An African overland tour is the ultimate way to disconnect from the humdrum of everyday life and get your boots dirty. And, there’s hardly a better place to get lost than East Africa. It’s the land of great escapes.
The orange sunsets, untamed wildlife, captivating cultures, and endless savannahs make you feel as though you’re at the end of the world.
Experiencing the Serengeti’s thundering migration, trekking with the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, and observing the lion prides of the Maasai Mara are all staple items on an East African tour. While they’re undeniably incredible, there are so many adventures and sights in the region that intrepid tourists shouldn’t miss. In fact, you could spend your entire life on the road and still not get to experience all that it has to offer.
But worry not my fellow explorer! We’ve rounded up a list of the regions most underrated gems to experience while you’re on your African overland tour.
Kenya Bucket List
Kenya is one of the world’s wildlife safari heavyweights. It’s the land of of wildebeest migration in their millions with the great predators of Africa hot on their hooves. It’s the home of some of Africa’s best known people – the Maasai, Rendille and Samburu. In short, it’s the perfect place to answer the great call of the wild.
On a Kenya Safari tour you will explore some of the world’s last great wildernesses. The world-famous Masai Mara National Park, Lake Nakuru, and Amboseli National Park are all prime safari destinations. But, there’s more to Kenya to explore in Kenya than game viewing from a 4X4.
So if you want to go off the beaten tourist track here are a few must see attractions:
1. Visit Lake Turkana
Think ‘conservation’ and images of endangered wildlife are sure to spring to mind. But it’s not just Kenya’s amazing wildlife that’s in need of conservation. Located in northwestern Kenya, Lake Turkana is the the largest desert lake in the world and a conservation hotspot.
Sitting in the shadows of the country’s main safari hotspots, these saline waters are the breeding grounds for a plethora of unique wildlife. From Nile Crocodiles to hippos and migratory birds, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity. Plus, it’s also a possible site of mankind’s birth, hosting the fossil deposits at Koobi Fora.
2. Take a trip to Hells Kitchen
This strange sandstone canyon is one of Kenya’s best kept secrets. Known as the “place broken by itself” was once a great sandstone ridge worn by wind, rain, and floods into a series of jagged gorges.
Legend has it, there was once a small town located in the gorge. One day all of the town’s people had a vision telling them that a miracle was coming and that they had to leave. Everyone moved except one old woman who refused to leave. The abandoned town then supposedly vanished – with the remaining woman still inside – leaving the Marafa Depression in its place.
3. Dine in a cave
Kenya is home to an astounding array of rarities. While on your travels you’ll have the opportunity to spot endangered animals, discover ancient fossils, and watch wildlife spectacles unseen anywhere else on Earth. If you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting then how about dining in an ancient coral cave?
Set in a 180,000 years old cave on Diani beach, this quirky restaurant definitely warrants a visit. Although the cuisine is international, the freshly caught seafood and barely-touched coral interior pulls guests back into a historic era.
4. Revel in the chaos of Mombasa
When people think of overlanding in Africa they hardly imagine exploring bustling cities. But, to skip out on discovering Mombasa will be a huge mistake. This ancient city is one of the country’s oldest and a melting pot of languages and cultures.
With a blend of Indian, Arabian, and African influences, this chaotic port is intoxicating and packed full of adventure. The UNESCO-listed Old Fort Museum is definitely the highlight attraction in this ancient city, but there is much more. From old world towns to festive carnivals, and aromatic spice markets, you won’t be left wanting.
5. Whitewater rafting on Tana River
If watching lions stalk their prey is not enough of a rush for you then whitewater rafting on the Tana River is sure to get your blood pumping. This epic rafting spot in Kenya boasts powerful rapids and spectacular white water.
The river provides whitewater rafting lovers with Class II to Class V rapids, as well as stretches of calm drifts where you can catch your breath and check out the incredible scenery. You will also see crocodiles and hippos, among other game, as you drift along.
