight, just bringing the necessary items into the tent. In the ATC truck the bags were stored in a compartment under the truck and we had to get our whole bag out at each stop, which I found a little frustrating. Also it takes a huge amount of space in the tent.


You will find three kinds of toilet in Africa: a normal western toilet, a squat toilet and a bush toilet. Firstly you can’t assume for any of these that there will be toilet paper, so always carry a roll in your backpack.

The Western Toilet

Often, but not always, when you find a western toilet it’s in a tourist destination that is a bit more up-scale. They often have a toilet seat, toilet paper and can be quite clean. Sometimes they cost money.

The Squat Toilet

The squat toilet is pretty common around Africa. Unfortunately they are often quite dirty and smelly, mostly just because westerners are unfamiliar with how to use them. Finding one that is dirty and smelly is certainly not conducive to wanting to give something new a try.

A squat toilet is much more hygienic than a standard western toilet because you don’t actually touch anything.

The Bush Toilet

The bush toilet can be found literally anywhere and it’s more hygienic than the western or squat toilet. You simply squat behind a bush, tree or even a car. It’s actually rather hilarious when the truck pulls over, everyone gets out and all you can see are girls heads peeking out over the tall grasses on the roadside as everyone squats (you will need to put your modesty aside for this excursion).

The rule of thumb is that any paper you use should be put in the trash can, not thrown on the ground and poop should be buried (personally I’m happy to do a bush wee, but I would personally wait for the nearest western convenience for any pooping)

A number of the campsites are in National Parks or by rivers, places where you are exposed to the wildlife. This means you need to be vigilant, particularly after dark in using your flashlight to scan the area for wild animals before exiting your tent. The bathrooms are often a few minutes walk for the tents, and this can be terrifying. In the Serengeti we had a small pack of hyenas hanging around in the campsite. I can assure you, no matter how badly I needed to pee, I was not getting out of that tent by myself!


"Bathing" in the Okavango DeltaVery hit and miss, some showers only have cold water, some only hot, some high pressure and some low pressure.Sometimes the only option is to take a quick swim in a nearby river. I would advise you to pack baby wipes for the occasions where showering doesn’t feel like a feasible option. In a month and a half of overlanding, I only had a handful of terrible shower experiences.

Do remember though, everyone else on your tour is in the same position. If showering isn’t an option, you will all just get smelly together.


Using the tents as a washing lineYou are on the go so often that you don’t always have the opportunity to get your laundry done or find a laundromat. Hand washing in a sink, plastic tub or dry bag isn’t as bad as it sounds. If you keep up with washing small items every few days then you tend not to run out of clothes in a hurry.

I don’t usually pack much quick dry clothing, so I wear my jeans for up to a couple of weeks and then usually try to find a hostel that will wash them for me at a reasonable cost. But I wash my lighter clothes as I go. Most campsites have a washing line nearby, or you can hang things on the tent. Anything that doesn’t dry before your departure you can often find a spot to hang it in the truck.


ATC truck and prepping cooking benchesSome of the overland tours have a duties roster for everyone on tour. The duties are things like cooks help, dish washing and cleaning the truck and making sure the windows are shut.

When truck windows aren’t shut, you sometimes get cheeky monkeys and/or baboons sneaking in and wreaking havoc. We had monkeys climb into the truck and eat a bag of rice, they made a huge mess and pooped everywhere.

These duties are not hard and they are not time consuming, just get in and get it done. Overlanding is about working as a team, and this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate some teamwork skills.


To go overlanding is a wonderful working adventure. To make the most of this amazing adventure be sure to pack some patience, tolerance and good humour.


South Africa, the Eastern side…

Leaving Botswana we descended into South Africa, passing through Polokwane. Making scenic stops at the Blyde River Canyon, heading down to Kruger National Park and ending in Johannesburg.

Blyde River Canyon

Bourke's Luck PotholesEntering into South Africa we stopped at three sights in the By;de River Canyon Region. The first stop was the The Rondavels, which are circular mountain and rock formations that look like the traditional circular huts made of dung and thatch, which are called Rondavels. Due to the mist the view wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been but it was still beautiful to see these mountains with a view over the valley and river.

The second stop was to view Bourke’s Luck Potholes. They are at a point in the river where the water flows down a small waterfall into the river below. At various points in the rock path, are some beautifully smooth, round potholes caused by the wind and water swirling through them. In addition to be ing fascinated by the shapes created, the colours and layers of sediment in the stone were beautiful to see.

