History of Overlanding in Africa
Fancy yourself a bold adventurer? Overlanding is an inexpensive way to see Africa, as well as the most daring! It’s not just for anybody. It’s for the person who likes to rough it a bit, a person who doesn’t need luxurious 5-star hotels and waiters to have a hell of a lot of fun.
Overlanding focuses on Africa, on what this legendary continent has to offer. It puts the land and its people first, making sure you get an authentic experience.
But what exactly is overlanding and how does it differ from your regular safari? Every year a few hundred overland trucks cross the African continent on what has become one of the most popular and well established overland routes in the world between Kenya and the Cape or vice versa.
Each of these vehicles have between 20 to 30 excited, young at heart adventurers onboard. One of them could be you! Each vehicle also carries all the camping and cooking equipment necessary for a trip that can last from one to eight weeks.
The only difference between an overland trip and a private safari is price and style. Because you’re camping and your trip is in a large vehicle that’s capable of travelling long distances, you’re paying way less than if you would’ve opted for an expensive private safari that involves flights and luxury lodges.
One very important factor is the same, though and that is your wildlife experiences. Once you’re in one of the numerous national parks and reserves, it won’t matter whether you’re in a luxury vehicle or an overland truck, the animals you’re viewing don’t distinguish between the two. Everyone see's the same wildlife, and being in a truck that’s high and having 20 pairs of eyes around you, chances are you’ll be spotting the pride of lions a lot quicker than the average Joe in the luxury vehicle next to you
And, of course, there is the added excitement of sleeping out in a tent amongst the animals at night. Camping under the stars, cooking and washing up together, hiking, abseiling, diving, white-water rafting, and sharing the odd cold beer or ten may not add up to a luxury holiday, but it’s undoubtedly a way lot more fun!
Trips and When To Go
Where applicabel the pre-departure meetings usually go on for about one hour and give you a great opportunity to suss out your fellow travellers. These meetings cover a range of topics and important information that should put you at ease with how your trip will operate as well as ways for you to make your experience even better. We thus highly recommend you go to your pre-departure meeting, and if you can’t make it, let us know.Not all of the tours have pre-departure meetings please refer to your detailed itinerary or just ask us.
Classic Kenya to Cape
This tour goes in both directions and has become an alluring expedition for many travellers. It’s also the most accessible part of Africa.
Beginning in Nairobi (or Cape Town), this route crosses the continent diagonally through some extraordinary scenery until you reach the coast of South Africa, via Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.
Highlights include tracking gorillas, witnessing the Vic Falls, checking out the sand dunes and deserts of the ancient Namib, spotting the Big Five in the national parks and game reserves, and meeting lots of different cultures that include red-robed Masai warriors and warm-hearted Malawians.
If you can’t make up your mind to which country you’d like to go to, then your answer lies in multi-country tours. On some of these tours, distances covered can be over five thousand kilometres with 4 countries visited!
As long as you’re prepared for some long drives on certain days, you’ll love this tour.
Although the overland vehicles are well maintained and regularly serviced, the African roads may prove to be quite challenging at times, and sometimes cause temporary breakdowns. Don’t panic if this happens, because overland is well represented with good support throughout Southern and East Africa. So, good back-up systems are in place, and the driver guides have been mechanically trained.
Climate & weather conditions
Here’s a general indication of the weather. But we are aware that the weather is not in our control, which means that the rains can sometimes start earlier or finish later than predicted. Sometimes it just doesn’t rain!
But first of all, familiarise yourself with the exact weather conditions to be expected on your particular tour.
The most important advice we can give you on this, is to be prepared, because weather in Africa can be quite extreme. Prepared to get wet in rainy season, while in dry season, be ready to bake.
The African sun is unforgiving, especially in Namibia and Botswana. Don’t leave home without a factor 30 sunscreen and a hat.
You’ll basically boil from October until April, but during winter months, nights can be really cold, sometimes dropping down to freezing point! Luckily, the days will still be warm to hot and expect to go home with a Tan !
In Southern Africa, the short rains last from October to December. Its main rainy season begins in February and can last right until April.
In Central and East Africa the rainy season starts in December and ends around April.
Cape Town gets winter rainfall, while Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia experience low average rainfall. This usually occurs from October to March/April, which is during the summer months.
