Written by Rhonda Delamater
Africa is about adventure. It’s about stepping outside your comfort zone and finding your authentic self behind the wheel of a 4×4 or the handlebars of your Touring bike. That part of you that feels trapped away behind your desk, the part of you that’s slowly been boxed in by silly things like… the civilisation of man.
Africa, on the other hand, is for the adventurers, it’s for the dreamers. While opportunities for adventure abound throughout the continent, one perfect way to fully embrace this special place is to take a road trip. Either as a guided expedition or a self-driven experience.
With 54 countries featuring amazing diversity the choices can seem daunting. Here are some of our favorite African road trip ideas and some advice for creating the best road trip through Africa.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst.
If you are looking to travel through the rugged, vast and desolate areas of Africa it is critical to pick the right vehicle for your terrain. While finding a cheap 4×4 may get you from A to B in the densely populated and easy to navigate roads of South Africa, if you are looking for a more adventurous vacation through rural Africa, pick a vehicle which you are comfortable to repair on your own or that will have easy access to spare parts. Think 1980’s Discovery or similar. Vere away from any vehicles which require electrical repairs because local mechanics tend not to have the equipment to make these repairs which could leave you waiting for tow vehicles to fetch you – not fun.
It’s almost a given but think carefully when packing your vehicle. If you are traveling through rural Africa, always pack enough food and water to sustain you in the case of a lengthy break down. Choosing a vehicle with a rooftop tent if you plan on camping is a good backup to get out the way of the local wildlife while you sleep. If this does not sound like your cup of tea, read our journal on glamping in Africa.
Insurance. Have it. Check it. Double check it. If you are hiring a vehicle or even using your own, having a comprehensive insurance could be a life, and bank account saver. Check through your travel insurance as some providers will cover you for damage to vehicles while others will charge an excessive premium, but this is always preferable to the expense of repairs or breakdown in the bush. If you’re unsure, chat to our Adventurists and make sure you’re comfortable with your provider before starting the engine.
Casablanca. Marrakesh. The Atlas Mountains. Morocco is the stuff that dreams are made of. From the golden sand beaches of the Atlantic coast to the upper reaches of the Atlas Mountains and everything in between, Morocco screams adventure. Get lost in the endlessly winding paths of the grand souks of cities such as Fez and Marrakesh. Take a camel safari and sleep under the stars with only goats for company high in the dunes of the great Sahara. These memories will stay with you and your mates forever.
You could easily plan half a dozen road trips just in this electric country. Long known as one of the “it” spots for travellers to the continent, South Africa has everything that a would be adventurer would need for the experience of a lifetime: incredible wildlife, world class beaches, some of the top wine farms in the world, running, mountain biking, off road motorcycling trails that anyone would be lucky to explore and much more. With a more advanced infrastructure than many countries in Africa, South Africa remains a top pick for road trip ideas to indulge your need for adventure with your desire for comfort at the end of the day.
Undoubtedly the most famous Road trip of South Africa is the Garden Route, ranging from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River. The Garden Route is a vibrant route which is one adventure after the other. From whale watching along the shore to the Cape wine Route 62, each destination has its own history and hidden secrets. Must do areas include the Klein Karoo, Hermanus and Knysna.
Here it is all about the wildlife. A self-drive trip is a breeze and the joy of flitting from one game park to the next is an experience unmatched. One of the real pluses of taking on a road trip in Botswana is the freedom to explore sightings and parks at your own pace. When you’re behind the wheel you make the decisions, some of our favourite memories are those where we came across an excellent sighting of leopard or elephant, switched off the motor, opened a bottle of something special and just sat there for an hour or two.
• You absolutely cannot miss the chance to camp on the Makgadikgadi Pan. The Makgadikgadi Salt pans is the size of Portugal and this unique part of the Kalahari Basin provides you with a variety of wildlife along its desolate terrain.
• If you drive from Maun to the Delta, visit one of the local lodges and request a transfer into the Okavango delta. Spend two nights in the Delta to get the most of your experience. Rory enjoyed fishing for the endemic fish the African Pike for catch and release.
• If you are an avid bird lover you will enjoy a Private tour of the Nata Bird Sanctuary where you can see an abundance of birdlife including the lesser and greater flamingo’s amongst 165 other bird species.
• Visit the salt pans in November/ December or March/ April to witness the incredible Zebra Migration.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include Tanzania to the list of road trip ideas. This fascinating country features amazing Masai culture, remarkable wildlife viewing, and stunning beaches bordering the Indian Ocean. Ngorongoro Crater sits deep in the valley and features the Big 5 along with a host wildlife from pink flamingos to the ever present warthogs. The crater is unique in all of Africa. After your road trip ferry to the spice island of Zanzibar to be charmed anew by the ancient history and tales from the past.