Overlanding Basics

Vehicles & Equipment Guides & Crew Health & Safety Money & Spending Food & Drinks Photography on Tour Souvenirs in Africa

Vehicles & Equipment

The basics of Overlanding Safari Tours

Overlanding transport ranges from custom-built trucks to 4X4 game viewing vehicles and your Overland adventure may use a combination of different vehicles depending on the tour and destinations.

There are 3 main types of Overland vehicle:

The Truck

The classic Overland vehicle: a big, solid truck custom-built and equipped with one thing in mind: Overlanding. The trucks have also been designed for passenger comfort, safety and security: individual seats, ample leg-room and overhead luggage racks plus lockers and built-in safes.

You’ll also enjoy great views – Overland trucks have large sliding windows and/or pop-up roof hatches – and you won’t be bored on those long drives: a sound system is part of the deal, usually accompanied by reading material, games and recreational gear.

Overland trucks are usually very well appointed and largely self-sufficient. They feature built-in kitchens with fridges and freezers, long-range fuel tanks and drinking water tanks. Their big packing compartments contain camping gear – tents, tables and chairs.

The 4X4 Safari Vehicle

Some Overland tours will make use of a specially designed 4X4 vehicle in areas where a big and heavy Overland truck cannot go. This is usually in national parks or game reserves when on a game viewing activity. These vehicles greatly enhance your safari experience as they are usually open-sided (mostly in Southern Africa) or with a pop-up roof (mostly in East Africa) which makes for great photographic opportunities.

Shorter or small group tours may make use of these vehicles for the entire trip; vehicles are subsequently equipped with roof racks and trailers for storage.

The Mini-Bus

Shorter Overland tours may use a mini-bus for the duration of the tour or for part of it, particularly if there is a game viewing element and you need to transfer to a smaller vehicle. Mini-buses are more commonly used in East Africa and usually feature pop-up roofs for game viewing.

Guides & Crew

An Overland tour may have a crew of up to 3 though the usual number is 2.

Personable, keen and conscientious, Overland crew members are young men and women with a passion for Africa. It’s important to realize, however, that Overland crew are not safari guides – they can’t identify every bird, insect and plant in Africa but what overland crew do have is the extensive knowledge and experience to get you safely from one end of Africa to the other in a relaxed and enjoyable way.

Sometimes the crew has to make a decision with regards to health, safety, security and other issues caused by circumstances beyond their control. This may not always be a popular decision. As far as possible, your crew will take into account the wishes of the group, but your understanding and patience at these times will be much appreciated. The tour leader has complete authority on tour and his/her decision is final.

Each crew member has specific responsibilities detailed below although they often end up performing a number of roles, adapting to the group and events as they unfold.

The Driver

An Overland driver is responsible not only for driving you safely from A to B but for mechanical maintenance and repairs as well. Overland drivers service the vehicle between tours and know what to do if the truck breaks down or gets stuck in mud. They have extensive mechanical knowledge, a proven ability to “make a plan” and each will hold an HGV or PSV license or equivalent.

The Tour Leader

The Master Planner: it’s the tour leader’s job to organise everything en route and ensure that the whole trip runs smoothly. They are ‘leaders’ rather than ‘guides’, steering the group through otherwise unfamiliar terrain. It’s their job to provide food and accommodation for the group, check information about the areas they are travelling through, and organise optional excursions and activities. They manage the finances, do the accounts and paperwork, and supervise the group when crossing borders or obtaining visas.

The Safari Cook

Some companies employ a third member of crew as a safari cook, responsible for taking care of the truck’s kitchen and the food shopping. Guests on such an Overland tour take turns to help set up cooking equipment, chop vegetables, wash up and so on.

Health & Safety

Africa, like anywhere else in the world, has its fair share of challenges. But if you’re properly prepared, any health and safety issue can be quickly and astutely dealt with, leaving you to continue your adventure.

Health: Before You Go

We recommend updating your vaccination card and, for some of our itineraries, go on a course of malaria prophylactics. Find out from your travel consultant whether your Overland trip passes through malarial areas and then contact your local travel clinic or doctor for advice.

Then, you’ll need to take out comprehensive travel insurance. You won’t be able to go on the tour without it and your tour leader will want the details of your insurance company before the start of the tour.

You’ll also need to inform your crew of any allergies and medical conditions you have or if you are on any medication. And remember to ALWAYS tell them if you are feeling unwell while on tour: they are experienced in dealing with tropical diseases and will know where to take you if you fall ill.