During these months, you can expect temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius in the desert regions of Namibia and Botswana. But during the winter months, the nights can be cold, sometimes dropping to below zero, while the days are warm to hot.
A lot of the accommodation on an overland tour is the only best way to stay over in Africa, which is camping! Here and there, such as in Swakopmund and Vic Falls, you’ll get the opportunity to upgrade to a dorm room. Your guide will also tell you where it will be possible to ugrade to accomodation while on a camping trip.You normally just need to pay in the difference between camping and the accommodation upgrade at the time of arrival.
The campsites in Africa are as basic they get, and it’ll feel very rustic camping under the stars. However, all campsites do have ablution blocks with hot or cold showers (sometimes cold only). Not all of them have flush toilets, though. Some have flush toilets, some don't.
Not all camps have electric points, so sometimes you’ll be in a camp where electric lights don’t light up the camp. This is a plus-point, as no African night sky is clearer and more star-ridden than the ones without any electricity! If there is electricity and you can play a bit of music, just bear in mind that noise levels will be influenced by how many other people are sharing the campsite with you.
There are some nights where you’ll bush camp. This means that you’ll not sleep over at a campsite, and that there’ll be no ablutions facilities. On these camps, you’ll only take along with you minimum requirements, which includes your tent.
Of course, you’ll always have the option to sleep right under the stars, and not in your tent. Just check with your guide if its safe to do so.....not recommended when surrounded by wild animals.
The tent you’ll be sleeping in is a 2-man tent, with mosquito nets over the windows and door area. You’ll share it with a fellow traveller of the same gender. You must have your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat. A small pillow is always great for that little extra comfort! Some of our business partners provide sleeping matts just check with us before you go.
Guides and Crew
Most of the overland tours include 3 crew members, namely your driver, trip leader and safari cook. Often the third member of on-board staff is undergoing training. All of them are English-speaking unless otherwise specified.
Driver & Cook
Your driver and cook are usually Kenyan, Zimbabwean, Namibian or South African, and have lots of experience which they enjoy sharing with you.
Your trip leader is usually either European , Australasian or South African , and will have had previous travel experience in Africa and/or the Middle East, either independently or as a passenger. He/She most probably worked in these regions for years and has "on the road" experience in organising and leading tours in developing countries.
His/her most important goal is to make sure your journey is as smooth and trouble-free as possible, so if you have any burning questions along the trip, don’t hesitate to share them with him/her.
Just remember, though, that your trip leader is not a tour guide in the normal sense, so you can’t expect him to be an expert on absolutely all aspects of culture, history and wildlife. If you do have a need for more in-depth information, there’re usually books on board the truck that you can check out.
A large part of the overland success is its guides. With their roots firmly in Africa, they’re motivated and passionate about their jobs. Having travelled the remotest parts of Africa in search of truly great experiences, they’re there as your interpreters of Africa.
Overland guides all undergo extensive training courses, lectures and field instruction on an ongoing basis. In addition, overland also contract the services of experts when necessary, such as specialist guides for the various activities you can take part in. For example, game rangers on walking safaris.
In this meeting your guides will brief you on the nature of your tour and what to expect. After that, he’ll usually have meetings with the group every evening to explain the next day’s options, programs and activities.
The real deal
Overland trips can sometimes be unpredictable because of health, security, or circumstances beyond our control, such as weather. So, sometimes there may come a time in the trip when alterations has to be made to the planned itinerary, and your trip leader will make the final decision on these alterations after he’s discussed the issue with the group. He’ll try and keep the group’s wishes in mind when making his decision, but on rare occasions unpopular decisions have to be made, and your guide will especially appreciate your patience and understanding during these times.
It’s quite common that if things happen that are out of control (weather), clients often hold guides responsible for these disasters. Please be fair, and remember that your guides are not personal servants, butlers or maids.
Although overland guides are trained and qualified for the work they do, remember they are still human. Due to their nature and duration, overland trips place enormous demands on the guides. Basically, your guides work 18 hours a day, week after week, and even though they do it because they love their job, this kind of schedule can become straining for anyone. So, please treat them with the utmost respect and decency.
This is a bunch of diverse individuals from all over the world, so expect all types, from your Indiana Jones to your Paris Hilton!
Ages for overland tours usually range from about 18-35, and there’s usually an equal balance of the sexes. They’re typically made up of adventurous, fun-loving, motivated individuals and couples of many nationalities who all have a sense of adventure and zest for life!
