Africa Overland Tours
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Overland Tour in Africa
Choosing the best overland tour in Africa can be tricky. With so many tour operators and so many trips, I find that backpackers are often overwhelmed.
On the other hand, I also find that most travel agencies or people tend to give very poor advice when it comes to these tours. That is to say, this advice is usually based on a single trip experience or possibly no experience at all. For this reason, I decided to put together a balanced guide for choosing the best overland tour in Africa.
In case you might be asking yourself, I know quite a bit about overland tours in Africa. After all, I spent more than five years travelling the continent and three of those working as an overland tour leader.
Quick Answer: The Best Overland Tour in Africa
Overall Best Overland Tour – Serengeti, Falls & Cape Town Adventure
Best Value Overland Tour – Serengeti to Victoria Falls Adventure
Less than 1 Week – Tanzania Camping Safari
Less than 10 Days – Masai & Tanzania Camping Safari
Less than 2 Weeks – Kenya & Tanzania Camping Safari
Less than 3 Weeks – East Africa Overland Tour
Less than 4 Weeks – Falls, Beaches & Serengeti Adventure
More than 4 Weeks – Serengeti, Falls & Cape Town Adventure
How to Choose the Best Overland Tour in Africa
I want you to feel comfortable with your decision and know that you have picked the best overland tour for your trip. However, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to choosing the best overland tour in Africa. After all, I don’t know if you have two weeks or two months to explore. It could be the case that you really, really want to see Victoria Falls in full flow or maybe you just want to experience a cultural or more primitive part of Africa.
However, I will try to help you answer the burning question and decide on the best overland tour in Africa for you.
About Choosing the Best Overland Tour Company
Firstly, and I say this honestly, there is no such thing as a bad overland company. However, the quality of your trip will still depend on certain aspects relating to these operators.
1. The Crew (Driver, Tour Leader & Cook)
2. Equipment and Organization
3. Your Attitude
4. The Group
I list these in the order of importance. Your attitude and the attitude of your group will play an important role. But the truth is, these attitudes are also set and managed by the crew.
In other words, if you have excellent crew, you can be sure that this will translate as a happy group and an unforgettable trip. But unfortunately, this is not as common as it should be on overland tours in Africa.
About the Crew
Having worked for two different overland operators, I have encountered every tour company on the road. For the most part, these companies have the right intentions but to be honest, the crew are often a real disappointment. Some crew are more interested in making commissions, others pay little attention to their group and many more are simply focused on getting drunk at the bar every night. Sad, but true.
But how can you know that you will have awesome crew? Simple – you pick an overland tour operator who carefully selects and manages their crew members.
About the Trucks & Equipment
Also, you want a company who takes care of their equipment. Some of the overland trucks in Africa are falling apart.
Anyway, this is why I feel the most important decision about choosing the best overland tour in Africa will often depend on the operator. After all, you may not get to choose your crew members but you do get to choose a company who picks them for you.
Lastly, you can get lucky with a great tour leader, excellent equipment and a group of fun loving peeps. However, when all is said and done, you most often get what you pay for in Africa.
Who Goes on an Overland Tour in Africa?
Most passengers on an overland tour in Africa are aged between 18 – 35. That being said, there is usually a nice mix and people from all walks of life. In my own experience, the group always benefits from having some “older folk” in the group rather than a merry band of twenty somethings. Also, there are always couples – it is always awesome to have couples on an overland tour!
How Much Time do you have for your Overland Safari?
Your destination for an overland tour in Africa will depend on the time you have available. For example, if you have an unlimited amount of time (60 Days/2 Months) – the first thing I will say is to stop procrastinating and book this tour from Nairobi to Cape Town.
However, not everyone has this sort of time or money available to them. In which case, you will need to tailor your search.
The Best Place for an Africa Overland Tour
What an incredibly broad question – “Where should I go on an Africa overland tour?”
For the sake of defining your search, I always recommend that people take their first overland tour in East Africa. The truth is, most game parks in South Africa are private and not very authentic. Also, while Cape Town is a beautiful and fascinating city, it is not enough to decide the route of an overland tour in Africa.
Again, please remember that my advice is based on first-hand experience and feedback from hundreds of people whom I have guided around Africa.
