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Highlights on this African Camping Adventure include idyllic Indian Ocean and Lake Malawi beaches, legendary East African game parks teeming with wildlife and cultural adventures in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi and Zambia.
Discover East and Southern Africa on an affordable overland camping trip from wildlife-rich wilderness areas, beautiful beaches and peaceful rural landscapes to bustling cities, lively towns and traditional villages.
During this trip you are likely to come across activities that encourage tourists to participate in lion, elephant or other wildlife interaction. This includes walking with lions, riding elephants and any other tourist operation putting travellers in close contact with animals that would normally live wild and separate from human contact.
We absolutely do not encourage or endorse this type of wildlife interaction operation. For more information on why this is not good for Africa's wild animals, please see our detailed blog post on the subject.
Travelling southwest across the Great Rift Valley, we start with one of the most legendary safari destinations in the world - Masai Mara Game Reserve. Our first two days are spent exploring this unforgettable East African wildlife reserve on game viewing drives in the ultimate African savannah setting. Morning and afternoon game drives in specialised safari vehicles reveal the magnificent mammals and other creatures that really make this quintessential 'Out of Africa' scene magical.
Masai Mara is famous for the annual Great Migration when spectacular herds of hoofed animals cross the open plains and crocodile and hippo infested Mara and Talek rivers in search of fresh grazing. The mass migration of herbivores, including wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, impalas and hartebeest, attracts a host of predators and scavengers that come to feast on this bonanza of prey.
Mara is, however, an awe-inspiring wilderness to visit at any time of the year, hosting abundant wildlife and birds that can be sighted in all seasons.
Masai Mara's other claim to fame is the exceptional population of big cats found here. Look forward to spotting cheetah looking out over the grasslands from the tops of termite mounds, leopards resting languidly in treetops and lions lazing in the shade. The full Big Five complement roam the beautiful African bush in Masai Mara, of which buffalo, lion and elephant are most commonly sighted. Game drives across the wide-open grasslands also reward us with sightings of an array of other wildlife, from zebras, jackals, baboons and Masai giraffes to hyenas, bat-eared foxes, warthogs and hippos.
Camp just outside the vast Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, getting into the laid-back rhythm of the African bush. Leaving the rolling plains dotted with thorn trees we make our way back through the scenic Great Rift Valley to the urban jungle of Nairobi.
Today we drive south through Kenya, crossing into Tanzania, another of East Africa's top safari destinations. From the Namanga border post, we head to bustling Arusha, arriving in this safari hub late in the afternoon.
Arusha is a pleasant town located at the foot of Mt Meru, Tanzania's second highest peak. The friendly town of Arusha marks the half-way mark between Cape Town and Cairo and serves as the gateway to Tanzania's popular Northern Safari Circuit. Explore this interesting town on foot, visiting the vibrant markets and shops in one of the oldest towns in Tanzania.
In the afternoon we visit one of the Maasai villages in the area to meet the locals and experience their colourful culture firsthand (time allowing). Tonight we camp on the outskirts of Arusha, surrounded by rolling plains. We spend the next three days game viewing in the famous Serengeti National Park and the game-rich Ngorongoro Crater as part of the Adventure Pass local payment.
On day five we travel across the Great Rift Valley, making our way west via the small and ethnically diverse town of Mto Wa Mbo in a smaller safari vehicle designed for game viewing.
En route to the vast open plains of the legendary Serengeti, we skirt the rim of the impressive Ngorongoro Crater, driving through the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. From Ngorongoro, we drive down to what is probably the most famous game park in the world - Serengeti National Park. This flat wilderness area is even larger than Masai Mara, our first game viewing destination on safari.
Like the Masai Mara, the Serengeti is famous for the massive Wildebeest Migration that takes place between this Tanzanian game park and Mara to the north in Kenya. Covering around 14 763 km² the Serengeti Park is even larger than its Kenyan counterpart, Masai Mara. The vast savannas and grasslands stretch out to the horizon in a seemingly endless sea of open plains. The local Maasai named this expansive place Siringitu, which means 'the place where the land runs on forever'. Looking out over the endless plains teeming with game, predators and birds one is struck by the immensity and beauty of this wild continent.