The downside is that you’ll most probably also meet some people that you don’t like very much, and this is where tolerance is the keyword.
The upside of travelling in a group is that it allows you to share the experience with like-minded fun-seekers! Also, it’s a cheaper and more secure way to explore an unfamiliar continent. And, of course, you’re bound to make a whole new bunch of friends!
Your safety and comfort is number one priority on overland trips. All of the adventure vehicles are custom built to suit the African terrain.
Some of the trucks are 4WD, which is very handy in certain parts of Africa. Others are two-wheel drive Mercedes Benz or MAN trucks, ideal for travelling in East and Southern Africa where the roads have good tarmac surfaces.
They all have large glass windows for game and scenery viewing, and when open, they give the feeling of being in an open vehicle.
Depending on which supplier we use, these vehicles can seat from 12 to 30 passengers. They have either all forward-facing seats or a combination of forward- and backward-facing seats with little tables in between.
Some of the trucks have a few side-facing seats right in the front of the truck, while the rest of the truck has forward-facing seats. Since bench seating often faces inwards, you can chat to your fellow travellers. However, this isn’t always very advantageous for game viewing and photography.
The seats are soft cushioned, which is a good thing, since you can sometimes spend up to 8 hours driving in the truck.
The big enclosed storage area of the vehicle holds the camping gear and luggage, with separate sections for the food. It also has a massive water tank and a fully equipped field kitchen, with fold down tables.
There are two safes on board. One’s for the passengers and one for the vehicle's documents. Long-range fuel and water tanks keep the vehicle self-sufficient during the trip.
In the case of smaller groups, smaller vehicles have to be used.
Every single overland vehicle is serviced and maintained at different workshop points throughout Africa.
Most trucks have a tape stereo on board, and via the use of a tape connector, CD players, MP3 players and ipods can all be connected.
Double departures and any tour travelling via Nairobi or Victoria Falls may have a truck and/or crew change.
Special care has been taken to make sure that there’s variety and quality in the cooking. Only fresh foods and veggies will be served, along with some local specialities of the country you’re travelling through. To make sure everyone comes back in one piece, the tour guides ensure that excellent hygiene standards are maintained at all times.
Vegetarians and most eating plans are catered for. Just tell us about it when you book.
The cook & equipment
Meals will be prepared by your safari cook, and cooking equipment is provided on all overland safaris. You’ll sometimes be asked to help out with the preparation and shopping of food. This can be great fun bargaining in the local markets, and it’s quite a social event helping out with the preparations.
All drinks come out of your own pocket. This includes beer, cool drinks, bottled water, local wine and spirits.
You can usually buy bottled water in most big towns.
Variety & stock
Availability of foods and fresh products are often limited in Africa, especially in the more remote areas. So, at times you might find yourself eating the same meal or ingredients again.
At the beginning of the trip, the vehicle will be well stocked with staple foods, and we try to maintain as much variety throughout the expedition as possible, by restocking from stores and markets along the way.
Just remember that you cannot merely help yourself to the food supplies on board without chatting to the cook first, because the menu for the tour has been carefully planned and budgeted.
As with everything, there is a budget, and food is no exception. The guides will do their best to provide you with great quality and variety, but buying gourmet foods at every shop will not always be possible!
The guides usually try to do at least one traditional meal during the trip, where they’ll prepare food from a particular region.
Food is cooked on gas stoves as well as open fires. In fact, you’ll be amazed what the guides can prepare on an open fire!
Typical meals will usually include:
- Tea/coffee & juice
- Pasta salads
- Rice salads
- Cold meats
- Sandwiches & rolls
- Soup & rolls/ bread
- BBQ's grilled or roasted chicken, steaks, fish, curries, pastas, stir fry's casseroles, stews, vegetables, jacket potatoes and your guide’s famous traditional African meals.
If you’re going on a Gorilla Trek, it’s a good idea to bring along your hiking boots, wet weather clothes and gloves (gardening gloves will do). If you wear contact lenses or glasses, we’d suggest you bring an extra pair. It’s really nice to sleep outside on warm nights, so make sure you pack a mosquito net and ground sheet.
Brightly coloured and white clothes are not suitable for game viewing.
