African Safaris are one of those trips that for most people come once in life, they are something that take a lot of planning and will be rewarding beyond belief. You will see some of the most incredible and amazing sights, you will be touched by how generous people can be and how the simplest of things can give someone the most happiness. Most of all an overland safari will give you memories that last a life time and an unforgettable trip that you will be talking about for years to come.
It can be hard stepping out of your comfort zone and adjusting to life without some of the luxury we have become accustomed to in the Western World. Be prepared for overlanding in Africa by reading these 18 things that will happen to you on your overland trip.
Cold showers will become life
If setting up a tent was an Olympic sport you would definitely be a contender for gold. This isn’t due to your enthusiasm for setting up tents, or trying to find the best camping spot, this is due to the fact you are racing to get to the showers. If you are lucky enough to get a campsite with running water, the likely hood of the showers being hot are slim at best, however as the saying goes the early bird catches the worm and the worm in this case catches the hot water that will likely only last for a shower or two.
If you aren’t racing against your follow campers for a hot shower, then you will be racing to get on the internet (if it’s available). It’s very liberating being without internet for days at a time especially when you’re camping in the middle of a National Park surrounded by sounds of the African Plains. However everyone needs a bit of net at times, if only to check in with loved ones or to upload the killer insta post you snapped earlier in the day. Someone advertising internet and actually being able to connect are completely different things, when there is internet sometimes you waste so much time trying to connect or waiting for someone to leave (as only so many users can be connected at one time) you wish you never tried in the first place. Mind you those skype calls with the ones you are missing are definitely worth the frustration and you will be glad you persisted.
Animals will steal your food
Without a doubt at some stage you will be challenged by an animal for your food and they are quick little buggers. They also won’t be afraid to taunt you sitting up a tree eating your block of cheese they literally stole out of your hands, while you are left starving watching them. If they aren’t fortunate enough to get food from your campsite due to your amazing talents of locking down the truck and having your food stored in lockers, they might well attempt to get your lunch on a safari. A top tip we received as a baboon jumped in our vehicle and highjacked our lunch was to stay calm and not to move, which is easier said than done when there is a baboon roughly the size of you sitting in the middle of your vehicle eating your lunch. Apparently they understand a little of what is going on and we easily got rid of this monster baboon with a quick statement of “just take it and go”.
Looking good will be a thing of the past
Remember how you used to care what you wore in public oh how you will laugh at those times. Africa can be a killer of a climate with it absolutely freezing (in some places) during the night and in the early morning. During the day it will be sweltering hot and air conditioning is rolling up the windows on the truck (yip they are just tarps depending on your tour operator), so you will be wearing an odd ensemble of clothes you wouldn’t usually be caught dead in. Yes I’m talking long socks with shorts, I’m talking jandals (flip flops) and socks, I’m even talking wearing five different colours that don’t match in the slightest. Most likely you will be wearing the cleanest clothes you have and they are quite possibly not even close to being clean.
Dirt, dirt, dirt
Africa is full of red sand and dirt that gets everywhere! It’s impossible to stay clean and you have never been so dirty in your life, you feel gross, your clothes feel gross and you can’t remember the last time under your nails were clean. Even straight after a shower you’re immediately dirty and the lack of hot showers doesn’t help matters. On top of that your clothes are embedded with dirt and no matter how much you wash them they don’t seem to get clean, but you learn to embrace it as everyone is in the same boat (or truck in this instance).
It’s a truck not a bus!
Don’t make the mistake of calling your overland vehicle a bus! You will be hung out to dry some tour guides might even enforce a penalty of some sort for this stupid error.
Learn the saying TIA
TIA is an abbreviation you will hear A LOT. Basically any time you find yourself in a crappy situation, or something has gone wrong this will be the saying you hear. Your truck breaks down ‘TIA’, the cash machines are all out of money ‘TIA’, the water and electricity are cut mid shower ‘TIA’. The definition “This is Africa”, meaning go with the flow, these things happen, don’t expect anything to run to schedule, just go with it. You will find yourself using the saying in no time!
Traveling comfortably is a thing of the past
No matter where you sit on the truck it’s uncomfortable, the journeys are looooooooooong, the roads are bumpy oh so bumpy, the suspension is crap and you will be thanking your lucky stars you packed a sports bra or otherwise there could be some serious injuries! You spend way more time on the truck then you would like and there is no getting around it as the Continent of Africa is huge! Some spots on the truck make life a little more comfortable and there will always be contention of where people are sitting and arguments over fellow campers monopolising the best seats on the truck.
Your truck will break down
The likely hood of your truck breaking down during your trip is extremely high. If you are unfortunate like our tour your truck will break down numerous times, causing you significant delays to your tour but TIA (this is Africa). Your drivers are amazing not only are they absolute machines driving on the treacherous roads nonstop for sustained periods of times, they are also highly trained mechanics that will usually have your truck back on the road in no time at all. Embrace these situations by getting to know your fellow campers a bit better and just hope that there is some good communication from your tour leader so you know what is happening.
