Day in the Life of an Overland Trip through Africa

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Overlanding through Africa is a true adventure and in our opinion, the best way to see Africa. You get a chance to get up close to the people and the land that defines Africa.

But this often means you sacrifice a fair bit of modern luxury and the timeliness of say, flying between destinations. This means the drive days between iconic stops are often long, dusty, bumpy and the campsites very minimalist.

4:00 am- The alarm rings, jolting you from a shallow sleep into the reality of a frigid morning. You wonder for just a moment where you are before realizing you are sleeping in a tent, it is still dark out and your bladder is bursting. You feel around the perimeter of your sleeping bag in search of your headlamp and phone, which is still buzzing with an alarm. You find the phone, turn off the alarm and realize it’s officially stupid o’clock. Time to get up and start the day.

4:15 am- Fumble through the darkness with a half-dead headlamp towards the bathroom, secretly hoping that toad you saw in the shower drain last night isn’t hanging out next to the hole in the ground toilet stall.

4:30 am- Still in half-dead headlamp darkness pack up your stuff, move it out, put it on the truck and take down your tent. Strict overland rules, no breakfast before tents down.

4:40 am- Peruse the breakfast table in search of the elusive yogurt, fruit or fresh milk. If you hit your snooze, even once, forget about the goodies, as they’ll be long gone. Settle for another bowl of Weetabix or Corn flakes made scrumptiously with powdered milk, a dash of honey and maybe a few raisins.

Overland through Africa

5:00 am- Breakfast is packed up and most of the people will be waiting patiently on the truck, ready to go. Departure time was, after all, 5:00 am.

5:30 am- Finally pull out of the campground after waiting for the perpetually late people to finish getting their stuff organized, fixing their hair and applying makeup in the bathroom for the 10 hour drive day ahead of us. Attempt to get comfortable as it’s still dark out and you can’t see to read anyways. Take a snooze to try and catch up on the sleep you missed last night while you shivered in your sleeping bag because Africa is FRICKEN COLD at night in the winter.

9:30 am- Middle of nowhere Africa we decide to ring the buzzer for a pee stop. Our driver finds a place with a decent cover on one side of the road for the ladies and we are off to commune with the African bush. When the truck stops, be the first one off the truck, running to the bushes to get your business done before the locals start appearing out of nowhere to watch you. This really happens. You learn to get your business done fast in Africa. Things to remember: watch out for Acacia thorns (those suckers go straight through sandals!) and bring your used toilet paper back to the truck to toss in the bin.

Oasis Overland Tanzania

9:50 am- Back on the truck. Roll up the side flaps to get some air moving and to let some of the suns inside. Get comfortable in a new spot, grab a book and wait for something interesting to come along.

10:30 am- Roll up in a village during market day, spend the whole time on your knees staring out the window, shouting ‘Jambo!’ at the passersby and waving. You look around judging the locals and decide to take a few photos of the commotion on the streets. Grumpy lady throws an apple at you for taking a photo. Whoops! You put your camera away and continue to wave at the people who smile and wave back. Africa is great!

1:00 pm– Starving, since you ate breakfast at 4:30 am, stop for lunch. Cook group on duty gets off the truck and begins preparing lunch on the side of the road where we have stopped. Locals begin gathering to watch while we set out camp chairs. 100 villagers watch us while we eat and you can’t help but wonder when the last time was that they had a decent meal.

Overland through Africa Oasis Overland

1:45 pm- Everything is packed up, the leftovers have been given to the locals (which they threw into the ditch), everyone has taken a toilet break and it’s back on the road again.

2:00 pm- Are we there yet?

2:30 pm- World War 3 in the back of the truck over the music. Guess we’ll just ride around for hours in silence.

3:30 pm- The time we were supposed to arrive at our new destination, but since we left late after breakfast, took too long at lunch and ended up on a dirt road that was supposed to be paved… it’s going to be a few more hours.

5:00 pm- Come across a family of giraffes hanging out near the road. You ring the buzzer for a photo stop and everyone fumbles around for cameras. Everyone is all smiles, Africa is amazing!

Overland through Africa

6:30 pm- The truck rolls into our new campsite for the night. Surprise! It’s a bush camp with no facilities, in the middle of nowhere Africa. Everyone scatters for a toilet break before returning to locate a place for their tent and start setup. In the midst of the chaos, someone starts the fire.

7:00 pm- Cook group starts to prepare and cook the meal of their choosing, over a campfire for the whole group. The rest of us settle in and get to work on our tasks of cleaning the truck, setting up washbowls, setting up camp stools and assisting cook groups as needed. Half the people that are supposed to be there helping have conveniently disappeared.