Local Payment and Money Matters
All passengers contribute to the Local Payment for each of the overland safaris equally. The Local Payment amount has been calculated from our experience in running trips in and around Africa, and includes National Park entrance fees, excursions and activities, certain fresh foods, vehicle toll and entrance fees, as well as some accommodation costs whilst travelling throughout Africa. You must pay it in US dollars cash directly to your trip leader at the start of your trip. By structuring it this way, we’re able to keep the price you pay at a minimum, as it saves us significant administration costs.Some of the tours do not have a local payment.
Just double check the tour brochure for the excursions included in your safari and the ones that are at your own expense.Some of the overland tours have a all inclusive price which is a great option because then you dont have to bring so much cash with you.
Of course, you’ll have to budget for whatever personal spending habits you have. This includes smoking, drinking, buying souvenirs and optional excursions you may want to do. A lot of travel books would like you to believe that Africa is incredibly cheap, but this is not always the case. So, we recommend that you allow, in addition to the listed optional excursions in your itinerary , a figure of US$20 to US$30 per day.
Form of money
Make sure that your spending money is in both cash and travellers cheques - preferably in US dollars or pounds sterling, or both. Cash should be in a variety of denominations. If travelling to East Africa, make sure that your US dollar notes are post 2000 and that they’re not ripped or marked. You will, however attract a better exchange rate if you bringing higher denomination notes, such as 100/50.
The Rand is the best currency to have when you’re in South Africa and Namibia.
Tipping is obviously entirely at your own discretion, but an indication of what is generally given is:
• Driver/guides/couriers: USD 2 to 3 per day per person
• National Parks Guides/optional activities: USD 2 to 3 per person
• Bar staff/waiters: 10% of bill
You’ll find full banking facilities in the major towns and cities. Here you can change money and withdraw cash from a credit card. Visa and Master Card are preferences, and other cards may not be accepted.
• South Africa: Rand (R)
• Namibia: Namibian Dollar (N$)
• Botswana: Pula (BWP)
• Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Dollar (Z$)
• Zambia: Zambian Kwacha (ZKw)
• Malawi: Malawi Kwacha (Mwk)
• Mozambique: Metical (Mets)
• Tanzania: Tanzania Shilling (TSh)
• Kenya: Kenyan Shilling (Ksh)
Sometimes political or civil unrest and other circumstances beyond our control will mean the group having to make alternative travel plans. The safest thing to do is to bring emergency funds or have access to funds that you’re not planning to use. Most insurance policies refund only after you’ve paid out.
There are a few countries that may require that you pay an Airport Departure Tax when departing on international flights. ( Zambia , Zanzibar and Dar ES Salaam )
If you don’t want to share a room or tent with another person, then this is applicable.
Unfortunately we can't always guarantee single travellers the opportunity to share, because it all depends if there are other single travellers that want to share. If you are travelling on your own, ask for this information when booking. Of course, we will always do our very best to accommodate you!
Health and Safety
Before you join the trip, you’ll be required to complete and sign an Indemnity Form. This is also part of our booking terms and conditions. If you don’t want to sign the indemnity form, it will basically cost you your trip and a great overland experience.
Safety & well being
When you’re in the vehicle during transit, try not to move about unnecessarily, because you could fall and get hurt if it has to stop suddenly. Basically, you must sit down and try and stay like that while the vehicle is moving. Oh, and when standing, don’t bang your head!
Security of belongings
Don’t carry all of your money and valuables on you. Rather use the safe on the vehicle for money and passports, which is there for your convenience. Overland provides the safe in good faith, but cannot be held responsible if there are any losses or damages.
Rather leave unnecessary valuables at home, such as jewellery or expensive watches.
We also suggest that you photocopy all your travel documents including the first 4 pages of your passport and keep them aside from the originals.
Don’t leave any of your valuables lying around, and beware of pickpockets.
Avoid changing money on the black market at all times. If you do decide to play hardball, it’s at your own risk. If you’re planning to bring along something expensive on the trip, like your camera, we recommend that you take out comprehensive insurance.
Particularly at night and in African towns and markets, rather stick to walking in groups. If you’re hesitating whether you can walk by yourself or not, rather check with your guide.
Safety regarding the vehicle
If you’re the last person to leave the vehicle, you’ll be required to switch of all lights and shut the door. All the doors must be kept closed and locked at all times, because your and everyone else’s possessions are at risk.
