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Introduction to Overlanding

Overlanding through the bumpy roads of Africa has been a form of tourism for many years. The overall concept is simple although it has evolved commercially over the years. Basically, a group of people with a common travel goal, find a tough old vehicle, usually a custom built large diesel truck, and then load it with people who split the cost of fuel and divide the tasks between cooking, cleaning and setting up camp. The group usually heads out into the bush with a knowledgeable guide, in search of animals, villages, tribes, amazing landscapes, or just to search for adventure.

Much like a safari, which literally means, “journey” in Swahili, overland trips usually run anywhere from a few days to a whole year. Usually trips run from about 2 weeks to 6 months and can run the whole length of Africa from Morocco to Cape Town. More often than not, typical trips run between Kenya and South Africa, or South Africa and many of the countries that surround it.

Over the years, the sport of overlanding has evolved and has grown in terms of luxury, accommodations, services and types of trips. Today you can find extravagant overland tours that mechanically transform the overland rig and allow customers to sleep comfortably inside. Some have unique positions for the traveler to view the road ahead, while others have comfortable open tops to let you enjoy the warm African breeze. Some go into national parks, and others avoid them altogether searching for unique off-the beaten path location.

Since most travelers have a set amount of time for their trips, a number of different types of overland trips have evolved. It used to be that people going on overland trips had to be flexible because, as anyone who has traveled in Africa will tell you, you need to have an open mind, and not always know what is going to happen at the end of the day. Given a that people can’t always be adaptable, there are more and more structured trips that stay on main routes, while others truly travel off into the bush.

With these trips, comes a community of people, forced to live, sit, sleep, shit and eat with each other for many hours per day, and sometimes for weeks and months on end. As anyone can imagine, in addition to the difficulty of traveling in Africa, tempers will flare, emotions can run high, and group dynamics can go sour. Fortunately, a number of overland companies have started to classify their trips into certain styles of trips that cater to various types of people. Nowadays there are luxury trips, trips for backpackers, singles, over 30, children, animal lovers, adventure junkies and cheapskates – the list continues.

An everlasting debate among the overland circles is whether overlanding has lost its value and really just built a safe controlled environment for the tourist to take pictures and stare at the Africans, with little or no true interaction, like it was in the good old days. On one hand, it’s great for travelers to see Africa, even if it’s from behind an air-conditioned vehicle. At the least, they are getting to see, understand and hopefully understand that a greater majority of Africa needs some help. On the opposing curb, critics argue that these impressive overland trucks come through their community, with tourist paying thousands of dollars and little money trickles down to the local community.

The choice is ultimately yours, but overall an overland trip in Africa is well worth it.