This post is sponsored by Acacia Africa, but all opinions are my own.
Video of Elephants in Masai Mara, Kenya
I decided to take a trip of a lifetime in 2018. I took several months off work to travel the world and I decided to explore Eastern and Southern Africa while on my world tour. Overlanding is a great option to see alot of countries in certain regions of Africa within a long or short time. This method of traveling is especially common in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Overlanding is a way of traveling long distances in a truck which is fully equipped with camp gear, cooking utensils, equipment, water, storage space for luggage. The truck is basically a house on wheels.
I selected Acacia Africa as my tour company for this trip because their trips consist of 25 people or less within a specific age group. The fact that the age gap between the group is not too far apart helps everyone in the group get along better. I selected the 52 day tour which starts from Nairobi, Kenya and travels through Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa because I had always wanted to see Eastern and Southern Africa, and this was a great way to see the region.
What to pack
Video: We went from cold in Kenya to hot in Tanzania
A traveler’s preparedness is a very essential part of enjoying the overlanding experience. This is because a lot of essential items are hard to buy while on the road, so it is important to come ready. For example, I forgot my bug spray at home in the US (stupid right) and it was so hard for me to find another one. I kept sharing the bug spray of other travelers on the trip because I was not able to buy my own till about day 25 in a pharmacy in Uganda.
From my experience, here are the necessities for an overland tour:
- Yellow fever card- needed before entry to most countries. It can be gotten in clinics in the US. I got mine in India because I was already traveling through Asia prior to exploring Africa.
- Bug spray- Probably the most important.
- Several light long sleeve shirts
- Hiking boots
- Dark colored clothes to wear on the safaris
- Dark colored gym shoes because they get dirty quickly
- Short Sleeve Shirts
- Sweaters and a light jacket because some countries get very cold at certain times of the year (it was freezing in Kenya in June)
The truck is accompanied by 2 members of the Acacia Africa team. The first member is the driver- fondly known as Masai and the second member is the group leader and tour guide- Elton. Masai was responsible for the driving from the start of the tour in Nairobi, Kenya till the end in Cape Town, South Africa. Maasai was well appreciated by every member of the tour because we are very aware that his role is very difficult and draining. Driving through Eastern and Southern Africa is no joke because of the road conditions. Some days, we would drive 15 hours from one location to another and the task was always completed seamlessly.
Elton was the cook and the tour leader. He was responsible for making our meals with the help of other members of the group and responsible for overseeing the day to day activities for the group. He gave the group information on what is to be expected for each day, the time the truck is expected to leave campsite each morning and assigning chores for members of the tour. This tour helped me with punctuality because each day we had to be by the truck at a specified time- usually between 5am and 8am. As a result of this, I had to train myself to be on time. Leaving at 5am is a pain but for days where we had to drive 15 hours to the next destination or cross the border to another country, it was crucial to leave early.
Elton was also responsible for shopping for food supplies for the group and he was with the group for the duration of the tour. I can attest to the fact that Elton was an amazing cook and I always looked forward to his meals each day.
Tour options: Camping vs Accommodated
There are 2 types of overlanding tours and each type has its perks.
There is a camping option and also an accommodated option. The camping option is cheaper because the tour member sets up a tent on a campground each night. Acacia Africa provides mattresses, but the bed bag and pillows are not provided. The accommodated option, however, involves sleeping in a room every night. It is more expensive, but it is also a more comfortable option. The accommodated option involves mandatory camping in some locations because rooms are not available on the campgrounds. The locations are Masai Mara, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Spitzkoppe, Namibia and Okavango Delta, Botswana.
I had never camped before prior to taking this tour so I did not know what to expect. As a result of this, choosing the accommodated option was a personal preference, other members of the team completed this task with no complaints. In addition, I did not like the idea of setting up a camp every night and breaking it down every morning. There is an option for campers to upgrade to a room every night which I felt was great in case campers wanted to treat themselves. It was up to them to make that choice when we arrive at the accommodation/campgrounds and the tour leader always tells the group members the cost of upgrading to a room.
Here is the price breakdown for the camping vs accommodation option for various days from the Acacia Africa website:
|46 Day Camping Tour Countries visited: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya||Starting at $4,188|
|46 Day Accommodated Tour Countries visited: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya||Starting at $6,556|
|56 Day Camping Tour Countries visited: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya||Starting at $5,028|
|56 Day Accommodated Tour Countries visited: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya||Starting at $8,869|
Please note that the tours offered by Acacia Africa are as short as 9 days and as long as 52 days. I selected 52 days because I was a full-time traveler and I had the luxury of time.
Food and Chores
Food is included in the tour prices and the tour leader oversees buying groceries. The tour leader also oversees making a list of chores and assigning group members to the chores. The chore list includes washing dishes, bus cleaning, cooking and packing up the cooking equipment and tables unloaded from the truck at the end of the day. The chores are assigned on a rotational basis between members of the group and it is usually a team effort.
At the beginning of the tour I disliked the chores because I did not think it was necessary considering the price of the tours, but I eventually warmed up to the idea. I came to understand the fact that the chores are necessary for the trip to continue smoothly. It is not possible for the tour leader and the driver to complete all the chores on their own.
Each country visited has different requirements for visas. My tour visited a total of 8 countries and I will list the visa requirements below for a US Passport holder:
Kenya and Uganda: East Africa Tourist visa which can be paid for on arrival at each of the member countries. The visa cost $100 and it allows multiple entries into the East African member nations. Yellow fever card required.
Tanzania: Visa on arrival. Visa cost $100 for US passport holders but $50 for all other passport holders. Yellow fever card required.
Malawi: Visa on arrival. The visa cost $50 for US passport holders
Zambia: Visa on arrival. The visa cost $100 on arrival or $50 if applied in advance online.
Botswana: Visa on arrival. Visa cost $50.
Namibia and South Africa: Visa-free, the passport is stamped upon entry and exit.
Video: Jumping into the ocean in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Each country visited has a different option for activities. Some activities are already paid for before the tour starts in what is known as a mandatory adventure pass. The price of this adventure pass depends on the duration of the tour and it includes game drives through the national parks, some cruises and other activities decided on by Acacia Africa. Other activities like helicopter rides, sky diving, quad biking, village walks are optional and can be paid for at the location of the activity. Watch out for a blog on my favorite activities next!
I was careful with money because I did not want to spend too much. I spent a few bucks on souvenirs, fast food and snacks because the truck stops at supermarkets often. I will advise a budget of $10 – $15 a day but about $20 – $25 if you spend money on alcohol and souvenirs. I did not spend much on either, so my budget was perfect for me. Keep in mind that food is already provided on the tour.
Video: Masai Men in Kenya
Overall, this experience was unforgettable, and I had the time of my life. The adventure, the people I met along the way and the connections I made are everlasting. I will never forget feeling lost when I just started the tour and meeting some amazing people along the way. As usual with a group of people, everyone will not agree with each other at several points in the tour but finding my ground and making the tour work to my advantage was the key to the success of my experience.
Video: We had so much fun as a group!
Will I go on a trip with Acacia Africa again? Absolutely.
Some of the pictures used on this post were taken by my friend Ben Thomas who I fondly called “British Ben”