Every truck has a buzzer, but this should be used with discretion. If you happen to buzz because you need the toilet or want to take a photo, and the driver doesn’t stop immediately, it means that it’s not yet safe to do so.
While on safari the vehicle should never ever be left unattended except when you are staying in a guarded campsite.
Malaria is common in most parts of Africa, so it’s your responsibility to take anti-malaria tablets and other preventative measures. Your doctor will know the correct prophylaxis for the countries to be visited.
It’s also quite a good idea to avoid being bitten by using insect repellent containing DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers at night. Also, keep the tent’s mosquito nets closed at all times.
For more information on malaria, check out www.travelclinic.co.za.
Illnesses & Diseases
AIDS is a massive problem in Africa, and HIV estimates range between 20% and 50% of the population, with some areas being even higher. So, basically, please be careful and practical! Fortunately, condoms are cheap and freely available.
If you’re not feeling to well on the trip, even if it doesn’t feel that serious, please tell your tour leader, as he may need to make plans for you to get to medical assistance promptly. It’s common to start feeling sick within the first two weeks
of travelling, but to be safe, always tell your guides.
If you have any medical conditions or take any prescription drugs, you have to let us know. This is also especially important if your medication has to be kept at a certain temperature. This includes conditions, such as diabetes or asthma. This is important, because sometimes you’ll be 300km or more away from the nearest medical assistance.
For emergencies only, there’s a full First-Aid kit on board. The guides will not use it as a dispensary, so we suggest you also take your own, personal medical kit with you. All of the guides are qualified in First-Aid.
Personal hygiene is very important on tour, because you’re travelling with lots of other people in a truck in warm to hot climates. So, please be considerate and attentive to your personal cleanliness.
It’s quite a common occurrence on overland tours for some people in the group to have traveller’s diarrhoea at some stage of the trip. This is generally not serious, usually being the reaction to the water, food and anti-malarial tablets. But it’s also often the result of a lack of attention to basic hygiene. If you suffer from this at any stage, please let your guide know about it immediately.
When washing dishes and cutlery, make sure you do it thoroughly, because this is the quickest way for the whole group to fall ill. Anti-bacterial washing up liquid is provided on the tour, so go mad with it! An anti-bacterial soap is supplied for the washing of hands, so try and use that also as much as you can, especially before meals.
All fresh foods used on the trip are sanitised with a sterile solution.
One of the most common ailments on overland tours is dehydration. You must make sure that you drink a minimum of 3 litres of water per day, and even more over the hot summer months. In general, the water on the route is drinkable, but your guides will tell you when to stay away from the local water.
For emergency use, there is a 200-litre water tank on the truck. If you don’t like the taste of the local water, there is juice concentrate on the truck that you can mix with the water.
Mineral water available in most places, but this can be quite pricy.
Visas & Passports, Vaccinations
Visa requirements vary significantly depending on the trip and your nationality. That’s why it’s safer that it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’ve got the right visa and paperwork for your trip. Go to www.projectvisa.com and check it out.
Tour operators cannot be held responsible if a country doesn’t let you in because of visa problems.
While on tour, keep a little extra $US cash aside for visas, because sometimes requirements change while you’re on safari.
Your passport should still be valid for at least 6 months after the end of your safari. It’s a good idea to make sure beforehand that you have at least one blank page for each country to be visited, because if your passport is almost full, you may find yourself unable to complete the tour!
We suggest you pack a certified photocopy of your passport just in case you lose the original. Give this copy to your guides.
On the night before you leave your hotel, make sure you’ve taken out your own passport from your hotel safe.
Chat to your doctor or an immunisation centre about the relevant vaccination requirements for the countries to which you will be travelling. We do suggest you get a Yellow Fever vaccination, because it’s compulsory for most African countries anyway. For extra safety while travelling African countries, we recommend vaccinations for typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis, meningitis, and cholera.
Like with your passport, make a certified copy of your certificate, and give it to your guides, because you never know if the original might get feet.
You must have adequate medical insurance if you want to book an overland tour. Before we can allow you on the trip, we’ll require the details of your insurance policy for our records.
In the case of credit card insurance, please check the small print, because your insurance must cover you in the instance that you need to be airlifted to a hospital. Sometimes, just for a simple problem, you may have to be airlifted to South Africa, because many public hospitals in Africa are below western standards.