Kenya – Wildlife, culture, and variety of experiences.
Tanzania – Wildlife, Kilimanjaro, and beaches.
Uganda – Gorilla Trekking, white water rafting, and local experiences.
*Namibia – Landscapes, camping in the desert and sunsets.
Botswana – Okavango Delta and lion country.
Malawi – Primitive life, friendly faces, great opportunities to meet locals.
*Namibia is one of my favourite places in Africa. But if this is your first time to the continent, I genuinely believe that East Africa is a much more exciting trip. You can visit Namibia another time and you will come back to Africa, trust me.
Most Impressive Attractions on an Overland Tour in Africa
Something that strikes you on a long distance overland tour, is the incredible number of experiences. One day you might be mountain gorilla trekking in a jungle, while the next you would be standing with a hill tribe in Lake Bunyoni. Roll on a few days, you might be on Zanzibar or watching a pride of lion staring hungrily into your safari vehicle.
In my five years as an overland tour leader, I never tired of these amazing experiences. Here are some of the most recommended attractions/experiences according to my guests:
- Wildlife in the Masai Mara
- Cycling in Hells Gate National Park (Lake Naivasha)
- Taking a Serengeti / Ngorongoro Crater Safari
- Trekking Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
- Relaxing on the north beaches in Zanzibar
- Visiting Stone Town in Zanzibar
- Meeting the locals in Malawi
- White water rafting the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls
- Wildlife and landscapes in Etosha National Park
- Camping at Spitzkoppe in Namibia
- Desert Landscapes in Namibia
- Attractions in Cape Town
When to Book an Overland Tour in Africa?
If you want to travel during high season or between May and September – book in December or early January. Although if you know the dates, book it right now as these tours fill up fast. Anyway, why wait – get it done so that you can look forward to the adventure!
Which Tour Do I Recommend for your First Overland Tour?
Well, if you want me to be even more specific, here are the Africa overland tours that I recommend to friends and family:
My First Pick
Route – Nairobi to Cape Town
Days – 40 Days
Highlights – Serengeti, Zanzibar, Lake Malawi, Vic Falls, Okavango Delta, Etosha NP, Swakopmund, Cape Town
Seriously, just book it. Without question, Nairobi to Cape Town is the most magical and memorable travel experience you will ever have. When my passengers were leaving at the end of a section on this tour, it was always heartbreaking to say goodbye and for them to know that the rest of the group would continue without them. It is the absolute best overland tour in Africa. If you can make it happen, choose this epic adventure and look forward to an absolutely incredible journey with friends who will soon become family.
My Second Pick
Route – Nairobi to Victoria Falls
Days – 20 Days
Highlights – Serengeti, Zanzibar, Lake Malawi, Vic Falls
If the above is not possible and you do not have enough time for Nairobi to Vic Falls, this option gets amazing feedback. For an excellent price, you get to experience the core of an overland tour in Africa. There are just too many attractions and highlights to mention so go check them out on the link below.
My Third Pick
East Africa Overland Tour (Nairobi to Zanzibar)
Route – Kampala to Zanzibar
Days – 19 Days
Highlights – Serengeti, Zanzibar, Mountain Gorillas, Jinja.
Travelling around East Africa is the most culture orientated part of an overland tour in Africa. You can enjoy local experiences and a primitive side of life that is not so common later on. To be honest, this could easily be second place and I find it hard to choose between them. I guess it depends on how much you want to see the mountain gorillas or Uganda.
Important Word About Travel Insurance
As a tour leader, I have witnessed enough accidents and incidents to turn me into a full blown advocate for travel insurance. Seriously, even though overland companies insist that you have travel insurance for Africa before joining a trip, you should have it anyway. My pick is always World Nomads as they have come through for so many of my guests. In my own experience, their support team is also second to none and they guided me through some pretty awful situations.
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from World Nomads is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
About Booking Your Africa Overland Tour
I am not a travel agent and I provide this information for free. However, at no extra cost to you, if you click through to the operator using one of the links in this post, I receive a small kickback for sending you their way.
Have a safe safari, my friends, and I wish you the best of luck on this adventure of a lifetime!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your tour or insurance, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that I value the trust of my readers and will never endorse something I do not personally support. Namaste 😉