There is a comprehensive First Aid kit on all overland vehicles; please replace something if you use it – if possible. We strongly recommend that you take a personal medical kit with a few essential items, including:

• Pain killers
• Anti-diarrhea remedy
• Anti-histamine cream or tablets
• Rehydration salts
• Plasters
• Antiseptic cream
• Sterile dressings
• Insect repellent
• Medicated soap
• Sunblock
• After-sun treatment

And finally, remember that if you feel unwell within a few weeks of your return home, it is advisable to see a doctor to have it checked out, telling him or her where you have just been. The symptoms of some diseases such as malaria, bilharzia or hepatitis can take weeks or even months to show but their presence is easily detected by blood tests.


With the exception of most of South Africa, travel through southern and East Africa – particularly during rainy seasons – carries the risk of malaria. It’s a risk that should be taken very seriously and it is essential that you not only take malaria prophylactics but also protect yourself on tour. Use effective insect repellent and wear long sleeves and trousers in the evening and early morning when mosquitoes are at their most active. All tents have mosquito netting so make sure that you keep the doors shut as soon as you’ve put up your tent.

Note that if you experience any side effects from the malarial drugs while on tour, tell your tour leader at once. All prophylactics are available in Africa and you may need to swap to another brand. Don’t forget to take your drugs for the allotted time after you have left the malarial region.

Yellow Fever

Whilst it’s not compulsory to have a yellow fever vaccination, it is strongly advised for travel in East Africa. Note that you will not be allowed on the ferry to Zanzibar if you don’t have a yellow fever vaccination card while some southern Africa countries will not let you in without a vaccination card if you are coming from a yellow fever endemic area.

Bites & Stings

Scorpions, spiders, ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies are all part of the African fauna and an Overland traveler should be prepared for them. Bites and stings should be looked after carefully and kept clean as they can easily become infected in Africa’s tropical regions.


While on your Overland tour you will be living closely together and sharing equipment with others so pay extra attention to hygiene, especially around food – bugs pass around quickly in close groups.

Generally, Overland food is fresh and healthy and you are unlikely to get sick from truck grub. Avoid buying snacks from the side of the road and only drink water you know is safe; your crew will know where to source good drinking water – if not, they’ll purify it.

That said, diarrhea is usually part of an Overland tour but rest assured that most upset stomachs last just a day or two and are a result of a simple change in diet and water. The best way to deal with it is drink plenty of fluids and avoid food until the bugs have been flushed out of your system. It’s a good idea to pack oral re-hydration salts in your medical kit.

Always follow the advice of your tour leader and if the problem persists you may need to consult a doctor and get medication.


Remember that on a camping and overland trip you will be spending almost all of your time outdoors and sensible sun protection is essential. Minimize your exposure between 10am and 2pm by applying plenty of sun protection and wear a hat and sun glasses. Bear in mind that the sun’s rays are just as damaging on an overcast day too.

Sunblock and after-sun products are not always readily available in some parts of Africa: bring plenty with you.


While your personal possessions are your responsibility at all times, Overland vehicles have safes for passports, money, credit cards and flight tickets. Please use this facility as the process to recover lost/stolen items can cause serious delays and may result in you having to leave the tour.

As well as your own possessions, the truck and its equipment must be looked after at all times and security is the responsibility of the whole group. Everything must be put away and locked up at night, especially in urban areas.


In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, crime exists, and we advise that you keep an eye on any valuables and have your wits about you at all times. But in saying that, most African crime takes place in the bustling downtown cities rather than in a campsite in the middle of the wilderness. Listen to the advice given by the crew, exercise common sense and don’t make yourself a target – it’s as easy as that.

Furthermore, through the monitoring of Travel Advisories issued by the British Foreign Office and US State Department, Overland crews are well aware of potential problem areas and these are avoided entirely.

Money & Spending

Many tours require you to make a local payment that goes into a communal fund (commonly known as a kitty). This pays for campsite fees, food, and game park entrance fees. Tours that do not have a kitty are usually shorter tours within one country.

The local payment is made to the tour leader at the pre-departure meeting or on the morning of departure. The tour leader manages the kitty on tour. In almost all cases it must be paid in US$ cash – the easiest currency to change into local currencies; the tour leader cannot accept payment by travellers’ cheques or credit cards.

It’s best to buy dollars before leaving home as US$ cash is sometimes hard to obtain in Africa.

Note that since prices and exchange rates fluctuate, the local payment is not fixed. The local payment given on our Overland itineraries will give you an idea of the amount required but it is subject to change.