In a lot of cases, many insurance policies do not cover adrenaline sports, such as bungee jumping, so just check this before you book the activity.
What to Pack
The most important thing to pack is good, common sense. Without that, you could get a little lost!
Try and use old or inexpensive luggage, because it’ll most probably get full of dust and branches and things.
The limit for your luggage is 1 backpack and 1 daypack weighing no more than 20kg, and preferably without a frame. As a guide, try lifting your own luggage. If you can’t, you’ve most probably over-packed. If your luggage does exceed specified weight limit, it won’t be loaded into the vehicle, and will be stored, sometimes at an extra cost.
Don’t even think about lugging a suitcase along, because this is the most unsuitable thing for an overland trip. Your bag on wheels is going to prove pretty useless when trying to drag it from the truck to your tent/chalet through the sand.
Take along some comfortable, casual and semi-casual “wash & wear” clothes. Please also avoid clothes that resemble an army uniform. This includes army jackets, caps and pants.
Your clothes should be wash-, dry- and iron-friendly. Iron-friendly means that it doesn’t need ironing. Also, avoid nylon and other synthetics, because they can get really uncomfortable in hot weather.
Too many people underestimate how cold Africa can get, so pack that jersey/jacket! Even though there will also be warm nights, you’d still need to cover your arms and legs so that the mozzies don’t bite.
For the occasional evening out in a restaurant or club, pack a set of casual but smart clothes or club.
Sleeping bag & toiletries
We suggest you take your sleeping bag and toiletries on board with you on the plane, because if they do get lost, it can be quite difficult to replace them in Africa.
Here’s a suggested list of what to pack:
- 2 long-sleeved shirts/blouses
- 3-4 short-sleeved shirts/t-shirts
- 2 pairs of trousers/1 pair & 1 skirt
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- Tracksuit pants
- Heavy sweater
- Light sweater
- Water/windproof jacket
- Set of smart clothes & shoes
- Watch (inexpensive)
- Spectacles (if applicable) – some people get problems with contact lenses & dust
- Sunglasses (inexpensive)
- Bath soap
- Shampoo & hair conditioner
- Comb/hair brush
- Razor & blades (preferable battery-operated shaver)
- Suntan lotion/sunblock
- Lip balm
- Hand cream & moisturising cream
- Insect repellent
- Tissues/disposable moist tissues (such as Wet Ones)
- 1 small daypack (will be allowed inside safari vehicle)
- Camera with lots of extra film & batteries
- Water bottle
- Torch/head torch with spare batteries
- Small sewing kit
- Washing powder
- Plastic bags (to pack wet/dirty clothes)
- Clothes line & pegs
- Small scrubbing brush
- Sleeping bag, sleep sheet & roll mat
- Army knife
- Music (overland vehicles are equipped with stereos)
- 1 waist pouch/money belt
- 1 litre water bottle (essential)
- Pen for immigration formalities
- Money & traveller's cheques
- Vaccination certificates (plus certified copy)
- Passport (plus certified copy)
Personal Medical-Aid Kit
- Anti-diarrhoea pills
- Throat lozenges
- Antiseptic cream
- Anti-malaria tablets
- Fungal infection powder
- Rehydration powder
- Eye drops
Any other medicines & toiletries you regularly use
The most important thing you need to remember before going on a photo spree on your trip, is that in Africa, it’s considered a very serious offence if you take any photos of government buildings, bridges, and border/control posts anywhere along the route. If you are in any doubt, just ask your guide.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we’d like to give you a few pointers on getting all happy snappy in Africa. Naturally, there are loads of opportunities for photography in Africa. Film can be quite expensive in many of the African countries, so we suggest that you bring a bunch of rolls from home. Remember some spare batteries as well. A 100asa film is generally the most suitable.
If you see a photo opportunity, just ask your guide to stop. Specifically for these opportunities, hell stop at panoramic viewpoints along the route.
For the gorillas, you’ll need a fast film, because you’ll find most of these creatures deep in the forest. Some experts suggest 1600 ASA film, but this could be too fast, and in the past 200-400 ASA film has been proved adequate in most cases.
But to be safe, we recommended you bring an 800 ASA, just in case conditions prove a bit dark, because no flash photography is allowed whilst viewing the gorillas. Also, bring a re-sealable polythene bag so that the dust can stay off your equipment.
