Iconic African overlanding experiences to add to your list

Overlanding will get you closer to the landscapes, nature and wildlife that make Africa so remarkable. On your trips, whether in South Africa or further afield, make time to appreciate these iconic overlanding experiences. This is the essence of real Africa!

We’ve rounded up some of the overlanding experiences at home and across the borders that remind us what a wonderful world we live in. Why not make this the year you experience them?

Listen to the stars

The sky above Anysberg Nature Reserve is heavy with stars. Picture by Riaan Vermeulen

If you’ve seen a night-time map of the globe, you’ll know that Africa truly is the dark continent. Whereas America, Europe and Asia flare brightly, Africa still has vast tracts of land free of 24-hour electricity. It is in these dark sky areas where you’ll want to sit under the stars and appreciate the heavens in all their undimmed glory. There is fine stargazing in many game parks, since they are so remote and often have no or limited electricity. To our mind, nothing beats admiring the stars from the heart of the Karoo or the openness of a salt pan. With nothing to distract from the sky above, the seemingly endless expanse all around is a stunning backdrop for stargazing. On a still, moonless night, the vibrancy of the stars is such that you might well think you can hear them sing.

Where to go: Anysberg Nature Reserve, South Africa or the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana

Also read: An expert’s guide to the Makgadikgadi Pans

Walk barefoot in the desert sand

At Sossusvlei, you can walk upon some of the highest dunes in the world. Picture by Tanja Wilbertz, Pixabay

Africa’s deserts carry poetry in their names: Sahara, Kalahari, Namib, Danakil. If you really want to tap into the wild nature of the desert, there’s nothing quite like scaling a dune barefoot. As your feet sink into the soft sand, you’ll find yourself grounded in the desert’s timelessness – ever changing, ever staying the same. Going up barefoot will also save you from sand accumulating in your shoes, so you won’t have to stop every few steps to tip out the grains. But be warned: desert sand gets blistering hot as the day progresses. If you have ambitions of trekking barefoot up a dune, you have to time it for first thing in the morning.

Where to go: Kalahari Trails Nature Reserve, South Africa or Sossusvlei, Namibia

T4A tip: Did you know that Sossusvlei is home to some of the highest dunes in the world? If you want to head up a dune for sunrise, you have to overnight in the park. For campers, Sesriem Camp is the place to go.

Also read: Take it slow to see Namibia at its best

Camp on your own

Picture it: just your little tent and nobody else around. Picture by Lakewood UCC, Pixabay

Picture it: just you, your little tent and the crackle of the campfire – nobody else for miles. When you camp solo – not just by yourself in a shared campsite, but truly on your own – being in nature becomes a totally different experience. Free from the distractions of others, you can immerse yourself in your surrounds. In the deep quiet you will find your senses are heightened. Nature’s soundtrack will seem louder, the sunset more saturated. It can be an overwhelming experience, but it will deepen your connection to the great outdoors. If it’s your first time going it alone, opt for a solitary campsite in a park or reserve for the added security.

Where to go: Tankwa Karoo National Park, South Africa or Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Also read: Your private Okavango Delta island

Enjoy a wild swim

Swimming in the Rondegat River in the Cederberg. Picture by Magriet Kruger

There is something about taking a dip in a river, rock pool or lake that takes you back to a simpler time. Before pools were fenced-in aquamarine rectangles, swimming was like this. Soft, clear water, replenished by nature and shared with her residents. While water with hippos and crocodiles is to be avoided, you’ll still get a kick from swimming in water so pure you can watch fish darting about. After a long hike or a day when the mercury has shot up, a wild swim is a great way to cool off. But it’s also more than that; it’s a fantastic way to feel more connected to the landscape.

Where to go: Cederberg Wilderness Area, South Africa. Elsewhere in Africa try Lake Malawi, the Devil’s Pool above Victoria Falls or floating in a rock pool in the Danakil Depression.

Fancy a truly wild swim? The caged swimming pool at Ngepi Camp lets you share the river’s waters with hippos and crocs. Picture by Margie Adcock

T4A tip: If you dream of swimming in Africa’s wilder waters, Ngepi Camp in Namibia has the solution: a floating swimming pool right in the Okavango River. It’s got a cage to keep the bigger beasts out and a wooden deck for lounging on.

Which are the overlanding experiences that you most treasure? Is it watching ‘bush tv’ (also known as staring into the campfire)? Or getting food from a little roadside eatery? Let us know in the comments below.

Win a custom trip to Botswana/Namibia

One lucky Tracks4Africa user will get to experience Botswana and/or Namibia’s wild attractions on a trip specially designed for them. Buy a Self-Drive Guide Book to either of the countries from the T4A online shop by 28 February to be entered into the lucky draw. Find out more about the competition to win a custom trip.


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