You miss the oddest things like your kitchen drying rack
Yes at times you will look like a bird spreading its wings for the first time and trying with all its might to fly away with no luck. This is just your daily ritual of drying your dishes, with no drying racks or tea towels you will flap (or shake if you prefer) all the excess water off your dishes until they are dry enough to store.
Yes you over packed
You will be thinking to yourself in no time what the hell was I thinking when I packed? While you did your best to adhere to the packing guidelines you were sent with your booking confirmation you still managed to overpack. It’s a pain in the butt sleeping in a tent especially when you are moving every few days (sometimes every day). Your tent isn’t big enough for your tent buddy, you and your entire luggage, you get sick of trying to locate your belongings that are stored in numerous places and you will hate how much you have to unpack and repack. You will constantly question yourself did I need to bring this? I certainly could have done without the makeup I lugged around for 7 weeks to wear a total of 3 times.
While we are talking about packing you will wonder how the hell did you managed to accumulate so much stuff in such a short period of time, like seriously I’ve moved countries with less stuff.
You will get well acquainted with bush toilets
You will get used to using natures toilets in no time. During your travel days on the truck this is generally the only toilets you will encounter, at nearly every stop you will stumble upon a fellow camper going about their business while you are looking for the best place to pee, you will become way too comfortable peeing by your friends and more than likely at one time or another basically pee in the open as you couldn’t find much cover. While I was more than comfortable with the shake method many of our truck for comfort needed toilet paper, if you do use toilet paper please take your used paper with you. The key to any outdoor experience is to leave no trace, so people for generations can enjoy the experience also.
Embrace the bush toilets as many of the toilets you will experience can only be described as vile, they stink (like a men’s pub toilet that hasn’t been cleaned in 50 years), they have things in them that you don’t want to see, oh and you probably have to flush it with a bucket of water (if it isn’t a long drop). Did I mention the smell? A top tip never ever go to the bathroom without shoes on, even just wearing flipflops doesn’t seem like enough protection half the time (that said you will also have plenty of chances to use proper flushing toilets, but they aren’t that easily found in some places)
You will need the bathroom at the most inconvenient times
You might as well resign yourself to the fact you will need the bathroom at the moment that is the most inconvenient. Like driving through a National Park on a game drive with wild animals running around (fortunately most of the parks have many facilities), or driving to your next destination and there being nowhere to stop or any cover, but the absolute worse will be having to pee in the dead of the night, when you are camping in the middle of a National Park with wild animals roaming around your tents.
You will become far too comfortable talking about your bathroom business
Yes I’m still talking about toilets and bathroom business and my point exactly is that you will become far too comfortable talking about your toilet business. It’s not your typical everyday conversation but it will be in Africa for some reason. Maybe this is due to the fact a lot of people will be sick at some stage of the tour, or the general state of the toilets but embrace it and run with it (yes I know that’s an awful pun).
Your tent buddy will be the best
Undoubtedly your truck will be the best truck in all of Africa, you will make friendships that last long past your tour has ended and you will generally get along with everyone but most likely you will be closest with your tent buddy. This is the person you share a tent with every night and you will form an unbreakable friendship and comradery of gossiping at the end of the day, secretly (or not so secretly) competing with your fellow campers to see who can get their tent up first, you will look out for one another and you will just have such a great time together that it will almost become a competition who has the best tent buddy.
There will be people you don’t like
The harsh reality is you won’t like everyone on your tour, there will always be the annoying person who is lazy and doesn’t help with the camp chores, or the person who asks silly questions as they weren’t listening to the tour guide and while you like these people but they get on your nerves occasionally, they are usually lovely people whose company you enjoy. There will also be that person you just don’t like, maybe you don’t have anything in common with them, or you don’t like their personality and its okay, we don’t have to like everyone in life, just try to be considerate and friendly towards them, as at the end of the day it’s their trip also and it would suck if you ruined someone’s trip.
Get used to the word mzungu
Mzungu is a Swahili word you will hear very often in East Africa. The literal translation is “someone who roams around aimlessly” or “aimless wanderer”, but the implied meaning these days is white person. You will have this shouted at you over and over again, usually by a bunch of intrigued children who are fascinated by you. Don’t take it negatively it’s merely a descriptive word that is used to describe Europeans.
Above all you would jump at the opportunity to repeat the experience again. Overlanding in Africa is a trip of a life time that opens your eyes to a whole new world of cultures, traditions and customs, plus the wildlife is a pretty incredible experience. It’s a trip suited to anyone of any age and an adventure not to be missed!
If you are interested in planning a trip to Africa check out this guide on how to choose the right African Safari for you https://exploringkiwis.com/how-choose-best-africa-overland-tour/