Video photography is also an option. Batteries can be recharged at some of the campsites you’ll visit, but rather bring spares. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to provide the necessary connections and adaptors.
In some countries, taking photos of people can sometimes cause great offence. So, rather ask permission before you snap away. It just makes sense, as we are guests in the countries we visit, and have to respect local customs and feelings.
Certain tribes in Southern and Central Africa don’t allow their picture to be taken at all. The best way to make sure you don’t step over the line is to double-check with your guide before visiting a tribe or village. In some cases, it’s quite normal to pay a small fee to take photos of some local people.
If you are travelling in endemic areas it is extremely important to avoid mosquito bites and to take tablets to prevent this disease. Symptoms range from fever, chills and sweating, headache, diarrhoea and abdominal pains to a vague feeling of ill-health. Seek medical help immediately if malaria is suspected. Without treatment malaria can rapidly become more serious and can be fatal. If medical care is not available, malaria tablets can be used for treatment. You should seek medical advice, before you travel, on the right medication and dosage for you.
If you do contract malaria, be sure to be re-tested for malaria once you return home as you can harbour malaria parasites in your body even if you are symptom free.
Travellers are advised to prevent mosquito bites at all times. The main messages are: wear light-coloured clothing; wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts; use mosquito repellents containing the compound DEET on exposed areas (prolonged overuse of DEET may be harmful, especially to children, but its use is considered preferable to being bitten by disease-transmitting mosquitoes); avoid perfumes and aftershave; use a mosquito net impregnated with mosquito repellent (permethrin) - it may be worth taking your own, and impregnating clothes with permethrin effectively deters mosquitoes and other insects.
This diarrhoeal disease can cause rapid dehydration and death. Cholera is caused by a bacteria, Vibrio cholerae. It's transmitted from person to person by direct contact (often via healthy carriers of the disease) or via contaminated food and water. It can be spread by seafood, including crustaceans and shellfish, which get infected via sewage.
Cholera exists where standards of environmental and personal hygiene are low. Every so often there are massive epidemics, usually due to contaminated water in conditions where there is a breakdown of the normal infrastructure.
The time between becoming infected and symptoms appearing is usually short, between one and five days. The diarrhoea starts suddenly, and pours out of you. It's characteristically described as 'ricewater' diarrhoea because it is watery and flecked with white mucus. Vomiting and muscle cramps are usual, but fever is rare. In its most serious form, it causes a massive outpouring of fluid (up to 20L a day). This is the worst case scenario - only about one in 10 sufferers get this severe form.
It's a self-limiting illness, meaning that if you don't succumb to dehydration, it will end in about a week without any treatment.
You should seek medical help urgently; in the meantime, start re-hydration therapy with oral re-hydration salts. You may need antibiotic treatment with tetracycline, but fluid replacement is the single most important treatment strategy in cholera.
Prevention is by taking basic food and water precautions, avoiding seafood and having scrupulous personal hygiene. The currently available vaccine is not thought worthwhile as it provides only limited protection for a short time.
Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted. The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-coloured faeces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
There are 6 known types of viral hepatitis:A, B, C, D, E and G. G is not dangerous. A and E are passed on by the fecal-oral route of transmission; there is a vaccine. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. A and E cause an acute illness, but you will recover fully from it.
B and D are passed on via blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. They can be passed on by close contact, sexual contact, and blood-to-blood contact. The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. There is a vaccine.
Hepatitis C is only passed on from blood-to-blood contact. There is no vaccine.
Also known as enteric fever, typhoid is transmitted via food and water, and symptomless carriers, especially when they're working as food handlers, are an important source of infection. Typhoid is caused by a type of salmonella bacteria, Salmonella typhi. Paratyphoid is a similar but milder disease.
The symptoms are variable, but you almost always get a fever and headache to start with, which initially feels very similar to flu, with aches and pains, loss of appetite and general malaise. Typhoid may be confused with malaria. The fever gradually rises during a week. Characteristically your pulse is relatively slow for someone with a fever. Other symptoms you may have are constipation or diarrhoea and stomach pains.
You may feel worse in the second week, with a constant fever and sometimes a red skin rash. Other symptoms you may have are severe headache, sore throat and jaundice. Serious complications occur in about one in 10 cases, including, most commonly, damage to the gut wall with subsequent leakage of the gut contents into the abdominal cavity.