Kenya Tours for the Adventure of a Lifetime:
Starts & Ends
Starts: Nairobi Ends: Cape Town
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya
Starts & Ends
Starts: Nairobi Ends: Victoria Falls
An awe-inspiring blend of palm-fringed beaches, snow-dusted mountains, sweeping savannahs, and an abundance of wildlife to boot - this rugged tour puts you in the heart of the world’s safari mecca. Spot the big five in the fabled Serengeti, track black rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater, and breathe in the exotic aromas of the spice capital. You’ll think it can’t get any better until you hear the heart-pumping roar of Victoria Falls. Now this is the tour you’ve been dreaming of.
Tanzania Bucket List
A Tanzania safari tour is the Africa of storybooks. Amazing wildlife, white sand beaches, the vast Serengeti, and Mt Kilimanjaro. Tanzania has all of these and more in one adventurous country.
Throughout the country there are unparalleled opportunities to experience the region’s natural wealth. Though going on a great migration safari in Tanzania is one HUGE bucket list check, there are also a number of mini checks you should not miss out on.
1. Go swimming in Kuza Cave
Okay, so it’s not in Tanzania per say, but Zanzibar is close enough to be included here. And, these remarkably pristine pools are just too good to be left out.
Hidden away in the lush Jambiani area, Kuza Cave is a geological formation with a long, fascinating history. The cave has long been a sacred space for local people. For thousands of years, they’ve journeyed to this spot within the Earth’s underbelly to hold ceremonies and pray.
2. Explore Dar es Salaam
From a sleepy fishing village to eclectic metropolis, Dar is one of my favorite cities in East Africa – despite it’s infamous traffic. This former capital city is the hub of Tanzania and is abound with things to do.
Many travelers simply pass through the city completely; those that stay are rewarded with bustling markets, delicious local cuisine, and the city’s eclectic cultural mix.
3. Swim with whale sharks
It’s not just Tanzania’s national parks that are brimming with wildlife. Located in Tanzania’s beautiful southern circuit, among East Africa’s popular islands is Mafia Island. While many flock to Zanzibar, this barely-touched tropical island beckons with the ultimate water based adventure.
Snorkelling with whale sharks is a marine safari you will never forget. These gentle creatures are the biggest fish in the world (they are not sharks) and it is perfectly safe to swim with them. For those who prefer deeper waters, Mafia Island is well known for the breathtaking scuba diving in its marine park and deep sea fishing near the Rufiji River.
4. Go on a Spice Tour
After your overland tour in Tanzania, add on a few extra days and make sure you explore Zanzibar. And, while you’re here be sure to go on a spice tour. Back in the 19th century, this tropical island was one of the world’s leading producers of spices, such as clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
On the tour, you will be smelling and tasting the spices that Portuguese traders brought to island back in the 16th century. Today, the legendary spices of Zanzibar have made their mark on island’s tasty cuisine. So much so that food served in Zanzibar has a remarkable and distinctive taste that is almost impossible to find anywhere else in the world.
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5. Eat out in Stone Town
Speaking of remarkable food; there’s no better place to feast on local cuisine than in Stone Town. The Forodhani Gardens food market is, without a doubt, my favorite place in Zanzibar city because it serves up the most mouthwatering food.
Set right on the seafront of the city, this dizzying market is an al fresco banquet. My suggestion is to skip the fish kebabs and look out for local delicacies such as Urojo (soup with potato balls), chipsi mayai (Omelette with French fries), pilau (spiced rice), and cow soup (local breakfast).
Amazing Tanzania Tours for your African Adventure:
Starts & Ends
Starts: Dar es Salaam Ends: Cape Town
Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa
Powdery beaches backed by massive baobabs, the billowing sails of wooden dhows, electric blue waters teeming with rainbow clouds of tropical fish - this isn't a dream, it’s day one of your adventure and it only gets better from here. This paradise-inspired trip hits all the spots, taking you from the go-slow island vibe of Zanzibar to the slick cosmopolitan feel of Cape Town. Top it off with open-top safaris in Chobe and wilderness excursions in Okavango. Now, this is how you travel Africa.