7:30 pm- With all the duties done for the interim, you sit around the campfire watching a beautiful African sunset while darkness settles in around you and the stars begin to light up the sky.

8:00 pm- You’re still sitting around the fire, staring in silence at each other or the fire while the cook group argues in the background over the preparation of their vegetables before coming to a peace treaty and cooking it the most complex way possible.

Overland through Africa Oasis Overland

8:30 pm- Cooking over a campfire takes a long time…. Boy those stars are getting bright.

9:00pm- Dinner time! Everyone dishes up and sits around the campfire while the tour leader shares the plan for the next morning. Another 4 am start tomorrow. Despite the arguments from the cook group, the meal is fantastic and everyone loses their edge as the food hits an empty belly.

10:30 pm- Dishes are washed up, kitchen closed up, tables put away and the last of you are sitting around the fire enjoying the warmth and staring at the sky, while others make their way to their tents to layer up and crawl into their tents for another cold night in Africa.

12:00 am- You are awakened by your tent neighbor getting up for a midnight toilet break. You contemplate for a minute if they might be peeing on your tent, it sounds that close. Oh well, good thing it’s waterproof.

2:00 am- Strange noises from the bush wake you from a dead sleep. You lay there, heart beating, sleeping bag pulled up to your chin while you take shallow breaths and try not to make any sudden movements. Who the hell knows what just made that noise.

Overland through Africa

2:30 am- You realize you have to pee. There’s no way in hell you’re going outside after hearing that noise.

3:00 am- You drift to sleep, still holding it.

4:00 am- The alarm rings, jolting you from a shallow sleep into the reality of a frigid morning. You wonder for just a moment where you are before realizing you are sleeping in a tent, it is still dark out and your bladder is bursting. You feel around the perimeter of your sleeping bag in search of your headlamp and phone, which is still buzzing with an alarm. You find the phone, turn off the alarm and realize it’s officially stupid o’clock. Time to get up and start the day.

Our Overland trip through Africa was done in partnership with Oasis Overland and they are one of the last companies that offer 100% interactive expeditions through Africa. We traveled from Cape Town to Cairo on their 17 week Nile Trans trip.

Plan your own adventure in Africa with Oasis Overland

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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5 thoughts on “Day in the Life of an Overland Trip through Africa”

  1. Thanks for the post and information- super helpful! My husband and I are likely joining the 56 days Nairobi–> Cape Town trip next July. I have done lots of camping/ backpacking and budget backpacker travel but this “day” still seems a little rough! Better to be mentally prepared though so thank you for the raw account. I was wondering if you had a recommendation for air mattress… I have a personal backing air inflated mat I could use but am worried about getting leaks then being screwed en route. There is also the old school carton type (less comfy but won’t break). Also, since there are two of us… maybe even an inflatable mattress for the two of us to be luxurious (then hand it off after this trip). What did others use/ say? Any recommendations? Thank you and travel on!

    • Hi Melody! No worries, just trying to keep it real. Overlanding is NOT glamourous by any means but it is a truly incredible way to experience Africa. For every long ‘day’ you get several once in a life time ones. I agree that having good mental preparation for a trip like this is key. 🙂 We had NEMO inflatable sleeping pads, the ones with the built in foot pumps and they were WONDERFUL. Never had any problems with them on our trip. If you check out this article: there is some information on some of the gear we had, including the sleeping mats. Others in our group had a variety of traditional camping mats- like the thinner foam roll outs which I don’t recommend for a trip like this and cheap blow up mattresses. The cheap mattresses did not hold up to daily use and required constant repairs or replacements. Happy planning!

  2. I loved this post! It’s really refreshing to read about all of the beauty long trips can hold, but all of the little inconveniences as well. Before a long trip, one never can account or prepare for all of them, and afterwards the memories that are most pronounced are the best ones, but in the moment having to wait because people are arguing over vegetables is a massive happening. I think this “day in the life” post did a great job captureing both the good, and the bad, of long-term, group, overland travel!

  3. Sounds off the beaten path! I was lucky to live in Africa for a few years as a young kid and have memories of camping trips at Lake Malawi. They had hippos and we’d hear them sometimes during the night. I think my parents we’re a bit crazy in hindsight.

    Africa is fantastic. But I don’t know if I could do it rough like what you’ve described – I like my comforts and 17 weeks of sleeping in the bush would get old. Sounds like a great adventure though.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Hi Frank! That was the beauty of the overland trip, there were times we got very off the beaten path. We had a nice mixture of bush camping and established campsites. Sometimes there were upgrades available, although we never paid for an upgrade in 17 weeks! I think it’s great that your parents gave you such adventures as a child, I didn’t leave my home country until I was 18.


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