We drive on to our unfenced camp, looking out for wildlife and birds as we pass through this classical African bush setting. At night we listen for the calls of hyena and the distant lion's roar coming out of the darkness settled over the untamed bush around us.
This morning we take a game drive through the Serengeti, travelling east back towards the Ngorongoro Crater. In the rainy season, the bush is lush and green, while winter sees us driving through golden-brown, more arid landscapes. If you booked the optional hot air balloon flight over the Serengeti then you get to experience the plains from above this morning, spotting wildlife as you drift along.
Before arriving at the huge unflooded caldera we stop for lunch and then continue up the slopes on the outside of the crater. Our camp for the night is located some 2400 metres above sea level on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, offering breathtaking views of this natural wonder. Keep an eye out for wild animals in the area around the camp, where we stay warm in the cool night air.
The 326 km² Ngorongoro Crater, formed by volcanic action some 2,5 million years ago, is the largest intact caldera (collapsed volcano) in the world.
Day seven sees us driving down into the famous Ngorongoro Crater to enjoy an action-packed game drive in this World Heritage Site. Ngorongoro Crater is home to one of the highest concentrations of predators in the world, including lions, leopards, jackals and hyenas, as well as a few cheetahs.
The natural Amphitheatre of the Ngorongoro Crater hosts huge herds of zebra, antelopes (impalas, gazelles and more) and wildebeest, as well as big bull elephants. The Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) are all found here, along with all the main kinds of mammals. Birdlife is also prolific here, including endemic species. The crater basin incorporates a variety of habitats, from lush plains and valleys to peaks, craters and forests. We drive up the steep walls some 600m high and back to our campsite on the rim of the crater. Here we soak of the sweeping views of this natural wonder, dismantle the camp and enjoy lunch.
From the must-see Ngorongoro Crater, we return to the safari hub of Arusha. In the afternoon we walk about in a local Masai village to see how this iconic East African tribe lives in rural Tanzania (if time did not allow on day 4). Meet the tall brightly-robed Masai warriors and herders, gaining some insight into their traditions and culture.
Tonight we camp at the Meserani Snake Park, where a super collection of snakes and other reptiles can be viewed up close.
Today we continue our drive south passing through the town of Moshi on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, en route to our next camp in Bagamoyo. When skies are clear we get a glimpse of majestic Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, some 5895m high.
Bagamoyo was founded in the late 18th century as an important trading port on the East African coastline. Tonight we camp close to a sandy beach fringed with palm trees, enjoying the warm Indian Ocean.
From Bagamoyo, we proceed southwards to Dar es Salaam, where we overnight before heading to Zanzibar Islands.
Dar es Salaam is a popular starting and ending point for travel to the nearby Zanzibar Islands, as well as for safaris to Tanzania's top game parks. This unpretentious city is no sleepy hollow, with its vibrant mix of cultures, active business centres and bustling markets. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, offers an interesting mix of old and new - bringing together the traditional African, Arabic and Indian influences and modern western ways. The major port of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam has a long and colourful history as a trading hub, and is now the commercial centre of this East African nation.
Tonight we camp at a beach resort set on the beach near Dar es Salaam, relaxing into easy beach living on the Indian Ocean coast.
On day 10 we leave the mainland of Tanzania, taking a ferry to the exotic Spice Islands - Zanzibar.
For the next few days, we enjoy a beach getaway on the main idyllic tropical island of Zanzibar, where white-sand beaches are lapped by clear azure waters. You are free to fill your time as you please, selecting from a variety of great activities. Options range from walks in the lush forests and aromatic spice tours in the plantations, to dhow sailing trips to off-lying islets and historic tours of old Stone Town with its narrow cobbled streets.
While on Zanzibar Island your tour guide is available to ensure that your plans run smoothly, but you are free to do whatever you choose.