Seek medical help for any fever (38°C and higher) that does not improve after 48 hours. Typhoid is a serious disease and is not something you should consider self-treating.
Re-hydration therapy is important if diarrhoea has been a feature of the illness, but antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment.
HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) develops into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a fatal disease. Any exposure to blood, blood products or body fluids may put the individual at risk. The disease is often transmitted through sexual contact or dirty needles - body piercing, acupuncture, tattooing and vaccinations can be potentially as dangerous as intravenous drug use. HIV and AIDS can also be spread via infected blood transfusions, but blood supplies in most reputable hospitals are now screened, so the risk from transfusions is low. If you do need an injection, ask to see the syringe unwrapped in front of you, or take a needle and syringe pack with you. Fear of HIV infection should not preclude treatment for any serious medical conditions. Most countries have organizations and services for HIV-positive folks and people with AIDS. For a list of organizations divided by country, plus descriptions of their services, see www.aidsmap.com.
Yellow fever is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever, so if you have been immunised, you can basically rule this disease out. Symptoms of yellow fever range from a mild fever which resolves over a few days to more serious forms with fever, headache, muscle pains, abdominal pain and vomiting. This can progress to bleeding, shock and liver and kidney failure. The liver failure causes jaundice, or yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes - hence the name.
There's no specific treatment but you should seek medical help urgently if you think you have yellow fever.
Also known as bilharzia, this disease is carried in freshwater by tiny worms that enter through the skin and attach themselves to the intestines or bladder. The first symptom may be tingling and sometimes a light rash around the area where the worm entered. Weeks later, a high fever may develop. A general unwell feeling may be the first symptom, or there may be no symptoms. Once the disease is established, abdominal pain and blood in the urine are other signs. The infection often causes no symptoms until the disease is well established (several months to years after exposure), and damage to internal organs is irreversible.
Avoid swimming or bathing in freshwater where bilharzia is present. Even deep water can be infected. If you do get wet, dry off quickly and dry your clothes as well. A blood test is the most reliable test, but it will not show positive until a number of weeks after exposure.
Not every headache is likely to be meningitis. There is an effective vaccine available which is often recommended for travel to epidemic areas. Generally, you're at pretty low risk of getting meningococcal meningitis, unless an epidemic is ongoing, but the disease is important because it can be very serious and rapidly fatal. You get infected by breathing in droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by sufferers or, more likely, by healthy carriers of the bacteria. You're more at risk in crowded, poorly ventilated places, including public transport and eating places. The symptoms of meningitis are fever, severe headache, neck stiffness that prevents you from bending your head forward, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, which makes you prefer the darkness. With meningococcal meningitis, you may get a widespread, blotchy purple rash before any other symptoms appear. Meningococcal meningitis is an extremely serious disease that can cause death within a few hours of you first feeling unwell. Seek medical help without delay if you have any of the symptoms listed earlier, especially if you are in a risk area. If you've been in close contact with a sufferer it's best to seek medical advice.
‘Not every headache can be meningitis could have been from the local beer.’
Found in all of Africa. Rabies is spread by receiving the bites or licks of an infected animal on broken skin. It is always fatal once the clinical symptoms start (which might be up to several months after an infected bite), so postbite vaccination should be given as soon as possible. Postbite vaccination (whether or not you've been vaccinated before the bite) prevents the virus from spreading to the central nervous system. Animal handlers should be vaccinated, as should those travelling to remote areas where a reliable source of postbite vaccine is not available within 24 hours. Three preventive injections are needed over a month. If you have not been vaccinated you will need a course of five injections starting 24 hours or as soon as possible after the injury. If you have been vaccinated, you will need fewer postbite injections, and have more time to seek medical help. Self-treatment: none.
Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted. The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-coloured faeces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes. Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated food and drinking water. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. Hepatitis E is transmitted in the same way as hepatitis A; it can be particularly serious in pregnant women.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, blood products or body fluids, for example through sexual contact, unsterilised needles (and shaving equipment) and blood transfusions, or contact with blood via small breaks in the skin. The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. Hepatitis C and D are spread in the same way as hepatitis B and can also lead to long-term complications.
There are vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there are currently no vaccines against the other types. Following the basic rules about food and water (hepatitis A and E) and avoiding risk situations (hepatitis B, C and D) are important preventative measures.