Food & Drinks

From breakfast cereals to ‘middle-of-nowhere’ picnic lunches and dinners cooked around the fire – catering on an overland trip is a breeze! If you’re a vegetarian, have allergies or simply love snacking, read more about food and drinks on an overland safari.

Shopping & Supplies

The cost of food comes out of the communal kitty or local payment, administered by the tour leader. All overland trucks do a ‘bulk buy’ before setting off – dry goods, tins, spices, sauces, and a couple of meals that can be whipped up when no fresh produce is available.

Fresh vegetables, fruit and meat are bought along the way and it will be up to you and your fellow travellers to venture into the local markets, haggle with traders and ‘guesstimate’ how many carrots you need for 20 people – all part of Africa, all part of the overland experience!

Communal Cooking

A daunting experience for some overland passengers is having to cook for the other 20 people on board the truck. But relax: it’s really not that difficult, and if you don’t have them already, you’ll soon discover culinary skills you never knew you had.

You will be put in a team and everyone will take turns shopping and cooking so at least you won’t be wholly responsible for the group’s diet! It is a great way to get to know your fellow travellers and the crew are on hand to help with local prices and the best places to find food. Soon you will discover that there’s nothing that can’t be cooked on a fire …

Overlanding with a Safari Cook

If you find the thought of cooking for a large group on your own a daunting task, then simply choose an overland tour with a safari cook. You will enjoy three meals a day, a combination of Western food and local cuisine.

It’s not completely without obligation however: you still need to help out carrying the shopping, chopping up vegetables and washing up.

Each of our tours indicates if there is a safari cook or not.


Although Overland tours cater for vegetarians, you might be wondering why they don’t get a discount on their local payment. It’s all about costing: in Tanzania for example, cheese is more expensive than meat while in arid Namibia where fresh produce is scarce, meat is relatively cheaper than vegetables. In Africa it costs just as much to feed a vegetarian as it does a meat-eater!

Allergies & Dietary Requirements

Please tell your cook or tour leader at the beginning of the tour if you have any special dietary requirements, food allergies or intolerance.

Snacks & Extras

On long driving days, breakfast can be as early as 5am and dinner as late as 9pm with lunch sometime in between. For these occasions you may want to stock up on a few snacks for those long days so allow extra spending money for this.

It’s also a good idea to have personal spending money for any restaurant meals that are not paid for by the kitty. On many Overland tours there are local restaurant options, especially in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Swakopmund, Victoria Falls and Nairobi.

Photography on Tour

Photography is hugely rewarding on an overland trip: not only can you take photos of wildlife and scenic wonders, but you can simply poke your camera out of the side of the truck to shoot the ever-changing African landscape as it rolls by.

You can ask the driver to stop at any time if you would like to take photos (although try not to make a habit of it – deadlines need to be kept!) and all tours stop at panoramic viewpoints along the route anyway.

Make sure your camera has a protective bag, preferably dust and water-proof, and make use of the power points at campsites to recharge batteries. Most Overland vehicles have power points but you will have to provide the necessary connections and adaptors.

Note that when taking photos of local people anywhere in Africa, always ask first to avoid an unpleasant scene. On a similar note, on no account take photographs of border crossings, government buildings, military establishments and equipment or uniformed officials; no matter how innocent the image, you will cause serious problems for yourself and the group.

Souvenirs in Africa

From Maasai jewellery to six-foot wooden giraffes, souvenirs are available in shops and markets just about everywhere between Nairobi and Cape Town. Remember that while it’s easy enough to store these items on an Overland truck, at some point you will have to fit them into your backpack (let alone an aircraft’s overhead locker) and be able to carry it!

Different countries specialise in different souvenirs; regional specialties include:


– drums made from cowhide (often seen on the side of the road)


– Maasai beads and blankets; batiks and wooden giraffes as well as kikois and tangas – male and female versions of the sarong


– tinga tinga artwork –  brightly painted pictures of exaggerated people and animals unique to Tanzania; ebony wood carvings; Maasai antiques; batiks


– wooden carvings including chess boards and Malawi chairs; cars, buses and even helicopters made from dried grass


– more wooden giraffes and other animals


– soapstone statues, wooden carvings and baskets


– traditional woven baskets


– wide range of African souvenirs


– wire toys

South Africa

– in Johannesburg and Cape Town craft markets, you’ll find souvenirs from all over southern, East and West Africa. The cost of getting them there is built into the price but there is room for bargaining.

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