For pure beach indulgence Zanzibar boasts picturesque tropical beaches where you can spend balmy days lazing around under coconut palm trees and swimming in the turquoise-blue ocean. Head to the stunning beaches of the north to enjoy excellent snorkelling and scuba diving along the coast or at the small islands just off the main Zanzibar Island. This is a beach paradise - ideal for catching some golden rays, sipping on a sunset cocktail and feasting on fresh seafood.
Zanzibar is not your typical African destination, given its long history as an important part of the spice route. Many of the great colonial explorers of the 19th century spent time in Zanzibar, from Richard Burton to David Livingstone. This beautiful island still has a strong Arabic influence, which can be seen in the architecture and culture. Visiting the mosques, churches, palaces and marketplaces on foot is the best way to discover more about Zanzibar Island, past and present.
Please Note: Standard accommodation and breakfasts are included in the Local Payment for this tour. To give you more freedom with your time and activities, the lunches and dinners are not included in Zanzibar. We usually spend a night in Stone Town and two nights on the northern coast at a beach resort.
On day 13 you have some free time in the morning to explore Stone Town or shop for curios and trinkets before we take the ferry back to Dar es Salaam. Back on the continent, we make our way out of bustling Dar, as locals call it, returning to the beach resort near the city.
On day 14 we leave the coast and city life behind heading back into rural Tanzania. We drive through the rolling hills and woodlands of Mikumi National Park, looking out for forest elephants, antelopes, zebras and giraffes along the road, as well as a variety of birds.
Our camp is close to the park, where, if time allows, you can go on an optional afternoon game drive. A local restaurant is a great stop for sundowners, before our evening meal back at camp under the starry night.
We travel to the highlands today, to Kisolanza farm that has been farmed by the same family for generations. We will climb to 1600 metres where the air is fresher and the views splendid. As well as the superb organic fare, the farm is famous for its hot chocolate, brownies and hot showers.
Journey further south today, traversing verdant mountain passes and driving through tea and banana tree plantations, as well as fertile fields where livestock graze. At Songwe we cross the border into Tanzania's neighbour Malawi. This African country is fondly called the Warm Heart of Africa, because of its reputation for being welcoming and friendly.
We head straight to the scenic Lake Malawi and our next camp, situated at Chitimba Beach on the northern shores of Lake Malawi. Called Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Mozambique, which are also located along the shores of this vast lake. Lake Malawi is the southernmost of the African Great Lakes dotting the Great Rift Valley in Eastern Africa. One of the biggest lakes in the world, Lake Malawi covers about a fifth of Malawi's total area and serves as an important source of food and income with its fishing industry.
The shores of Lake Malawi are lined with pretty golden-sand beaches and lively fishing villages where Malawians fish and trade for a living. Many of the fishing folk head out onto the lake in traditional dugout canoes, called Bwato. The lanterns of fisherman out on the lake twinkle like stars in the night, which is why the great explorer David Livingstone called it 'The Lake of Stars'.
Relax on the scenic golden beach flanked by the green Nyika mountains at Chitimba. The tropical climate is ideal for swimming in the warm, calm waters and relaxing under the banana palms and papaya trees. surrounded by the famous Livingstonia and Nyika mountains. Alternatively, you can explore the village on foot, browsing the crafts market, visiting the school and meeting the locals. You can also hike up onto the Nyika Plateau where the old missionary village of Livingstonia, with its church dating back to 1894, lies high above Lake Malawi.
Please Note: The Malawi stretch of our safari is subject to changes at the discretion of the crew, in order to make the best of our time in Malawi.
Spend the morning enjoying Chitimba, before we travel further south along the lovely shores of the lake to the town of Mzuzu. We pause in the north's regional capital of Mzuzu to stock up on supplies and peruse a market or two in this pleasant town surrounded by forested mountains and farmlands.
Our next Malawian destination is Kande Beach, a lively lakeside stop with plenty of optional activities on the go. Mingle with the friendly locals, swim in Africa's third largest lake and unwind on the peaceful beaches that feel like ocean shores.
There are lots of horses at Kande, which is a super place for riding on the beaches, in the forests and to local villages, as well as venturing into the lake on horseback. There are an array of water-based activities to choose from, including kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, boat trips, water skiing and sailing. Freshwater Lake Malawi hosts the highest number of endemic fish species of any body of freshwater in the world, especially cichlid species.
