My Experience of Camping in Africa

If you're considering an overland Africa tour, in this post I share my experience of my 5-week budget camping trip from South Africa to Zanzibar

I am now officially a backpacker! I have left the luxury and comfort of my king size bed to sleep on a top bunk and have waved goodbye to the single, alone tourist and embraced my ‘look at me travelling by myself' backpacker ego. 

But there are a few lessons I have realised on the way to my new status…

Lesson 1 – Stop looking scruffy. Just because you're a backpacker doesn't mean you have to wear tatty, tramp like clothes. (memo to myself to buy new clothes and dump the hideous brown t-shirt).

Lesson 2 – Keep the safari wear for the safari and don't wear around town (not a good look).

Lesson 3 – Don't forget to put sunblock on your hands.

Hideous brown t-shirt on top of Table Mountain

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain

Camps Bay – where SA Heat magazine snap their celebs

p.s husband number 2 is definitely not on this tour: just a group of Chinese, too many couples and a bloke called Andy.

Tomorrow, wine tasting and my first night in a tent on my African camping adventure…

Watching the sunrise over the dunes

Making Friends

It's crazy how quickly you can make friends when you are travelling. There were more people on our trip than I had initially thought (only half had come to the pre-departure meeting in Cape Town).

We were now 28, two to be replaced in Namibia by the Russians. Everyone was dreading the new dymanics of the group and it was now split in two with myself being torn between the groups (having a Russian doctor as a tent mate meant I had one foot in the Russian camp).

Armed with cameras like bazookers, they were on a mission; to photograph everything that moved, including me putting up the tent and me actually in the tent. I could see the flash of light in through my window and heard the Russian laughter. This was going to be fun…

Thanks goodness for the crazy Swiss guy who would give Jackass a run for their money, the Danish couple who drink until they drop and a fellow Brit who cracks me up from dawn to dusk. The only way I can keep sane…

Just another night with the gang

Insects in Namibia

I awoke to a huge thud. Then a small scratching sound.

I lay there still, rigid with fear, my ears on full alert wondering where the source of the noise was coming from. It was pitch black and my eyes couldn't adjust to the darkness around me.

My instinct was to reach for my torch but my arms were cocooned in my sleeping bag. I wanted to wake my Russian roomie but I couldn't make a sound. Frozen in the thought that a Crocroach had just landed in our tent. (A crocroach is the daddy of all cockroaches; half crab/half crokcroach, it flies like a ball and would do Some serious damage if it hit you.)

But the tent was like Fort Knox and nothing was getting past the barracaded door – I was taking no chances. I slipped deeper into my bag so only my face was exposed.

‘Whatever it was, it definately was not getting in here,' I thought to myself as I tried to switch of the sound and get some well needed sleep.

Home sweet home

This was my first night within the Nambia Desert. We had waved goodbye to the civilisation of South Africa and welcomed the scenic landscape of Namibia. The only downside to this spectacular country were the creatures that inhabited this dry desert – amptly named Namib, meaning empty.

And empty it was, just desert, a few shrubs and then, even more desert. We had sampled the crisp fruity wines of the Capelands; swam in the Orange River which borders South Africa and neighbouring Namibia; and had witnessed our first sunset over Fish River Canyon (the world's second largest canyon.) Now, we had set up camp by the lights of the milky way and were miles from anywhere with just creeply crawlies for company.

I had congratulated myself for taking a shower, dodging flying beetles and felt a sense of relief when I closed the door on my flying foes, only to be greeted by a half scorpion/half spider (what is it with these mutants?) leisurely roaming around the shower block.

I never knew such insects even existed.

This was real Africa.

I was now on their territory and I have never tread so carefully in my life; jumping at everything that moved or landed on me. Now I know, just how Sunita felt in the jungle. But at least, I can zip up my tent at night and keep the monsterous bugs at bay (if only just for a few hours).

So, one night down. Only 30 more to go!

Fish Canyon River – the second largest canyon in the world

Mesmorised

‘Don't look it in the eye' my mind was saying. But I was mesmerised by the beauty of the biggest chocolate brown eyes I had ever seen.

I knew I should look away but I was transfixed; rooted to the spot by the enormity of its reindeer-like antlers towering about its head.

It blinked and the spell was broken.

I swung my head around to look at the others, all staring at me with their mouths open in shock. Then it ran, galloping off past the swimming pool where I had been happily laying, blissfully listening to my Ipod when I had heard one of my group shout ‘LISA'. Then I had seen it – a giant Onyx galloping (if they do gallop – or maybe just run?) through the bushes until it stopped dead in its tracks at the swimming pool and chose me to linger its spell on.

I had found out later that it was a sick Onyx and known to charge the quests (and I'm not talking about money either). Maybe it had known my guilty secret, that I had sampled its close cousin the day before, drenched in a creamy mushroom sauce; it had been the juicy steak I had ever tasted. Either way, it was the most surreal moment I have had in Africa so far…

Not an Onyx but a galloping Kudu instead

Why O Why?

Drip, drip, drip' was the sound coming from inside my abode. Then a huge clap of thunder rumbled the ground beneath my tent, followed by another, then another. Each closer than the last.

I had always been scared of thunder and now I found myself alone in a tent in the early hours, surrounded by the worst storm I had ever heard.

Rain was pounding at the sides of my tent and dripping it's way through. Lightning was flashing against the dark sky and illuminating my tent for milli-seconds. I grabbed my torch to examine the damage and asked myself the question I probably should have asked myself before:

Why did I decide to go camping in the rainy season?…

A rain drenched campsite

East Africa is wet.

Gone is the dry heat of Namibia, the humidity of Botswana and the coolness of Zimbabwe from the Falls.

Welcome to Zambia… where you get the worst storms ever.

We had parted company with the majority of our group at Victoria Falls and picked up 2 more couples. Our group of 28 was now a modest 10. Travelling through Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania to my final destination: Zanzibar.

And it was going to be a wet drive…

Watching the sunrise over the dunes

Zambia

“Be very careful in the long grass' said Hesbon, our tour guide from Kenya. I stumbled out the grass which was nearly as tall as me, to a truck full of laughing travellers. Covered in what I hoped was mud, I hauled myself back onto the truck, my dignity still intact.

This was Zambia;

Long distances and bush toilets. The only problem was that each time nature called, the only place to stop was sugar cane fields or local villages. I had run off the truck straight through the long grass, only to fall within a huge ditch, hidden by the foliage. To make matters worse, after I had found a less than perfect spot, I had emerged to a shocked local Zambian man, walking his herd of cows along the roadside. In my panic, I had found yet another ditch on my escape back to the truck.

Now known as ‘dufus' to the rest of the group, I was delighted to be the centre of their entertainment. To be honest, I hadn't done myself any favours. From asking if the zebra steak would be stripey to nearly having a wrestling match with a monkey on my afternoon jog, I had definitely lost my cool.

Gone is the independent cool chick to be replaced by a ditsy blonde. Or maybe she was just there all along…

Bimbo's Burgers – 24 hours of great taste!

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