Starts & Ends
Starts: Dar es Salaam Ends: Pretoria
Discover where the wild things really are on this eye-opening trip across the mother land. This 22 day African adventure puts you up close and personal with some of the continent’s most prized highlights. From Zanzibar’s exotic Spice Route to the shimmering mass of Lake Malawi, the heart-pounding roar of Victoria Falls, and the golden bushveld of the Kruger Park - you're sure to tick off numerous items from that travel bucket list.
Starts & Ends
Starts: Nairobi Ends: Dar es Salaam
With showpiece attractions by the likes of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro, East Africa is story-book Africa. This whirlwind adventure sees you living out your wildest dreams with open-top game drives through vast plains and eye-opening Masaai village tours. After getting your fill of wildlife and local living, dust off your boots and soak up the African sun on the powdery-white beaches of Zanzibar. Now this is a dream come true.
Uganda Bucket List
With its dense misty forests, snow-peaked mountains, and sprawling savannas, it’s no wonder Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the ‘pearl of Africa’. A safari in Uganda can go from game drives in Murchison Falls to spying baby gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and sunset cruises on the Nile.
These are the quintessential Ugandan experiences to have but the thrills don’t end there. The trick is not to rush. This pint sized country is chock full of adventure by the bucketload. So when you’re planning your overland itinerary, here are five unmissable Ugandan experiences – and where to find them.
1. White-water raft on the Nile
Most people know that the Nile River is the largest in the world, but did you know that it begins in Uganda? When you are in the area of the Murchison Falls National Park, you will be near the town of Jinja where the mighty Nile starts.
Uganda’s adrenaline capital is home to some of the world’s finest grade 5 white water rafting and other adventure activities. The volume of water creates some intense rapids which are a drawcard for thrill seekers. But, when you’re ready to bring down your heart rate, nothing can compare to floating along the Nile while taking in the landscape and enjoying the nature.
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2. Get your boots dirty on the Rwenzori Mountains
Those who prefer fresh mountain air over gushing rapids won’t be left wanting either. Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains are home to six of Africa’s 10 tallest mountains. While most travelers bypass these peaks in favor of Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro, this national park is Uganda’s best kept secret.
In fact it’s so under the radar that Rwenzori barely breaks 1,000 hikers a year. But don’t let the small number of hikers fool you into thinking this is an easy trek. Rwenzori is roughly 120km long and 65km wide with six main massifs. The tallest being mount Stanley with two lofty peaks; Margherita (5,109m) and Alexandra (5,083m).
3. Go Zip lining in Griffin Falls
If you thought Uganda could not get any more action packed then think again. The Mabira forest is primed for exhilarating things to do. From guided hikes to nature walks, and even mountain biking, this lively forest has it all. Including, a network of 5 zip-lines that stretches 250 metres across River Musamya.
If you ever wanted to get in touch with your inner Tarzan, then this is the place! In addition to the thrills, your lofty vantage point affords epic wildlife viewing of unique animals such as grey cheeked mangabeys and red tailed monkeys.
Uganda Adventure Tours in Africa:
Starts & Ends
Starts: Victoria Falls Ends: Nairobi
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda
Victoria Falls to Gorillas / Uganda Adventure travels up from Southern Africa seeing all the wildlife and culture in between Zambia and Uganda. The trip gives you an opportunity to visit the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda is one of the most established combination tours that we offer.
Starts & Ends
Starts: Nairobi Ends: Nairobi
Channel your inner Diane Fossey and prep your social media account for a wave of envy-inducing animal encounters. Nature looms large on this eye-opening tour that sees you tracking the world's most endangered ape through misty mountains, feeling the quiet anticipation of predators stalking prey, and watching the immense red sun setting behind a flat-topped acacia somewhere out on the African savannah. A close encounter with East Africa’s natural beauty is not soon forgotten.
Starts & Ends
Starts: Entebbe Ends: Entebbe
Africa's tallest mountain range, the continent's largest lake, the world's longest river, the biggest living primates, and, of course, the iconic Big Five - Uganda is home to colossal natural wonders. This 13 day expedition sees you hiking in misty forests to spot wild gorillas and the lesser-known sights of tree-climbing lions, exploring verdant waterways teeming with pods of hippo, and discovering a world apart as you encounter the region’s colourful cultures.