In the evening we relax in this beautiful spot, with the option of enjoying the vibrant nightlife of Kande Beach.
Leaving Lake Malawi we cross into Zambia, journeying on towards the town of Chipata, close to the eastern border. Set in a broad valley surrounded by hills the town was once called Fort Jamerson and is today a commercial and administrative centre, as the capital of Zambia's Eastern Province. If there is time we visit Chipata to see the markets, churches and mosques, en route to our next overnight camp, just outside of town.
Getting an early start this morning we drive southwest along the major route of the Great Eastern Road (running east from Lusaka to Chipata). The scenic drive takes us through fertile lands of farms and gentle hills, dotted with little Zambian villages and across the Luangwa River.
Arriving in fast-expanding Lusaka on the southern stretch of our East & Southern African Adventure we continue to a farm outside of the bustling city. We camp in a peaceful rural setting, where we can relax after our long day on the road.
The capital of Zambia, Lusaka is the country's most modern and cosmopolitan centre. Set high on a plateau this is the heart of the nation, where the central government is based, major commerce happens and nightlife can be experienced.
Driving further south we make our way to the Zambian border with Zimbabwe, where the Zambezi forms Victoria Falls. We camp along the mighty river, near Livingstone in Zambia. The camp, a short distance from Vic Falls, serves as our base for the next few adventure-filled days.
Our first adventure takes us to the natural wonder of Victoria Falls to admire the largest sheet of falling water in the world. An awesome sight at any time of year, we get to see this spectacular waterfall up close, even feeling the spray from its crashing waters. The locals call it ‘Mosi au Tunya’ which means the smoke that thunders, a name Victoria Falls lives up to - roaring as it crashes into the Bakota Gorge and sends up a cloud of mist visible as far as 30 km's away. A visit to the spectacular Victoria Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Returning to our lovely camp your guide takes you through the array of adventure activities on offer, helping you to map out your next few days. Outdoor and adventure activities include horse riding, game walks, wildlife encounters, canoeing, riverboarding and sunset river cruises. Victoria Falls is renowned for its superb whitewater rafting, considered some of the best in the world. If you have your heights set higher then you can take the adrenalin-inducing leap off the Victoria Falls Bridge, bungee jumping into the deep gorge below or do an exhilarating gorge swing. For those wanting to go higher still, there are thrilling helicopter flips and microlight flights over the mighty Vic Falls.
Please Note: As in Zanzibar, during your stay in Vic Falls only breakfasts are included to allow for flexibility with activities (half and full day), with some activities including meals. Try out the local eateries in Livingstone or enjoy a selection of reasonably priced meals (budget US$15 -$30 per meal) at the camp restaurant, whilst looking out over the Zambezi River.
We spend the last few days on this South East African Camping Adventure in Livingstone, Zambia, camping along the Zambezi. The scenic camp is located inside Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, incorporating the Victoria Falls and 20kms of Zambezi riverside above the falls. The camp is thus ideally located for embarking on game drives in the wildlife section of Mosi-oa-Tunya Park, home to numerous wild animals and birds. Sightings include giraffe, zebra, buffalo, Zambia’s last white rhinos, warthog and various antelope species, as well as crocodiles and hippos lurking in the river.
The final days are for having fun at your own pace, doing exactly what you choose in this fantastic place. You have three days to sample the impressive variety of activities available in Africa's Adventure Capital.
When you've had your fill of outdoor thrills, or if you're looking for something other than adventure activities, then there are cultural and historical highlights to visit. Go to local markets to see African carvings, curios and crafts and buy some gifts and souvenirs. Cross over into Zimbabwe to visit a lively township or visit the Livingstone Museum and walk around the historic town. You could also opt to do voluntary work at a local schools project or other conservation or social upliftment programmes.
Spend your time between activities resting at our pretty camp and watching the mighty upper Zambezi River flow by, keeping an eye out for wildlife and birds, especially elephants crossing the river.
This adventure-filled Overland Camping Safari ends in Livingstone on day 24, after breakfast.
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