God’s Window was the last sight we visited in the region, at the higher altitude we were in the clouds and unable to see the view. We did however enjoy a short rainforest walk and thoroughly appreciated the lush green vegetation and fresh mountain air.

Kruger National Park

The main highlight of our visit to Eastern South Africa was a visit to what I think is probably the most well known national park in Africa, Kruger National Park. We did a sunset game drive and a sunrise game drive.

White Rhinoceros

Sunset Game Drive

Late in the afternoon we met our driver Rick, climbed into his jeep and headed into the park. Rick was a really fun guide, who was very knowledgeable. He made the drive and information we learned fascinating and entertaining.

We saw loads of Impala, but that is to be expected since they are everywhere. We also saw Waterbuck, Hippopotamus, Buffalo, Zebra, Waterhog and my personal favourite in Kruger: White Rhinoceros.

BushbuckThe white rhinoceros earned its name, not from its colour, but from a mistranslation of wide mouth. The white rhinoceros is larger than the black rhino and it grazes grasses hence the wide mouth, rather than browse trees for leaves like the black rhino, who has a more narrow, hooked mouth.

We were ridiculously lucky to see a crash of white rhinos, at a distance we believe there to have been five of them: two bulls, two cows and a calf.

As the sun dropped in the sky we found a nice place to stop. Rick set up a little picnic table with nuts and popcorn to nibble or, as well as pouring us each a glass of Amarula liqueur to enjoy as the sun went down.

The Amarula liqueur is made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It is a sweet creamy liqueur which I would say is kind of comparable to Baileys Irish Cream. The Marula trees grow in various places around Africa, when the fruit is ripe it falls to the ground and ferments, at which time many drunk animals can be found stumbling around the national parks.

While we didn’t get drunk on our Amarula sundowners, we were in high spirits as we took off to see a few more animals before retiring for the evening. We managed to spot a Scrub Hare, Blue Duiker (the smallest antelope breed, which is unfortunately almost extinct), Nightjars (which are birds, part of the owl family) and some Kudu.

Sunset in Kruger National Park

Sunrise Game Drive

Hyena and pupWe woke up early, bundled ourselves up in layers of clothing and jumped into our jeep, with the first female driver we had, Nicky. I would love to claim that the female driver was the best game driver of all time, but unfortunately she was actually the worst driver we ever experienced. She took her own photos at each of the animal sightings and then gave us only a few brief moments to take ours before rushing off to the next thing. Also despite having paid extra for the game drive, we were returned to the camp earlier than the scheduled end time.

Despite having a terrible guide we did get to see loads of animals. We saw a number of Elephants, Hyenas with pups, a collution of Cheetahs, Buffalos, Klipspringers, more White Rhino’s, Lions, a Leopard, Hippos, Giraffes, Water Terrapins hanging out on a hippos back, Woolley Neck Storks, Bushbucks, Kudus and a Water Monitor.

Random animal facts…

ZebraMale elephants eat roughly 280kilograms of food per day, females 180Kg. The drink approximately 100 litres of water per day and their trunk contains 100,000 independent muscles.

Lions sleep for approximately 20 hours per day.

Cheetahs can accelerate from 0-96km/h in three seconds, but they need to catch their prey within 500 metres or they will overheat.
Also, a cheetah is the only big cat that doesn’t typically climb trees, due to the fact that it’s claws are not retractable.

A pack of hyenas is led by a female whose clitoris grows so big it looks like a penis. When she gives birth it tears out and then has to re-grow.

Rock Hyrax - known as a Dassie in South AfricaMale vervet monkeys have bright blue balls, the brightness of blue is an indicator of their virility.

Every zebra has its own set of stripes that identify it, like fingerprints.

The Rock Hyrax (or Dassie as it is known in South Africa) looks a bit like a rodent, but surprisingly it’s closest relative is the elephant.


Soweto TowersWe arrived in Johannesburg in the late afternoon and said goodbye to our fabulous group of new friends, which is always sad.

The following day I met some friends to have a bit of a look around Soweto, visiting the Hector Pieterson Museum and Mandela House. I went out for lunch and a beer and checked out the street art, before heading to the airport for my flight to Cape Town.


Okavango Delta, Botswana

Paddling Mokoro's through the DeltaThe Okavango Delta is a beautiful site that is UNESCO world heritage listed, which falls under the Moremi Game Reserve.

The delta receives water it’s  water from Angola, from the river Kavango. The river name changes to Okavango when it crosses into Botswana. Despite the close proximity of Angola to Botswana it takes three months for the water from Angola’s wet season to make it’s way into the Delta.

To get into the Delta some locals, polers, push a traditional Mokoro Canoe through the waterways amongst the reeds into the campsite. The guide of my canoe was Flora, who did a brilliant job. The polers are all people who are local to the area and who have been government trained to work in the industry to guide tourists as well as take care of the Delta.

GiraffeThe lead guide of the excursion was a really fun and knowledgeable guy called Galaxy; he led us for two game walks one sunset, one sunrise, and a sunrise mokoro paddle through the waterways. Due to the heat around Africa, the vast majority of animals sleep through the middle of the day and only become active in the early morning or late afternoon, so outings we did were at the cooler parts of the day.

It was great to spend two nights camping in the Delta, far from any electricity, shops or wifi. The group of local guides and polers who accompanied us made the trip so much fun. Their enthusiasm for the environment and their cheery disposition made a hot an uncomfortable environment an enjoyable place to be.

Swimming in the DeltaDespite having seen several National Parks already, it was nice to see the delta as the environment was quite different to the other places I had been. The wetlands were home to a huge variety of bird life, in the water we were also able to spot some crocodiles and plenty of hippopotamus.

In the dry areas of the delta I was a little disappointed with how little wildlife we saw, but it is called wildlife for a reason. We came across a herd of Zebra, Wildebeest, some Giraffes, and a lone Steenbok bouncing away from us in the long grass.

In the middle of the day, Galaxy sought out a nice quite waterhole that was free from crocodiles and hippopotamus, where we were able to cool off with a quick dip in the water. Despite my nervousness, it was loads of fun and quite the relief from the heat.

Sunset in the DeltaIn addition to seeing some animals in our walk, we learned that the delta has a wild sage growing that works really well as a mosquito repellent. We also learned that the uninhabited and inactive termite mounds are used by the locals to make bricks. The construction of a termite mound is very strong, like concrete. So once a mound has been deserted, the locals will break up the mound, crush the compound into a fine powder, mix it with water and create bricks to use in the house construction.

We spent the last night of our stay in the delta watching a singing and dancing performance by our local crew. It was such a privilege for me to enjoy such a personal performance that gave some insight into the local culture. We followed it up with a bit of a sing-along and some games.

The Okavango Delta Crew


In discussions with Galaxy, we talked about the big five, and he went on to mention that there is also a small five, ugly five and pretty five.

Big Five

Elephant, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard.

Small Five

Elephant Shrew, Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver, Rhinoceros Beetle, Ant Lion and Leopard Tortoise.

Ugly Five

Blue Wildebeest, Warthog, Maribou Stork ,Baboon and Hyena.

Pretty Five

Lilac Breasted Roller, Giraffe, Zebra, Common Bee Eater and Pied Kingfisher.


Chobe National Park, Botswana

Herd of Elephants walking by the Chobe RiverAfter saying goodbye to my Nomads tour group, and having a few days to enjoy Victoria Falls, I met my new tour family. I booked a tour from Vic Falls to Jo’Burg with On The Go tours, which was provided by ATC (African Tour Company). My new tour crew were guide Will, cook Mama Flo and driver Aaron.

Together with the crew and 12 new travel tour family members we set off for Botswana. The population of Botswana is just over 2 million and the most common language is Swana, though many people speak English.

Sable AntelopeThe Swana people are more reserved and shy than some other African people, but a smile with the greeting “Dumela” is a fantastic ice-breaker.

The first destination in Botswana was the Chobe River and National Park. The Chobe River is a natural border between Botswana & Namibia, alongside which the Chobe National Park can be found.

Chobe River SunsetThe Chobe National Park is around 11.7 square kilometres and has a very high concentration of elephants, most likely due to the year-round availability of water.

In a long afternoon I did both a game drive and sunset cruise in the national park. In addition to see loads of elephants, we saw some Chakma Baboons, Sable Antelope, African Giraffes, Impala, Kudu, Zebras, Crocodiles, Buffalo and a Tawny Eagle.

Visiting the Chobe National Park was a lovely introduction to Botswana.